Three Myths About Tony Awards Voting

As we begin our 10-day countdown to the 75th Annual Tony Awards, I thought I’d dispel some common misconceptions about the Tony Awards voting process.  

And how do I know these are common?  Because I used to believe them myself!

So take these myths into account as you place your final votes on your Tony pool ballot this year.

MYTH #1:  The “road” votes as a block for what will work well in their touring markets.

This is one of the oldest Broadway wives’ tales around.  And on paper it makes sense.  The theory being that the 100+ road-folk who are on the Tony Voter list vote with their markets in mind, and check boxes for shows that their audience will enjoy the most (which tends to be more, ahem, “commercial,” fare).

To that I say . . . Hadestown. The Band’s Visit, Avenue Q, Spring Awakening, Fun Home, Once.  Mind you – many of the shows that did NOT win had even more successful tours.

History is filled with Best Musical prize winners that had shorter touring lives than the nominees they beat.  What does this prove?  Voters vote for the show that they believe is best, no matter what the commercial future.  

(There’s actually more of a correlation between a positive New York Times review and a Tony Award than what will work on the road.)

MYTH #2:  Everybody votes.

When I was an Associate Company Manager on Broadway shows and handled Tony voter reservations, I was shocked to see that not everyone reserved their tickets.  In fact, the highest turnout I’ve ever seen personally over the last 25 years (and the highest turnout I’ve ever heard of, from talking to my peers) is about 67%-70%.

That’s right, not everybody votes.  (And in years like this one, it might be even fewer since Covid cancellations prevented a lot of folks from seeing shows!)

The Broadway League instituted a “lock-out” feature on the electronic voting platform that prevents voters from checking a box in a category if they haven’t seen all the shows.  And they’re policing it big time.  Which is awesome.

That said, it may mean fewer votes.  Which means even closer races.  (Not to mention there are more shows on Broadway now than there were several years ago, which just makes it harder for people to see everything to be able to vote.)

Let’s do some quick math:  800 or so voters.  70% is 560.  If a few shows or performers split a vote, that could mean each nominee could get 150 or so votes.  That means the big prizes could be settled by just a handful!  So every vote counts (now) more than ever.

MYTH #3:  Campaigning doesn’t work.

Advertising works. In everything. And while there’s a fine line in awards campaigning between what sways a vote and what pushes a vote in the opposite direction, the right campaign can do what great advertising does . . . remind a decision-maker of the benefits of a product and why that decision-maker should use and recommend that product to others.

A few voter friends of mine have scoffed at the amount of stuff that gets mailed to each voter every single year, thinking that it doesn’t change their mind.  It might not change it, but I do know that campaigning can make people think twice.  

Hollywood Studios hire special Academy Awards Campaigners for their award season.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing happen in our industry in the next five years.

One truth about The Tonys . . . if you’re a theater fan, they are always exciting.  And even more so when you have a horse in the race.  So if you’re a TheaterMaker, watch and let it inspire you to one day be sitting in that audience waiting for your name to be called.

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Watch The Tonys on Sunday June 12, 2022. 7pm ET on Paramount+. 8pm ET on CBS. Full details 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.