Podcast Episode 83 Transcript – Brian Mahoney

Ken: Welcome back to The Producer’s Perspective Podcast, everybody. We have a very special guest today. This guest is so special that he had to get special permission to appear on this podcast. I call him the swami of statistics – for those of you who have been reading the blog for a long time you know what that means and who this is. His actual title is the vice president of ticket sales for the Shubert Organization. Welcome to the podcast Mr. Brian Mahoney. Welcome, Brian!

Brian: Thank you, Ken.

Ken: So I’m going to let Brian explain what he actually does but in my mind I always imagine that he sits in his office in front of a hundred computer screens like a stock trader, analyzing the decades and decades of data from Telecharge archives and then gives us all advice on what to do. Whenever I have a question about statistics I email him. He’s also a great contributor to the official stat blog from the Shuberts – if you don’t know about this, you should, it’s called ShubertTicketNotes.com. He knows so much about this stuff that the Shuberts asked that he sit in on every advertising meeting for all the shows in his theatres. Let me tell you, when Brian speaks at one of these meetings, everybody listens. So, Brian, here’s how we’re going to start this thing – I want you to imagine that you’re in Idaho or somewhere and you’re playing golf, you’re on golf course or you’re in a bar or somewhere, and someone says “Hey, what do you do?” and this person has never seen theatre before. How would you explain what you do to him?

Brian: Well my responsibilities span a spectrum of verticals because I have an operational responsibility, I have a marketing responsibly. It’s sort of evolved over time. I started in 1984, running the call center, which back then was the primary means of selling tickets outside the box office. It was certainly the convenience method and the service charge bearing method. So I oversaw it from a hundred employees to a high of 350 before dropping back to about a hundred today. I don’t have as much direct interaction with it as I used to. I oversee two of Shubert and Telecharge’s sponsorships – the one with American Express and the one with American Airlines – I have the As. I also oversee our customer database, from which everyone garners their direct mail list for direct mail for Broadway and also the commercial application and also any of the data that we get out of the database that is valuable to marketers and then, last but not least, in the license agreement for the theatre it says that the producer and theatre owner should have joint decision making over the established price of the ticket and “established price of the ticket” is a very technical term that means the price that is printed on the ticket so I represent the theatre owner in those decisions only for Shubert theatres but I am theoretically the one that represents Shubert in terms of agreeing or arguing or discussing whatever the ticket price is going to be, either the regular price or for a discount.

Ken: Okay, so how did you find your way to the hallowed halls of the Shubert organization?

Brian: In college I was working on the concert committee at Georgetown and there were two promoters in town and we were working with the second promoter and I made a decision, in consultation with other students at the time, that we would be better off working with a number one promoter and the number one promoter was Cellar Door Concerts and the partner who was running the Washington, D.C. office was a man named Sam L’Hommedieu, whose name you may know because there is a Road Award for Sam L’Hommedieu. So I made his acquaintance, made a deal for him to present concerts at Georgetown, and the first season included Crosby, Stills & Nash and some guy named Bruce Springsteen in 1975 and became friendly with Sam, Sam gave me a job my last year of college at the Cellar Door nightclub where a lot of famous people played on their way up or their way down and about a year or two into working there Sam and his partner, Jack Boyle, decided to split up. Sam wanted to go into the legitimate theatre business, he had taken a lease on the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. at 13th and East Street, around the corner from the National, and he took several people out of Cellar Door – a guy named David Anderson, who was married to Lauren Reed, and myself, and we went and helped him get established. Now this was somewhat visionary at the time because this was 1978 and in the aftermath of 1968 where, after Martin Luther King was killed, there were riots in Newark and Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., people didn’t go to downtown Washington and 13th and East Street was in the center of downtown Washington. So Sam took the lease on the theatre and decided to do commercial theatre. In our first season we had For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Neil Simon’s Chapter Two and Aint Misbehavin, among others but those are the three that I remember. So we basically saw people coming downtown to see theatre who hadn’t come in a long, long time because it was ten years since everyone said “I’m not going to downtown to Washington, D.C. anymore.” So that’s how I migrated from college to rock and roll to legitimate theatre. While we were there we had a little phone room for our own purposes, our own theatre, and when the National Theatre was looking at the lines of people at the Warner Theatre and they were being booked by the Kennedy Center they decided that they needed to make a switch and they asked us to do their phone business and so we started doing the phone business for the National as well as the Warner and one day I get a call in my office at the Warner and a gentleman was in town from the Shubert Organization and wanted to look at our phone room. They, of course, were going to take their phone sales from Washington, D.C. and put it into their phone room in New York and I went out into the lobby to meet Bob Wankel and several years later, when I decided I needed to make a move, I called up Bob and we had a number of meetings and I ended up overseeing Telecharge. That was in 1984.

Ken: 1984. Thirty-plus years later, here you are. So in those thirty-plus years – you talked about, already, an incredible change in the industry from a phone room of a hundred go to 350 and now, of course, back down to one hundred, and I’m surprised it’s even that many – what are some of the other biggest changes you’ve seen in the habits of ticket buyers over the last thirty years?

Brian: As with any business, today more and more people, they don’t need to be pushed, they don’t need to be shoved, they don’t need to be led, they don’t need to be incentivized – people choose to do business when they want to, how they want to, and most of them are choosing to do business on the internet. It was a natural evolution – hence how we went from 350 down to 100 – because people were migrating to doing business on the internet, where they could do it at home at any hour, they could take their time, they could look at multiple shows. The phone was useful if you knew what you wanted to see and when you wanted to go or you knew three shows and you could sit there and decide between them, but considering there’s an awful lot of people who go to the theatre who care a great deal about where they’re sitting to the point where they’ll agonize over “Should I sit in P8 and 10 or Q9 and 11?” for the two and a half hours they’re going to be in their seats, or in some cases 90 minutes. They care a lot and they agonize over that. Back in the day they would even choose the show they were seeing based on which one had the better seats – so they might choose, Friday night, to go to this show because it had better seats and they’d see another show on Saturday afternoon because it had better seats. That was very important. So the internet lends itself to that kind of shopping. Theatre tickets are not a fungible product – “What’s your size, what’s your color? We can send it out to you.” It just doesn’t work that way. Every seat for every performance is unique for many customers. Not 100% of them – people who buy on mobile are obviously not as particular, but for people who care about where they’re sitting, they’ll spend a lot of time engaged with the platform, deciding where they want to sit.

Ken: Talk to me a little bit about the evolution of the discount. Because a lot of people think because there are now discounts everywhere there were never discounts on Broadway before but of course that’s not the case – they were here, they just weren’t online, they weren’t as readily available. Talk to me about how that’s changed over the last 20-30 years.

Brian: So once upon a time we didn’t actually discount very much. In its day, the major discount outlet was TKTS when it was created in the ’70’s, but we did have coupons. They were called twofers in the day but as the prices evolved they, at a certain point, were no longer twofer, they were something less than twofer, but that’s what they were called and there were two primary discount flyer channels. One of them was called School Exchange and, for anybody who’s been in the business a long time, they often refer to it as Bukowski, because it was owned by a guy named Paul Bukowski, and the other one was Hit Show Club which was owned by a guy named Stan Silver and he bought it from somebody else whose named I don’t remember, and ultimately both businesses were bought by other people, and that was the primary mechanism. The School Exchange coupon was shipped in bulk to a variety of outlets, most of them schools, and the Hit Show Club was the ones that you would find on dry cleaning counters and shoe makers, which is really funny when you look at how things are today, because back then, oh no, that was always the last one that anybody went on because it was too public because it was in your dry cleaners and your show makers and you can’t do that, that was too public, so everybody liked Bukowski because it was a little bit discreet. Today discounts are prevalent everywhere but that’s where it started and, back in the day, you could not fulfil a discount any place other than at the box office, so even if you fulfilled by mail you still had to have a treasurer doing it and it wasn’t until the early ’90s where I made the case to Bob Wankel that we’re sitting here paying very expensive labor to fill mail orders, and in many cases, if they all wanted the same two rows of seats for the same four Saturday matinees, you had to call the people back and get another date or another section of the house and it wasn’t a very efficient or customer friendly process so we migrated to doing it over the phone, so when you wanted one of the four Saturday matinees and the last two rows of the theatre and they weren’t available you could choose another date or you could buy a higher price seat. That was sort of the tipping point and the other part was, also in the early ’90s, direct mail started to be more prevalent and direct mail, when it first started, it had discounts, it was only fulfilable at the box office or by mail, and I think at a certain point it was easy to make the point that we had trays and trays of mail to be filled and we had to bring in treasurers to fill it and the more efficient way to do it was to let those people call up on their phone and buy their ticket with a service fee and get handled by somebody and it was instantaneous service, as opposed to “I can’t fill it, we have to call the customer back,” and whatever. It wasn’t a good process. I mean the business was evolving, and from there other discount channels started to be created and distributed, either by email or other websites, and by then it’s the mid-90s.

Ken: I remember those coupons sitting on my shoe shine guy’s counter, all dirty with shoe polish all over them.

Brian: And probably that’s where people wrote notes.

Ken: Oh yeah, for sure, it was my receipt, I think, once, he wrote it on, like a coupon for, I forget which show, And the World Goes Round or something. So you mentioned that you sit in these ad meetings and have conversations about pricing and strategy – what’s one of the biggest mistakes that you think producers make when it comes to discounting in general? Do we do it too soon, too late, too high, too low? What do you think, in general, we could do better?

Brian: I think the cat is out of the bag so I can’t criticize anybody for their discount strategy because we’ve probably spent twenty years telling certain buyers of the market that discounts are available and discounts are the way to buy tickets so it’s hard to put the toothpaste back into the tube and I can’t criticize anybody. I think if I was to have an observation it might be that if we had more prices at regular price we might need fewer discounts. Anything you read about web-based commerce, you don’t want to create too many clicks and we require extra clicks to get a code in order to access a price and if the price was part of the theatre it’s one less click for the customer and it’s easier, and for the customer who is informed, they go to the website, they look at the sales, they don’t see a price they want, they go find a discount code. For the customer that is uniformed, they see the prices, they think they’re too high, they leave and we don’t know if they’re going to come back. We gained a lot of convenience when we moved from the phone to the web; what we lost was the interaction with the customer. In the old days, most of the sales were done at the box office so you could walk down to the box office and talk to the ticket sellers and have some understanding what was going on with every customer who was buying tickets. Then you had the phone – you could still talk to a live person, people were dealing with customers. Now you’ve got a machine that’s dealing with a lot of customers. People interact with a machine when they’re doing a search, people interact with a machine when they’re on the show’s website, people interact with the machine when they click through to Telecharge, but we have no feedback on what they’re thinking and if we were more analytical we might sit there and say “How many are searching? How many are going to the website? How many are clicking through to ticketing?” and I ask the question in almost every meeting I’m in – “What percentage of people are clicking through to ticketing?” and the answers range from 15-25%. Well that means 75-85% of the people that are visiting your website aren’t clicking through to ticketing that day. They may come back, but that’s a huge number. That’s a huge, huge number, and we don’t know much about those people. In the old days, you knew that somebody would call, they’d look at P9 and 11, Q8 and 10, they’d say “Alright, I’m going to call my wife, girlfriend, husband, mistress, and I will call you back,” so you had feedback to know they were interested and frequently they would call back and want the same seats – “I was just talking to somebody, we were going to buy Q10 and 12, I wanted to check on something, are they still there?” Now you don’t have that feedback anymore so you don’t really know what’s going on in the mind of the customer. So we probably could be smarter about pricing, which is not really about discounting but it’s just about if a lot of people really want to spend $99, why make them jump through hoops to go get a code, why not just have the $99 price there?

Ken: Well that was my next question – what’s the biggest mistake we’re making in the regular price set, if you will, or the full price market.

Brian: I think you have to look at your show. If you close the window at 7:05 or 8:05 on a weeknight and you’ve sold 125 full price tickets and there’s 400 or 500 in the orchestra, so the orchestra’s not full, and you’ve only sold 125 full price tickets, I think you have your answer as to whether or not it could be priced better. Because 125 people is not a big number and that’s not an unusually low number, that’s a common number, so that tells me we could be smarter about pricing. If only a third of our tickets are being sold at full price and only a hundred of them are top price full price, well, we’re fooling ourselves.

Ken: When you watch shows launch, how similar is the velocity of sales on a show? Are the buying patterns similar? Like “Yep, this is what I expect to happen on any large show,” or does every show have its own unique on sale period?

Brian: Every show is different. I’ve seen shows that started slow and finished sold out, doing over $1 million. A limited run play starting slow and finishing doing over $1 million a week at the end, so you can start slow and finish strong, it doesn’t mean anything. You can start strong and keep being strong. So every show does launch differently and at a different pace, but you can learn something and one of the reasons to go on sale early is you learn something about what you have. If you put an ad in the paper and nobody buys tickets now you know you have a challenge ahead of you.

Ken: Well let’s talk about going on sale – are you a fan of going on as early as you can? Should you be ten years out, if you could, or a year out?

Brian: I don’t know if I would go ten years but on our file the average early adopter buys 60 days out. That’s the average, so in order for there to be an average a percentage has to be more and a percentage has to be less but, yeah, the average is 60 days, which means there’s a lot of 90 and 120 day people.

Ken: So if you were opening a show on Broadway tomorrow and had your choice of how far out you would go on sale what would you choose?

Brian: I think you will see that most of the spring shows will go on sale around Labor Day, if not a little sooner, if they have a theatre and are committed and can go on sale, and fall shows very commonly go on sale in the spring. Three or four months is enough time for you to learn something.

Ken: You mentioned that 75% of people who visit a website are not clicking through to ticketing and I think one of your examples is a really good one – people check with their significant others or whoever are their theatre-going partners to see if they can make it that night – any other hypotheses from your perspective on why people aren’t clicking through to buy right then and there?

Brian: Well they’re engaging with the show’s website, they haven’t got to Telecharge yet, so they’re engaging with the show’s website so I assume they’re doing a little bit of tire kicking on the show in terms of the content and what it’s about. I like to tell people, unless you learn very early on that you’ve got a full price show, we ought to put some pricing information on the show’s website because it’s the largest marketing portal that a show manages that speaks to customers and so if you’ve got 10,000 people a week on a small musical visiting your show’s website and only 15-20% of them are clicking through to ticketing, from there 80% of them may interact with the ticketing system and not buy a ticket – you’re losing people at every step of the funnel so anything you can do to improve the information they have and improve their interest in the show and improve their conversion. We had a show recently that had two click through to Telecharge buttons. They had one on the homepage, they had one on the tickets page. They made a change to the tickets page and they added pricing information and the agency was smart enough to track the conversion rate on click through from the homepage separate from click through from the tickets page and they reported that there was 50% higher conversion rate on people going from the tickets page than people going from the homepage and the people on the homepage had less information than the people going from the tickets page so those that had pricing information presented to them on the tickets page converted at a 50% higher rate than people that didn’t.

Ken: They want to know how much it costs.

Brian: You know the old expression – if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Ken: Right.

Brian: That has driven a lot of our strategy. Go by the booth any day and we always talk about the customers at the booth but there are a lot of people who never get online at the booth because they go and they talk to the customer service people there, and I haven’t been there in a while but the last time I searched, if a customer walks up and says “How much are tickets?” because our ticket prices are all different and our percentages are all different you get a range between $65 and $80. The problem is, if your budget is $50, you’re not going any farther, you’re leaving the line. I’ve literally seen two women and their daughters having the conversation – one was willing to spend that money, the other was not, and the funny thing is there are enough shows with low price tickets elsewhere. They could have gone to the box office, purchased a lesser location and been within the budget but all four of them went away because one didn’t want to spend $65 for her and her daughter to go and see a show. So we assume everybody is will to pay $140 or $150 and happy with $75 or $80 at the booth but it’s not everybody.

Ken: I’m fascinated with this idea now, of putting more pricing information on websites. We design these beautiful websites for these shows that I think are art in themselves and sometimes not great sales conversion tools, as you’ve described. And I’m thinking now, the website that has pricing information right on that home screen.

Brian: They’re not on the home screen but the next time you have one of your interns do a little research project have them check pricing information on show websites and you might be surprised how many have either seats from or calendars with very detailed prices – not every price for every performance but you might see three or four different prices listed on the tickets page of the show’s website with a calendar below it, and sometimes it will even highlight performances for those particular prices. We found this out on one show because it was a show with a natural evolution towards weekend performances and we were trying to push sales into the weeknights and we did all the usual stuff – best locations weeknights, best prices weeknights, whatever – and we checked the website data and everybody was ignoring it, nobody was enquiring for the weeknights, they were all enquiring for the Saturdays and Sundays and nobody was enquiring for weeknights, so the show put a calendar with pricing and highlighted particular performances and, lo and behold, people started gravitating and they also did some banner advertising with a price message that drove them to a landing page that had the pricing with the calendar and the highlighting and we started to sell tickets for weeknights.

Ken: Where do you think ticketing is going to be in 20 years? What do you think is the next thing? Is it mobile, is it going back to the box office because people actually want personal interaction now? What do you think is going to be next?

Brian: It will be interesting to see as the audience that grew up on technology and mobile ages into a point where they have more disposable income and they’re less inclined to go upstairs and more inclined to spend the money to sit in the orchestra. Will they be as picky about locations when they’re 64 as today’s 64 year olds are? I mean the audience that has been big fans of theatre has always cared about where they’re sitting to the point where, in the old days, they went to the box office long after the phone center was there, quoting locations. People still felt “I’m going to get better seats at the box office.” So those people that would go to the box office to do that, those people that would sit for half an hour on the phones and care about seat locations, those people that go to the website – and we have people that open multiple windows in order to interact with the ticketing system in order to find the best seat locations they can. They used to – they don’t do that anymore because you can go to the seating chart and see everything, but in the days when you had seat locations people would open multiple windows to try to find out what seats they could  get to get the best two seats they could. So there’s an audience and, at a certain age, an income that cares about that, so today’s 20- and 30-soemthings, what happens in 20 years when they have that same degree of disposal income? Are they going to still want to quick buy and “I don’t care where I’m sitting,” or are they going to become like their parents and agonize over P10 and 12 and Q9 and 11. I don’t know, it’s hard to know how their thought process is going to evolve but they have clearly grown up differently.

Ken: One of the things that’s changed a lot over the years that I’ve noticed is the brokers coming out of the shadows and onto the web and looking, in many cases, like a primary ticket seller, because they’re able to do that on the web. Talk to me a little bit about the brokers and that relationship and how that’s affected Broadway.

Brian: They have always been there but certainly the barrier to entry is a little easier because it’s easier to get tickets. I remember when Phantom went on sale – the box office opened for Phantom in 1987 and Peter Enton described the people that were in line at the box office as Riker’s Island rejects because they did not look like theatre goers – they would wait in line, they would buy their tickets at the box office, they would walk across the street to the man, maybe parked with a Cadillac, maybe not, but there was a man across the street, he would take the tickets, he would give them cash, and they would go back and get on the end of the line and buy more tickets, so they were digging back then. They were digging with groups, they were digging with mail orders back in the day – I mean back in the ’80s. I remember when Miss Saigon, all of the Cameron Mackintosh shows, Les Mis was hot. People got shut out in the beginning so when Phantom came along the people that got shut out of Les Mis were more rabid about getting into Phantom. The people that may have not been so successful in the first two were really rabid about getting tickets for Miss Saigon and some of the things we saw were rather bizarre. Somebody was filling a mail order and they made a mistake – they didn’t read the copy of the mail order, they picked up the address off of the letterhead, so they bought the tickets, they sent the tickets to the address on the letterhead and we got a call from this small school on the mainline outside of Philadelphia wanting to know why we sent them tickets to Miss Saigon and then a month or two later we got a letter from a prestigious law firm asking for those tickets back, that had been bought by their client. I had a guy come by the office one time with a pile of mail orders this thick – it was his copy of the mail orders he had sent in – and they had all been sent in with money orders, many of them consecutively numbered, so these were the ones that he hadn’t been able to intercept, that hadn’t been mailed to him, and he wanted the money orders back so he could turn them in. He wasn’t yelling at us because we had intercepted his orders, he just wanted his money orders back because he couldn’t monetize them because he had bought them at the post office and I said “You know all of those people, right?” We gave him his orders back. Those are the ones that we caught. That’s none of the ones that got through, those are the ones that we caught, so digging out tickets is an old, old process. It’s not new, it’s just with the internet and bots it’s just easier, and I’m not even sure it’s more. When Miss Saigon opened it was heavily, heavily sold for the first year and I don’t know how much of it was real and how much of it was brokers and if you follow the news you’ll know that Hamilton was comparing their advance to Miss Saigon to see if they were record setting. There might be more but I don’t know if there is or there isn’t. It’s something that’s been going on for a long time. What’s different is it’s easier to retail them because with the internet you can create fake websites, you can look like the primary site when you’re not, you can have a site that has the Ken Davenport Theatre and it looks like it’s the Ken Davenport Theatre except it’s a broker selling tickets for $230 that they can get on discount for $88.

Ken: You know StubHub and the Yankees just cut this deal where StubHub is going to be the official secondary market seller of Yankees tickets. Do you see Broadway ever doing anything like that?

Brian: Our business is very different. You look at concerts, you look at college sports, you look at regular sports – first of all, we don’t have season ticket holders on Broadway. In college sports the alumni typically own most of the tickets to the games, with an allocation for students, so if you want to go see Penn State play Michigan State in football, if you want to get a ticket the only place to get it is the secondary market because the game is sold out to season ticket holders who are mostly alumni. If you want to go to a concert and the concert has 20,000 tickets – and, as we’ve been reading in the paper lately, they don’t put all 20,000 on sale – between pre-sales and holds less than half of the house goes on sale and it sells like this and if you want a good ticket or any ticket the secondary market becomes the only place to get it. Even in sports, in basketball, if you want to go in the bowl, as they call it in professional basketball, the better seats, the only place to get them is the secondary market because they’re sold out to season ticket holders. We don’t have season ticket holders, we don’t have alumni, other than Hamilton we don’t have any of those barriers. Now, in the case of the Yankees, as a season ticket holder you’re committed to 80 games so chances are you’re not going to use all 80 games and so the secondary market becomes a way to liquidate some of your tickets, but again we don’t have season ticket holders so our business is very different. If we’re managing the inventory right we have premium inventory and therefore, with the exception of Hamilton, we always have tickets available, so the secondary market isn’t filling a need for either a Broadway producer or a Broadway theatre owner or even a customer because our inventory is different and we don’t have season ticket holders. We always have tickets available for the most part.

Ken: In your 30 years, what’s the most interesting sales show you’ve seen? The most interesting pattern, whether it was good or bad. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen?

Brian: It’s too clichéd at this point but Hamilton has to be it because the amount of publicity they get, the amount of hubbub, the way in which it is sold. I sat next to a broker at an opening last fall and he told me he personally had $10 million worth of Hamilton tickets a year ago. That was when the reported advance was $60 million. So I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve seen shows where the inventory was tight and it didn’t last as long – I mean the brokers were long on it – Miss Saigon, at some point it came to Earth but it came to Earth about a year later. Book of Mormon was pretty tight but it sort of followed a normal profession where it was tight for a number of years and I would imagine you can now get tickets in the week for Book of Mormon, it’s still sold out. Hamilton is somewhat unusual. The Producers, I guess, was also unusual because, when Matthew and Nathan were in it, it was a really, really hot show and I remember when they came back and did the 13 week extension, the last weekend the lines, as they had always been, were down the street for people looking for cancellations. On Tuesday there was no cancellation line.

Ken: 50 years from now, which one of these shows do you think is the longest running show of all time? Hamilton, The Lion King, Wicked or The Phantom of the Opera? Which one of those four do you think is the longest running show of all time 50 years from now?

Brian: If Phantom doesn’t close for sure it will be, if it continue to run, and I have no reason to believe it will close, it shows no sign of slowing down. But you forgot to include Chicago – I don’t want Barry and Fran to be upset that they weren’t included as well. It won’t be the longest but in the past, whether it was Cats or Chorus Line or Les Mis or Miss Saigon, and Miss Saigon ran an unbelievably long time, ten years, there was some pattern and eventually they started to run out of gas but Phantom seems to find new audiences all the time, it has enough family and school appeal that, as Charlie Flateman likes to say, you can sell tickets to the Ridgewood High School eight grade every year in perpetuity because it’s different kids every year and The Lion King can sell tickets to the eighth grade in perpetuity because it has universal appeal and Disney has great, strong branding and David Stone will work to keep Wicked going so it’s hard to predict which is going to go because all of them have been very smart, very well marketed and have not followed the pattern of Cats in its heyday and Chorus Line, where eventually they ran out of gas. Now, I think to some extent the internet makes it easier – you can put tickets on sale longer, we can be smarter, we have more information available today than we did back then, so you’ve got the internet, you can look at what people are doing, you can market your tickets in a wider variety of places around the world which you couldn’t do back in the ’80s and early ’90s so things are different. I wouldn’t want to place a bet on any one of them not being around in 50 years, other than me.

Ken: My last question, which I call my genie question – speaking of Disney – I want you to imagine that the genie from Aladdin comes to knock on your door and says “Brian, you’ve done a fantastic job of studying all of this data and giving us incredible recommendations on all of our shows. I want to thank you for that by granting you one wish.” What is the thing that drives you most crazy about Broadway, that gets you so angry – you’re such an even keeled guy – that makes you bang on the table, that gets you so frustrated, that keeps you up at night? What’s the thing that makes you so mad that you’d want this genie to wish away?

Brian: Public discount sites.

Ken: Public discount sites?

Brian: I would rather that, if we have to sell tickets at $99, that should be the price somewhere in the house. Instead of somebody getting a code to buy the ticket we should just have it be the price somewhere.

Ken: What I loved about that answer is it was so fast. You had it on the tip of your tongue. We know what drives you so crazy. Thank you so much for doing this for us and thank you to the Shubert powers that be that let you do this with us. Thanks to all of you for listening and we’ll see you next time – don’t forget to subscribe!

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.