7 Things Broadway Can Learn From The Masters.
This past Saturday, I got to cross off something on my bucket list when I attended the most famous golf event and one of the most famous sporting events in the world.
That’s right, I was at the final two days of The Masters (insert polite golf clap here).
It was . . . like all modern entertainment events should be . . . an experience. But the best-in-the-world competitors and the grass-so-green-it-looks-hand painted course and even the dramatic turn of events late in “Act 2” when the leading man had a meltdown, were only part of what made it super special. What really made it an event that I’ll remember for a lifetime (and more importantly, one that I’ll want to repeat) is that it was the best-run live event I’ve ever seen.
Of “course,” I couldn’t help but wonder what Broadway could learn from The Masters, and I came up with a list of about 150 things . . . and then narrowed that down to my 7 favorites.
(And before you think, “Broadway and Golf, what’s the middle-aged man smoking?” Broadway and golf have a lot in common. Both are expensive, both take a lot of time, and both have trouble attracting young people (see first two similarities).)
Are you ready? Quiet please . . . like I was preparing to putt on the 18th green.
1. When you make a lot of money, you don’t have to charge a lot of money.
The Masters is a privately run tournament, so not much is known about their actual finances. But, one thing is for sure. They make bank. However, they could make double bank. But since their mission statement is, “. . . to stage a golf show that is enjoyable to all,” they don’t even try (and don’t you love that they used the word “show” in that quote?). There’s a parking lot right next to the golf club for patrons. You know how much it costs to park there? Oh, it’s free. You know how much the sandwiches are? Surely this is where they make cash, right? Nope, those sandwiches start at $1.50. And get this, to make sure that the tournament isn’t too crowded and everyone can get a good view, they limit the number of patrons.
The Producers of The Masters know they’re going to make money. And rather than get super greedy, they invest that would-have-been-profit into the “experience” and guarantee themselves an event like none other in the world. Is there any better investment for the long term growth of your brand than making your customers happy?
Now look, not all Broadways shows could do this. The Masters is one tournament . . . it’s like a mega hit show. But certainly some of the multi-million dollar a week grossers out there could do this, couldn’t they? Wouldn’t it be nice if a show that didn’t have to charge so much . . . didn’t?
(By the way, one of the ways The Masters makes up for some of this lack of revenue from us regular folks is by charging the super-rich more through VIP experiences, etc. That’s right, this bastion of capitalism actually taxes the rich to give to the poor.)
2. They know that “the children are our future.”
The other part of The Masters’ mission statement? ” . . . to contribute something to the advancement of the game.” You know who carries any tradition, whether it’s golf or musical theater, into the next generation? It’s the kiddies, my friend. It’s the kiddies. That’s why any child, from ages 8-16 can go to The Masters for free with a patron. That’s right, for freebies. In addition there are special autograph areas for kids only (no eBay swag-sellers on that line), and the players go out of their way to give a high five to the kids on the ropes all the time. Children are highly “impression”-able, and The Masters guarantees to make a big one on any kid that comes through its ropes.
Broadway has taken major steps forward in this regard with Kids’ Night on Broadway and the newly minted BwayZone. But I think we can’t depend on the League to do it all. Individual shows could do and should do more on their own.
Oh . . . what’s even cooler than kids getting in free . . . is you know know who else gets in free? Any certified PGA Golf Teacher. That’s right, they know that even more important than the kids . . . are the people who teach those kids (and adults too, actually). This is something that Broadway hasn’t touched yet, but could in a nanosecond. Drama Teachers’ Night on Broadway? Drama Teacher Appreciation Day? Excite the theater teachers and you excite the next generation of theatergoers.
3. Even the Security Guards smiled at me.
I don’t even think you can call what I experienced from the employees of Augusta National customer service. It was like I had my own support staff. They picked up after me and the thousands of others (the place was spotless . . . I watched one employee stop on his brisk walk to a fairway to bend down and pick up a quarter inch clear plastic wrapper). They all wished me a “Happy Masters” a hundred times. They were happy to be there. And they were happy to have me there. Part of it is the Southern hospitality, there’s no question about it. But part of it is that I’m sure they were drilled on the importance of good ol’ fashion diamond service, since The Masters is a diamond event.
Your Broadway show that people pay a lot of money for should be the same. The audiences deserve to be treated even better than they are treated at home. Or anywhere else for that matter. They’re not lucky to be in our theaters, no matter how hard it is to get the ticket. We’re lucky to have them.
4. They don’t need your feedback. But they take it anyway.
Masters tickets sell out faster than Hamilton tickets. And with its incredible history, they will sell out for decades to come. But that doesn’t stop them from posting “Survey Stations” all over the course. There were literally banks of computer screens where every patron could go and rate their experience and give feedback on how to improve it. Every Broadway and every Off Broadway show should do this, without question. We may not be able to put up a stand in our shoebox-like lobbies, but we could put a survey in every email. Or the ticketing companies could. And you know what? Whether or not we do anything with the responses (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t), we score some points just by asking.
5. The longest I’ve ever been without a cell phone since 1999.
There are no phones allowed at Augusta National Golf Club. Sorry, let me clarify. This isn’t a “turn your phone off” situation. This is a “you can’t bring your phone into the tournament” situation. And no one does! It’s pretty amazing (and was pretty refreshing actually – it’s the first time I disconnected for more than 12 hours at a time in over 16 years). I’m not sure we can ever pull something like this off at a Broadway show, but we can dream, can’t we? (I mean, really . . . did that couple in front of me at Eclipsed need to be reading CNN.com . . . from their seats in the 2nd row?) Again, The Masters is in the enviable mega-hit position of being able to set strict policies, but perhaps some of our industry leaders could bring the hammer down a bit harder as well?
6. Get up close and personal.
At shows everyone wants a front row seat. Everyone wants to be just two or three feet away from the best performers in the world. And very few can. At a golf tournament, if you want to be within two or three feet from the best players in the world, you can be. It’s not hard. It’s trickier on Broadway, of course, so we need to go out of our way to find ways to give people “up against the ropes” access. Sure we have “stage doors,” which are awesome, but we need meet and greets with stars, backstage tours . . . these should be regular occurrences, even if some are for VIPs only (to help pay for some of the other initiatives in this blog). Huh, and will you look at that? While I was writing this blog, I just got an email for a special private experience with Sting and Peter Gabriel. Looks like we’re late to this party, guys.
7. The Masters is the only place on the planet where . . .
. . . the line of the men’s room is longer than the women’s! But here’s where we can learn one thing or two . . . when I first caught wind of the line of people waiting to do one thing or two, I thought for sure some drunkies were going to head to the nearest Azalea bush and go au naturel. But nope, they kept the lines moving. Sure it was dudes, and they had a lot of urinals, but you know what the secret of the swiftness was? Line attendants and bathroom attendants! I bet assigning one or two ushers or porters to the bathrooms at Broadway shows could decrease the wait times by 15-25% at least. And bathroom attendants scream VIP experience. Ooooh, that gets me so excited I could pee.
Oh, and there’s one more thing Broadway and all of us can learn from The Masters. This year’s specifically. If you watched, or read the news, then you know that one of the best players the sport has seen since the days of Tiger Woods, Mr. Jordan Spieth, choked, collapsed, or however you want to dramatize it, and gave up a massive lead and lost. He had an easy shot. And missed it twice. This is one of the best players in the world. And he effed up. TWICE. And he lost.
The greatest in the world screw up. So don’t be so hard on yourself when you do. Because you will.
What’s important isn’t that you screwed up. What’s important is what you do next.
(Speaking of next . . . I crossed off going to The Masters on my bucket list. Now I have to get to the next golf related item on said list and play that course. I’d trade above-the-title credit on my next show for anybody that can help make that happen.) 🙂
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.