The single most powerful silver bullet marketing tool musicals have.
So much has changed in our industry . . . and yet nothing has changed.
A recent NY Times article heralded the success of a startup musical called Treason. Treason has never been on Broadway, and only recently had a full production.
Yet, they’ve amassed a massive amount of fans. How do they know? By adding up Instagram followers or analyzing Facebook shares? That’s one way.
But a better way to determine whether you have “true fans” or just lurkers . . . is by counting the number of streams.
According to The Times, the tunes to Treason have been streamed more than a million times in 96 countries.
Those streams helped sell out two live concerts in London.
And now, Treason is on a 27-week tour which lands at The Palladium, one of The West End’s biggest venues.
But this isn’t the first time music has lit the fuse on a show’s success.
The article mentions how the music of Six propelled that unlikely hit into a world-wide phenomenon.
The article does NOT mention how Be More Chill got to Broadway on its mega-streams and rabid fan base.
Or what about Hadestown.
Or even Waitress. Sara Bareilles sang those “Songs From Waitress” at her concerts a full year before her curtain went up.
Music has been a recent catalyst for a lot of show’s getting to a stage.
But I can’t help but go back further . . . to the most successful writer the theater has ever had. And while there was no Instagram or TikTok to help spread this dude’s music, he went about building his buzz the same way.
Andrew Lloyd Webber released “concept” albums of Jesus Christ Superstar and even Evita before the shows ever hit the stage.
The music spread through old fashioned channels (including some radio play) and the shows started their runs “warm” instead of facing a cold audience that knew nothing about them.
In a way, these early releases of albums are a version of an out-of-town tryout. You may not get the creative feedback on the entire show, but you sure do get it for the music. And you build a buzz at the same time.
That’s why . . . still . . . Music is the most important, effective and downright nuclear-like marketing tool that a musical has.
Because it gets shows to Broadway.
But . . . it can’t guarantee success. Even ALW has some unbelievable scores to shows that weren’t commercial successes. And what about Sondheim. Or hey – how many of you have listened to the umpteen recordings of Chess and asked, “Why isn’t this still running?”
A great musical requires a great story underneath that score, or the show won’t last, even though the music will.
But if you’re looking for a way to market your musical, whether it’s about to open (we released the recordings to both Harmony and A Beautiful Noise before we opened), or whether you are hoping it’ll one day find its way to a stage, get your music out early.
Marketing your music has worked for decades and it’ll keep working for as long as . . . well . . . as long as there is music.
I get it. No one likes to select a seat…
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.