What happened to the concept recording?

If you see a musical (and you like it), what is the first piece of “merch” that you’re most likely to buy?

The cast recording, right?.

If you’re a brand new musical previewing on Broadway, what’s the hardest piece of merch to have available for your preview audiences?

The cast recording!

There are a ton of reasons why cast recordings are usually never available for a show’s first performance; musical numbers might get cut, the orchestrations aren’t set, the cast has been rehearsing 24/8, etc.

And because those CDs and downloads aren’t available, the shows lose out on revenue, and more importantly, marketing.

Because nothing spreads faster than music.

There was a time when “concept recordings” were made of shows and released well before the opening date.  Webber did most of them, with Jesus Christ Superstar being the most famous, which he followed up with a concept recording of Evita (featuring Les Miz‘s original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson – who is awesome).

Frank Wildhorn has issued a few as well, including Jekyll & Hyde and his new Broadway musical, Wonderland.

But my question is . . . why don’t we see more of these?

Recording, production and distribution has gotten easier and cheaper over the last several years.  So why doesn’t every musical have a concept album?  Or more realistically, what about a six song pre-release CD available for purchase by that first preview? (I wouldn’t even give audiences much more than the six songs, so they have more of a reason to purchase the full album when it comes out.  You’ll probably end up with two purchases instead of one.)  And certainly there are at least six songs that are going to stay in the show and aren’t at risk of getting cut in previews.

And if you want to save money, then only do three.  Or even one lonely iTunes single.

But get something out there and get it out fast, whether it’s conceptual or not.

Because the first few weeks of a show’s life are crucial and you need every marketing tool you have.

And music is like a Makita.

It gets the job done a lot faster.


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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.