Which would you do? A Commercial Out Of Town or a Non-Profit?

Over 90% of new musicals have a tryout before Broadway.

And most are out-of-town.

So if you’ve got a new musical, prepare to pack a bag.

There are two primary forms of out-of-town tryouts.

1. The Non-Profit Out-Of-Town-Tryout

This non-profit “enhancement” tryout was a model born in the 80s.  A Producer asked a regional theater to produce a show.  That regional said, “Sure, but it’ll cost more money for us to do it.”  And the Producer says, “I’ll pay the difference.”

The Regional Theater also asked for ongoing participation in the show in the form of a ongoing royalty.

The Non-Profit route is how Jersey Boys, The Prom and so many other shows came to Broadway.

2. The Commercial Tryout

These occur in big cities like Boston, DC, Chicago or San Fran. The Producer presents the show at one of the big touring houses and takes all the risk.  

These are more expensive.  

But are they?

You take more risk with a Commercial Tryout.  The costs can be double a Non-Profit tryout.

BUT, when you take all the risk, you can see some profit.  That’s right, at Commercial Tryouts, you keep the ticket sales.  (If there are ticket sales, that is – and there’s that risk!)

See, you’re not getting a percentage of ticket sales at Non-Profits around the country.  (Although I’d always ask for some share of the money above their breakeven projections.)

And, here’s the big one . . . at a Commercial Tryout, you are NOT paying that royalty.

So you pay more up front . . . like a lot more . . . but less in the long term . . . a lot less.

That’s why the biggest question you should ask yourself when going out of town is . . . do I want to pay more up front or more over the long haul.

Most shows choose the Non-Profit route.  It’s less risky, less in the spotlight, has the air of importance because it’s a big regional theater, etc.

But I’m predicting this is going to change in the future.  Because Non-Profits tryout have gotten more expensive in the last several years, more Producers are starting to ask themselves, “Am I better off spending more now to save more later?”

It’s a question I ask myself all the time.  Especially since I have both types of tryouts coming THIS year.  

I’ll let you know how they all go twelve months from now.  Just keep reading.

So now . . . here’s the question . . . If you have a musical, and you want to try it out, what would you do?  

And if you want to learn more about enhancement deals, what they are, how to find them and how to negotiate them, we have a webinar explaining it all in The TheaterMakers Studio, along with webinars and courses on all TheaterMaking subjects from social media marketing to raising money.

If you need more info on what The TheaterMakers Studio is and how it can help you, click here and set up a chat with a member of my team.  They can explain how it works and how it can help you make more theater.  Click here.

Happy packing.  

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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.