So, you have a show. That is great news. Now all you need is an audience!
I've worked with West End productions for over fifteen years, and I've seen a huge range of outstanding and diabolical productions, surprise hits and disappointing flops, and many which should have done far better than they did.
There is no magic formula, but there are a few lessons I've learned which may help young producers get a head start and improve their chances of making their productions a success:
While important for any production, this is especially important for new productions. To attract your initial audience, to sell your show before the reviews are in, you need something to draw them in.
Disney can stage a new production nobody has seen, and sell out, because they're Disney. So too can Sonia Friedman or Cameron Mackintosh. People know who they are and there is an assurance of quality in their work.
If you're not so established, you need a star cast, or a renowned director to hook the early audience before the reviews continue to sell the show.
As minimum, marketing should start at least six-eight weeks before opening, combining digital and print media, PR and other events to gain exposure.
Ideally your marketing should start as far ahead of your opening night as your run is booked for. If you have a nine month season, start marketing nine months before opening!
Your marketing plan is essential. It gives you a schedule of what you want to do, when and how, allowing you to get organised and meet your own deadlines.
For example, if you know you want to put posters in tube stations, you need to have them designed, approved and printed. You also need to secure the best deal and get the job completed. All this could take four - six weeks to complete, so planning helps you backtrack and be ready on time.
Monitor and Assess
It is essential you monitor and assess all your marketing channels. Discount codes, early booking offers, Google Tracking and customer feedback will help you determine what works best, so you can adapt how you market you show if necessary. If it doesn't generate the ticket sales you want, it may be worth thinking of an alternative option.
On that point, you will be swamped by advertising offers. Do your research and don't accept their first offer.
There are many ways to engage audiences outside normal marketing channels.
- Generate a following through video of cast and creative interviews and show content. Keep it short, ideally under 30 seconds, and to the point. Attention spans are short!
- Exhibit at trade shows attended by your target audience
- Develop a participatory workshop programme for school groups or for young actors (Theatre Workout can help with that!)
- Attend showcase events
Keep your Box Office Happy
The people selling your show have to love it. They're your sales team, and if they love your show and are happy people, they'll sell more tickets. They'll want to do it, for the show. So, look after them, invite them to the press night party, launch events, reward them when they do a great job, thank them, respect them.
Remember, there is a good chance they're also trying to get their big break too, and they could be the next big thing, or have hidden talents you could use. Having them on your team can only help make your production a success, and could be the star of your next show!
There are offers of help all around you. Just ask for it.
Theatre Workout offer a range of production support services, from developing participatory workshops for audiences, to dramaturgy, production advice and other forms of creative support.