The Challenges of Booking Groups To Broadway Shows

Group sales are a big part of Broadway.

Maybe not a huge percentage of the overall take, and maybe even less of a percentage than they were a couple of decades ago . . .  But still, who wouldn’t want a few buses of audience members showing up at their theaters for every performance?

Sign me up for that.

Groups are great for Broadway for a number of reasons:

  • They fill a lot of seats at once.
  • They buy (or at least reserve) in advance.
  • They are great incubators for word-of-mouth (what do you think they talk about on those buses . . . what they saw and what they want to see next!)

But there are a bunch of challenges that face the group buyer on Broadway.  Some of which I knew.  Many of which I did not.

That’s why I decided to ask a bunch of group agents and buyers “What is your biggest obstacle when buying tickets to a Broadway show?”  I emailed some of the top big buyers out there and asked what we could do to make things easier.  

Here are just my top three takeaways from my group sales agent town hall:

  1. BE ON SALE FURTHER IN ADVANCE

Groups book six months in advance.  Sometimes shows are only on sale for six months.  So what does a group do?  They wait.  When I heard that, my Producer head almost popped off.  We have buyers ready to make an order . . . and they can’t?  And all they need is for us to be on sale further in advance?

This is an easy fix.  Broadway shows should be on sale for at least nine months for groups, if not longer.  While we run the risk of having to return tickets if the show  . . . ahem . . . doesn’t live up to its expectations, so be it. It’s always easier to give money back than get it in the first place.

  1. UNIFORM PAYMENT SCHEDULE

This is something I knew very little about.  Apparently, the different box offices around the city for the different theater chains have different payment policies.  Meaning, some require deposits earlier, some later.  Some require final payment by a certain date, and some later.  It creates confusion and sometimes irritation. 

Why not have a uniform policy across the theaters?   Seems like another easy solution that could speed up sales.  And also, if someone didn’t like the policy?  The answer would be . . . that’s the policy across all of Broadway.  🙂

  1. HOW TO SELL AN UNKNOWN BRAND

Sellers of group tickets all bemoaned how hard it was to sell something that was new . . . and had no materials.  No video, no pictures, etc.  They want to sell these shows . . . but it’s hard!  And it’s also hard for producers like me to provide those materials . . . when the shows don’t exist yet!

But we must . . . 

What videos, photos, etc, tell the potential buyer who/what we are before we’re up in front of an audience?  Movies use trailers.  What can we do . . . and what can we do to make sure it’s available those 9 months prior to when that group comes?  

They talked about a bunch of other things, from the desire for talkbacks (and the willingness to pay for it – which is what inspired me to do this and this).  They talked about a desire for a unique experience.  They talked about the need for an exchange policy, especially in the winter for weather.  

I learned a lot . . . but most importantly, I was reminded how important groups are to Broadway and how important it is to listen to what they want . . . if we want more of them to come.  

– – – – –

Are you interested in learning more about how to get a show produced on Broadway, Off Broadway, or anywhere?  Whether that’s a show you’ve written yourself, a show you’ve optioned, or even if you don’t have a show yet?

I’m looking for three people to join a mastermind group of passionate, action-oriented, creative theatermakers who want to make 2024 their best year of theatermaking yet.  You can fill out an application here.  Most of the spots have been claimed by our previous members, so if you are interested, make sure you apply quickly to claim one of the last three spots.

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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.

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