On this blog I tend to focus mostly on how to promote your individual show. That’s not because I don’t think marketing your theatre season as a whole is important, but rather I’m trying to emphasize an area that I don’t see getting as much attention as I feel it should. But I’m straying from my normal bounds on this post to deal with an overlapping issue, the show art for your season as a whole. If you want first time visitors to become regular audience members, you do need to consider how your individual shows are seen when they are all looked at together.
My name is Clay Mabbitt. I have a professional marketing background, and a love of theatre.
After seeing and being part of some exceptional theatre that never found its audience, I felt compelled to share what I know to help raise the level of promotion going on for stage productions.
Welcome, and if you’re new to Sold Out Run I encourage you to take a quick look at what this site is about.
Zach Rosing brings his multimedia experience to the podcast. We talk about what it takes to make a good promotional video. Production value – the sound quality and lighting – do have a big impact on how your video will be received, but it is not the most important ingredient in an effective video to market your show.
How much should we compromise our artistic integrity to appeal to the audience we want to reach? It’s not an easy question, and I’m not sure there’s always one right answer in every situation. There is a very high profile example we can examine, though. The Tony Awards faces this tough question on a national scale.
On one hand it is the annual award ceremony to honor and celebrate the best work that’s been done on Broadway over the last year. On the other hand it is the once a year chance to reach beyond the geographic and cultural constraints of Broadway to reach the national television audience. Even a metropolis as big as New York City has a finite number of people willing to pay $200 for a ticket, so Broadway needs to pull in tourists from the rest of the country to hit their financial projections.
So how do they balance those two choices?
We all fall into that rut. We find a few good marketing tactics like posters and emailing cast announcements then decide that we’re going to stick with them forever. They probably even work – but not was well as they once did. And not as well as another tactic might. So how do you know when you should pull the plug on an old favorite marketing tactic? In this episode I talk about the indications that let me know I needed to update a major marketing component of Sold Out Run.
Having a full house on opening night is a great way to begin your run. It creates energy and an exciting atmosphere that can accelerate the positive word of mouth about your show, but most productions have plenty of empty seats on opening night. In an effort to synthesize the type of packed house you would see if the show was already wildly popular, producers will sometimes paper the house, which is just a fancy way of saying they give away a ton of free tickets.
I’ll get into why this practice isn’t always effective below, but I want to make it clear right at the start that papering the house is not a marketing strategy in and of itself. If all you do is hand out free tickets, you won’t find an audience – no matter how amazing your production is. Papering the house is a marketing accelerant. It’s an amplifier. If done correctly it can make your other promotional efforts faster and more effective, but by itself it accomplishes nothing.
I’ve been anticipating this episode because I’ve been promising that it’s coming to readers and listeners who are looking for help promoting a show that deals with unpleasant subject matter. Shows that aren’t necessarily easy to watch can be a tough sell, but sometimes that’s the art we most need to create and the art that most needs to be seen. If that’s the position you find yourself in, how do you promote that show? This is the challenge that Doug took on when he directed a very weighty production of William Mastrosimone’s Extremities.