Dreaming About The Future Of Streaming (thanks to Hamilton).
Oh, if all of my shows could be like Hamilton.
Sure, sure, I’d like the Pulitzer and the Tonys and the billion bucks.
But what I’m talking about now is the giant treasure they had tucked in a vault . . . that they pulled out in the midst of this pandemic.
Yep, I’m talking about the movie they released on Disney+ last week that increased downloads of the D+ app by 74%!
And what I’m dreaming about and proposing for Broadway’s future is that every single play and musical on Broadway films performances of their original cast in the week after opening (just like we record a cast album at about the same time).
And we tuck that sucker away in a vault.
Sounds easy, and I bet you’re nodding your head right now in agreement.
But it’s not that easy.
See, Hamilton could afford it. Not only did they have cash to burn, but they also knew there would be a market for their product in the future. (Little did they know what role the movie would play in keeping their brand and Broadway’s brand alive.)
Most plays and musicals do NOT have cash to burn when they open. In fact, most new shows are losing money when they open and therefore can’t afford to invest in a risky insurance policy like spending millions on a shoot.
Never mind that the shoot would have had to be planned months before. (We could try to build this cost into the capitalization, but that might increase the budget by 10-20%, and it’s not like raising previous budgets were a piece of cake.)
So what to do?
In order to capture all of the new shows for posterity and for future revenue opportunities for everyone, including the actors, musicians, and stagehands, we must lower the costs of the capture themselves.
I mean, I’m kicking myself for not having ALL of my shows in a vault right now. I could roll them out and everyone involved would get a check.
But it was too pricey to record Spring Awakening, Once on This Island, Gettin’ the Band Back Together, etc. (And I know that for a fact because I budgeted them all.)
We must reinvent this model in how the labor is paid for video capture (especially since a capture doesn’t require any additional work on behalf of the labor) and then give the labor MORE if/when the capture is distributed.
Think about it this way . . .
It costs a few hundred thousand dollars to record a cast album. And the cast/musicians have to spend a day in a studio, on their day off, recording it. It’s a lot of work. (And most cast albums aren’t making any money, btw).
It can cost 10x as much to capture a show on video. And the labor is paid more than they get for a cast album. . . even though no additional work is required. For video shoots, the show could be recorded during a regularly scheduled performance (or several). (If any additional work was required for the shoot – additional rehearsals, etc, then the labor should be paid).
If we lower the cost of capture (please note that I’m saying lower, not eliminate), then every show could put their product in a vault. And then, if the show is a hit and Disney+ or Netflix comes around, then EVERYONE gets paid.
Or give the Producer the option . . . pay the Hamilton model, or pay the bonus-back-end model.
We’re going to need a lot of new models post-pandemic. This is one that could provide an all-important revenue stream for everyone in the future.
Call it COVID-insurance.
And I just kicked myself again for not having it.
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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.