A Note to all the Rights Holders out there (movie cos. et al, I’m talking to you)

We all know that big business has landed on our shores.

All of the movie companies have stage shingles now.  TV networks are about to land.  The music company’s ships have been seen on the horizon.

And even toy companies are looking to swim in our musical waters.

When big corps enter into any new arena, they tend to bring their “manufacturing” model with them.

And I just did some data diving to suggest that there may be a different way that they (and all of us) should look at putting together new musicals.

I was inspired to dig around about this subject when I was talking to a high-powered exec at one of these aforementioned corps, and asking about the rights to a specific title in their catalog.

“Well,” the exec said, “Just know that for this title, and frankly, all of our titles these days, we’ll be looking for A-list talent only.  We won’t give these rights to just any newbie creative team off the block.”

Sounds like big studio Hollywood, right?  To green-light a film, they need certain components – proven Director, and even more so, bankable stars.  Hard to get anything off the ground at a big studio on the West Coast without both of those elements.

Which is why, if you ask me, movie ticket sales are where they are, and why 2016 looks to be the worst year for movie ticket sales in a century.

And now they’re applying that model to Broadway.

I can’t blame them.  It seems less risky when you’ve got “tested” Broadway talent.  And when you’re in a board room, selling a show to accountants and suits is a lot easier when you can tout a long list of credits on a team’s resume.

But is that the way to success in the theater?

I wasn’t so sure.  So I, along with my new trusty assistant, Lindsay, dug into it.

We went back to our  20 years of Broadway Musicals Tony Winners infographic, and ripped it open, taking a look at the individual authors of each element of each Tony Award winner . . . to see what their Broadway status was before that show.

What did we discover?  It might now shock you, but should send some signals to board rooms that are designing musicals all across the country:

60.87% of all of the composers of the Best Musical Tony Award winners of the last 20 years made their Broadway debut with that show.

60% of the lyricists made their Broadway debut with that show.

And yep, a majority or . . .

55.56% of the book writers made their Broadway debut with that show.

The results of this dig are impossible to deny.  When it comes to new musicals, on Broadway, rookies achieve more award success than vets.

Now, there are some outliers here.  The Authors of South Park were obviously A-list before they came in, just in another medium.  And there are a couple of others (oh and we excluded Fosse from our calcs).

But even accounting for a margin of error, maybe it’s a 50/50 flip of a coin to whether a veteran A-list team has an advantage over a brand-spankin’ new team.  And, I’d argue that from a Producer’s perspective, since the new team will probably be less expensive in many ways, your risk is less for that new team that an experienced one.

Shocking, right?

Not to me.

The theater is an individually driven art form.  It’s fueled by people with a dream.  They come up with an idea for a show, and they don’t stop until that idea is realized.  They don’t do it to get six-figure pay days for writing a script that doesn’t get made.  They write it for nothing and do anything they can to help get it made.

So all you rights holders and Producers out there who think the new playwright, or the new composer, or the new lyricist hasn’t yet earned the rights to your material because they don’t have the resume yet, should take a 2nd and 3rd look at what they have to offer.

The new artist is often hungrier, often faster, and, well, it looks like as just as likely to take home a Tony as someone who already has one.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

Interested in learning more about topics like this? CLICK HERE to join The TheaterMakers Studio, an online community, certification training program, and resource for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and theater makers of all kinds!

Keep your show organized with the Theatermaker's fool-proof management system

Improve your success rate for getting produced with daily strategy tips.

Send me the system

Related Posts


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.