UPDATE: Do Tony Nominators & Voters Forget The Fall? Part II

Yesterday we proved (again) that there is a statistical advantage to opening your show in the spring should you want a Tony nomination, and a win.  And, in fact, over the last six years, that advantage has grown.

So why do these spring shows get a leg up on the fall?  And what can we do about it?

Well, first, it’s important to acknowledge that there is no “fault” here . . . no collusion.  No one is deliberately choosing shows from one season or another.  It just happens . . . and the reason it happens is the same reason that advertising and marketing work. Let me explain:

The first and most obvious reason as to why these shows are remembered most come nomination and voting time is that they were just seen by those nominators and those voters.  The experience, the performances, the designs, etc. are fresher in their minds, compared to the shows from months and months ago which may have blown them away at the time, but have since faded.  The old show tune says, “Time heals everything,” right?  That’s because time makes you forget.  And in some shows’ cases, that’s unfortunate, because I don’t believe the nominators or voters want to forget.  They just do.  And hey, I’m one of those voters too.  It happens!  It’s why when I see a show, no matter what the season, I keep notes and give it and the elements (performances, designs, etc.) a grade (A-, B+, C) so I can have an “in-the-moment” quantitative score to compare it to the others when I have to cast my vote.

The second and more specific reason as to why the shows in the spring get more awards love is that nominators and voters, just like consumers, respond to advertising.  Shows that open in the spring are in the peak of their advertising campaigns, which means nominators and voters are more likely to be served with more impressions for a spring show than a fall show . . . and that’s if the fall show is still open!  If the fall show has closed, well, shoot, is it any wonder that a spring show is more top of mind when the nominator or voter sits down to make those important choices?  Hours before that individual checks the box, they may have seen an email blast, a billboard, an article in the paper, a TV ad, the theater marquee itself, etc., etc.  And whether we know it or not, advertising, publicity, etc. does affect us.  It just happens.  That’s why all businesses do it.  But fall shows that are no longer around just can’t do it.  They are closed.  And since winning an award can’t affect the box office of a closed show, it doesn’t make sense to actually advertise the way movie companies do to try and win that Oscar (movies have DVDs, Netflix, extended runs, etc. which we just don’t have . . . yet).  (One of the reasons the Best Musical Tony Award is one of the few categories that are more evenly distributed between fall and spring shows is because those musicals are more likely than the plays and revivals to be around . . .  and to be advertising heavily.)

So while yesterday’s stats are certainly alarming, they are not surprising.

What can we do about it?

Well, the first and most obvious thing would be to try and open your show in the spring, right?  Unfortunately, Broadway Producers can’t program like TV networks, since theater availability is on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis these days.  If a theater owner gives you a theater, you take it.  Or you get back at the end of the line, it seems.  So that’s not an option.

Yes, we could advertise like I discussed above, but for most shows, that just doesn’t make sense.

Yes, we can look to the League to help provide fall shows more opportunities to be in front of the voters at events like the Spring Road Conference, or in other promotions events (although this is also tricky, because closed shows mean that the Actors and creative teams are often in the wind).

There has also been rumblings of changing the Tony deadlines, or changing the date of the awards themselves, but if the awards were in the fall, do people start forgetting the spring?

But the most important thing we can do about it is be aware of it.  Nominators, voters, all of us need to be aware that our minds are naturally gravitating towards the spring (again, me included).  Knowing that may help us put a little more time into remembering the experiences of the fall.  To use a more serious subject to illustrate what I mean . . . it’s just like when Lynn Ahrens called me out on my podcast asking me how many women guests I had on.  When I did the math, I realized women were under represented.  Lynn told me to just think about it before I went out to my next potential guests.  And now, because I’m aware of it, I take extra time to make sure I’m including more women.  (By the way, if you haven’t heard that podcast, click here, because it’s a master class in musical theater and in gender studies.)

It’s a tricky subject, because again, no one is doing anything wrong here.  It just happens.

But understanding there’s an issue is the quickest way we can even the seasonal playing field in the hopes that the nominations and the winners truly represent the best that each Broadway season has to offer.

Or to put it in a hashtag context . . . #ThisSpringDontForgetTheFall.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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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.