The Three Types of Broadway Producers: Lead Producer, Co-Producer and Executive Producer EXPLAINED. (UPDATED 2020)
When I first started the blog, one of the most common questions I got asked was, “What does a Broadway Producer Do?” That’s why I wrote this post way back when (which is one of the most read/searched blogs of the thousands I’ve written.)
Recently, I’ve gotten a slew of that exact same question . . . with one word tossed into the query.
“What does a Broadway (Lead, Co, or Executive) Producer Do?”
Because Broadway producing has become more complicated over the years, and since the responsibilities of a Broadway Producer have increased (in the same they have for Directors, Actors, etc.), there has been a need for different types of Broadway Producers to make sure a show is properly served.
But what are the duties and responsibilities of these three different types of Producers? I wrote a bit about this in my new book on Broadway Investing, but I thought I’d flesh it out in a little more detail here.
So whether you want to be one or you need one, here is the definition of the three types of Broadway Producers.
The Lead Producer of a Broadway show is like the CEO of a company. Or, more specifically, since each show is a brand new enterprise, a Lead Producer is like the founder of a startup. In fact, I often refer to myself as “a serial startup guy,” because if I have two shows in a season, that’s like two brand new companies, each with a unique product, a different creative team, a new round of capital, etc.
The Lead Producer of a Broadway show is responsible for finding the product (play, musical), whether he, she, or they come up with the idea themselves, or if he, she, or they are handed a script by a writer, or sees a show Off-Broadway and moves it to Broadway. The Lead Producer is responsible for raising all of the money, overseeing advertising and marketing strategies, finalizing the budget, etc.
The buck stops with the Lead Producer, just like a CEO.
As producing on Broadway became more expensive over the past several years, Lead Producers started “subcontracting” out the financing to Co-Producers. Co-Producers on Broadway invest or raise a certain level of capital in order to receive a preferred rate of return on their investment, as well as additional perks, including billing (which earns a Co-Producer Tony Award eligibility), attendance at advertising meetings, etc.
If a Lead Producer is like a CEO or a Chairman of the Board, then Co-Producers are like board members. They bring money to the table, and therefore, are able to get access to and have an influence on the producing of the show. (How much access and influence depend on the style of the Lead Producer, and, of course, the experience of the Co-Producer.)
While a Lead Producer may earn a royalty and an office fee, most Co-Producers only earn money when a show recoups (unless they are investing or raising significant amounts of capital, in which case, they can also negotiate a piece of the Producer royalty, etc.) To learn more about how Producers are paid, watch this video.
The Executive Producer on Broadway is the newest type of Broadway Producer on the block. This position emerged as a result of the increase in the number of individuals looking to shepherd a show to Broadway as a Lead Producer, but who wanted an expert to help guide them through developing the business model, shaping the marketing strategy, securing (the right) theater, raising capital, advising the creative team on the script, maintaining the show in the 3rd year and beyond, etc. While the Lead Producer still makes all of the final decisions, an Executive Producer serves as the Lead Producer’s consigliere, advising them along each step of the way.
There are many reasons Lead Producers hire Executive Producers. They may be new to the industry. They may be working on the production in another area (writing, etc.) and want to make sure someone always has their eye on the producing ball. They may be extremely successful in another industry (entertainment related or not) and need someone to focus on the day to day because they lack the time to give the show what it needs to thrive. Or, they may be a corporation that needs a figurehead in the rehearsal room as a representative of the company. When $15 million is on the line (or even $5 million or $500,000!), having an experienced expert’s opinion and advice can be one of the smartest investment a Lead Producer can make.
While Executive Producers are “hired guns” for Broadway shows, a good one pays for himself, herself, or themselves several times over, by either saving the company money or making the company money through financial efficiencies, and/or by providing creative ideas (in the marketing, in the dramaturgy, etc.) that have a positive impact on the production itself for years to come.
(SIDE NOTE: I expect that with the boom that Broadway is experiencing right now and the number of new Lead Producers getting into Broadway producing, especially those corporations, more and more Executive Producers will appear on the title pages of Playbills in the next ten years.)
P.S. If you’re ready to speed things up but know you need some help, get on a call with my team. They’ll give you an honest assessment of where you are and if you’re ready to go to the next stage. Click here.
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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.