Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Nietzsche on Broadway

                             Image result for That which does not kill us makes us stronger

I've spent many a blog post highlighting what I believed to be problems that Broadway as an industry was overlooking to its potential detriment. Sky high ticket prices, out of sight premium ticket prices, predatory discounting practices by TDF and several other issues as well. Navigating through uncharted waters of worldwide financial collapse, a withering middle class, and we've come out in 2015 with new revenue and attendance records. A Fabulous Invalid, indeed.

In spite of what naysayers (myself included) have said, Broadway is roaring on to new heights. No one can predict the future, but I can tell which way the wind is blowing. Clearly, Broadway has not only survived, but has thrived. As time passes, old ways of looking at things must inevitably give way to new realities. It's time for old dogs to learn new tricks, whether they like it or not.

It does not matter if TDF sells unlimited numbers of tickets to its members. Those folks would never pay more for tickets anyway, so it makes sense to dispose of unsold tickets via TDF. It must actually support the pricing structure that allows the high end to stay so high. The big hits don't have an issue, and the fair to middlings fill their houses with the TDF cannon fodder. What was once counter-intuitive, winds up making a great deal of sense.

Even TKTS and their advertising of discounts. That seemed atrocious to me, but when you think more about it, if these ads are on theater websites like Playbill and Broadwayworld, we're not talking about a very wide dispersal. This audience is well aware of the TKTS kiosks, and more than likely uses the smartphone app anyway. Maybe there is an effect on revenue, but it must only be a marginal one, if at all. The reality is, if there was any significant deleterious effect, the effort would be shut down by the powers that be. Broadway is like that.

But when you really examine the weird business of Broadway, it's important to remember that the normal rules simply don't apply. If the failure rate is 75%, you have to realize it's not about the money. It's ego and vanity. It's the one percent having fun, putting on a show, rubbing elbows with beautiful people, celebrities and respected creatives. Opening nights and Tony Awards, parties, parties, parties. They have the money to lose, and it's no big deal to them. God bless 'em.

And the audiences. Just look at the weekly grosses and it is crystal clear that there certainly are more than enough people to happily pay for full price and premium tickets. That's just the reality. There really is no need to develop new audiences, because Broadway has built a nearly perfect perpetual motion machine. It is called tourists.

Tourists have the money to come to an expensive city like New York, they need to have something to spend their money on. Broadway tickets will do, thank you very much, because, well, that's what tourists do. The world staggered at the financial brink in 2008, but Broadway only took a small step back before leaping forward again. They wanted stars, they got stars. They wanted Disney, they got Disney. They actually get whatever they want. What's the point or need for "new audiences" when the tourists are here all the time clamoring to see the hits and near hits?

Yes, if you look for problems, you will find them. But on the margins, these are not problems that make much of a difference. Let the good times roll.

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