Thursday, November 03, 2011

Marketing the Desirable

It has been almost a month since he posted it, but Jon Keevy's blog entry about marketing keeps bubbling to the surface of my thoughts.  It may be his opening:
Theatre is great. Most anyway. Actually only some. But 90% of everything is crap and people don’t avoid cinemas because 90% of the films suck.
I have a theory on this (surprise, surprise) but I'm not going to rehash that here.  (Read it if you're interested.)

Keevy makes some excellent points that bear thinking about.
Look, I don’t have a degree in marketing or sales or anything other than theatre. But I can see that if you are not giving people reasons to see theatre then they won’t. I go watch shows because I work in theatre, I have a professional interest. So if you see me at your show it’s not because you did anything right. You can only measure that by counting strangers.
I wonder sometimes just how insular the world of theatre is.  "Friends and family" is my usual shorthand for what I see as the broadest cross-section of the theatre-going audience.  At least at the chicken scratch level of Equity waiver. 

Yet in the burlesque world, total strangers make up the majority of any given house.  There are hardcore fans to be sure, and performers will attend each other's shows out of professional interest, as Keevy says.  But somehow this very rough sort of theatre has little problem packing people in.  Perhaps it's the half-naked women?  Well, okay.  But there are far more bikini bars and strip clubs in Los Angeles than there are burlesque shows.  So what gives?

Keevy's point is that successful shows tell people what is being offered, and then deliver that thing.  You can't argue with the simplicity of that assessment, but there is one thing missing from the equation:  Offering something desirable.

Live entertainment depends upon the attendance and active involvement of other people and we must consider what will appeal to them.  "First rule in roadside beet sales: the most attractive beets on top."

"Those are the money beets."

Keevy knows this, of course.  I know he knows this because he's making theatre that people want to see.  For some people, it's second nature.  It's like there's some sort of "entertainer gene" that drives them; a "somnambulistic certainty" such as what filmmaker Fritz Lang said drove him. "Instinct" is another word for it.

First, make desirable theatre.  Second, make people aware of what you're doing.  Third, deliver.

Rinse, repeat.

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