Producing a Broadway show has always been a risky game. If you were to take a sampling of all the shows that open (and close) on Broadway in a given season, you would see that only about 20-30% of them recoup their initial investment. Yet somehow Broadway producers still find investors who are well aware of the risks.
With a paltry track record for ROI how do you convince someone to fork over those much-needed dollars for a project in an industry that continues to see escalating costs? One answer is appealing to Hollywood to pony up some dough (*ahem*, there is a much-maligned web slinger on 42nd Street that wouldn’t have even seen opening night without a certain studio footing the some of the bill). Another is the tried and true method of “amusing” little old ladies on the Upper East Side, a la Max Bialystock. But truly, those methods are, if nothing else, a little creepy (yes, I’m talking about Hollywood, too—have you ever lived there?).
But, if the usual methods aren’t cutting it in a very tough economy, how do you fund a show that takes millions to open and may close the same night?
Enter Broadway Producer Ken Davenport and his upcoming revival of Godspell on Broadway. He created The People of Godspell using the concept of “crowd funding” (or as Ken likes call it “community funding”). He has found a way to allow larger group of investors to contribute a smaller amount in order to achieve the full capital investment for his show. This concept is the first of its kind in the history of Broadway.
Essentially, Ken sold units of the show like stock (he even had to get his Series 63 and become a Securities Agent). Where a common entry investment point for a Broadway show is between $10,000 and $50,0000, Godspell requires only a $1,000 entry. Investors can put up more if they like, but this allows a chance for those who want to get into the game to take a managed risk (assuming, of course, that your life savings is in excess of $1,000).
Furthermore, by creating the “community,” Ken has introduced a concentrated marketing force for the show (and a cheap one at that—they pay him). Anyone with money in it will, of course, be spreading the word to his or her nearest and dearest (and they tell two people, and they tell two people, and so on….).
Plus, everyone gets Billing! The People of Godspell website lists everyone that has put money in the show (if they wish), plus he will have every name outside the theater (also, if they wish), so these “producers” can lay claim to having a hand in putting up a Broadway show.
Ken has been a marketing machine and a phenom in the NYC theater world since the beginning of the new millennium, which seems apropos, as he is poised to lead the Broadway community into the 21st century. While his ideas and projects may be controversial to some, he is one of the many innovators attempting to move the Broadway industry forward.
If you are interested in learning more about Ken Davenport, you can subscribe to his blog, The Producer’s Perspective. For information and tickets to the 40th Anniversary Revival of Godspell check out their site here.