License a show? License a logo.

I was reading a small town newspaper (!) over the weekend, and I flipped through the arts “corner” (It probably used to be called a section, but no longer) to see if there were any theatrical goings on.

There was a concert on the common.  There was a sculpture exhibit entitled, “Small Town Shapes.”

And there was a community theater production of a musical that was on Broadway not too long ago.

It actually took me awhile to recognize what the musical was, however, because they were using a different title treatment, and a different logo than I was used to.

And that’s pretty much standard operating procedure for licensed musicals.  A company licenses a musical.  And they create their own marketing materials to advertise it.

But why?

Wouldn’t that company be better off using the materials created by the Broadway production?  They were created by the best in the business, after all.  And, millions on millions (and sometimes kazillions) of dollars have been spent branding that image into the brains of potential theatergoers.  Wouldn’t a theater want to capitalize on that?  And wouldn’t it save them time?  And wouldn’t the musical benefit as well, by continuing the branding they started . . . if the same artwork starts popping up at community theaters, dinner theaters and high schools all over the world, doesn’t that help further brand your property?  And doesn’t that mean potentially more licensing revenue for you and your investors?

When you license/franchise a McDonalds . . . or a Lucille Roberts . . . or a Starbucks . . . you don’t create your own art.  You use the package that’s given to you.

In other words, you connect your branding dots.

When a script is licensed, it should come with a marketing packet with all the materials necessary to market that show.  (And maybe you even charge a fee – the licensing theater is saving time at the very least, if not lots of money.)  And, the theaters licensing that production should be obligated to use it.

I floated this idea a while ago and a few Producers told me, “But do I want my logo on a production of my musical when I can’t control the talent?”

Um.  Yeah.  Yeah, you do.  I think people understand when they’re in a high school auditorium, and they set their expectations accordingly.

This may not happen with all plays and musicals.  But it can happen to yours.  When you strike a deal with a licensing company, make the artwork part of it (which means you have to make sure you own it when you have your advertising agency create it).  Whether you charge, or make it obligatory for licensed productions is up to you.

Licensed productions are usually short(er) runs . . . a month, a few weeks, or in the case of the show that appeared in that arts “corner,”  just a weekend.  They need all the help they can get in getting started.

Using the original branding can give these productions a jump start on selling your show.  And the more money they make, the more money you’ll make, either in direct percentage royalties or in other theaters saying, “So-and-so just cleaned up with NAME OF MUSICAL!  Let’s do it too!”

You’ve done the heavy lifting on creating that artwork.  And you paid through the nose and out the ear for it.

You’ve branded it.  Now let them come.


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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.