While the average twenty-something isn’t dying for another Gershwin-like hit, innovative musicals have been offering up songs that could strike a chord with the iTunes and YouTube generation. If only someone in the marketing community would hurry up and figure out a way to reach these unaware future fans.
The musical ‘Next to Normal’ uses a contemporary sound to deal with themes of depression and emotional crisis — dark themes reminiscent of Emo rock. ‘In the Heights,’ another currently running show, takes soft-rap music and combines it with Latin flair, making it an easy fit for contemporary hit radio playlists. And the soon-to-open ‘American Idiot’ is, well, full of music by the already hit mainstream band Green Day.
It is the latter musical, ‘American Idiot,’ that’s making the biggest strides in Broadway marketing, thanks in major part to Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and his push to get the Broadway actors on stage at this year’s Grammy Awards telecast. Musicians joining Broadway shows as producers isn’t a new concept, and this season has a few big names joining the crowd, including ‘Fela,’ which boasts an affiliation with Jay-Z. It’s time to take advantage of that relationship.
While the concept of a music video getting major airplay on a channel like MTV is dead — MTV seemingly gave up on music television a decade or so ago, opting instead to push for mindless reality TV programming — music videos continue to live online.
Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group joined forces late last year with Abu Dhabi Media to launch the online music video site Vevo.com, a site offering official music videos without all of the white noise usually associated with YouTube. The site had more than 35 million users logging on within its first month, according to comScore. Yahoo hosts music videos, as do sites including MTV.com, AOL.com and Facebook.
Broadway marketing agencies need to take advantage of this growing new media audience and start pushing music in their direction. A step in the right direction would be to produce glossy music videos that can bridge the gap between music fans and Broadway aficionados. Diverting funds usually set aside for a full-page color ad in The New York Times Sunday section to new media campaigns, like music videos, is the future of Broadway marketing. Between 2008 and 2009, the Times saw its Sunday electronic edition go from 6,385 to 34,435 views, while the print edition lost nearly 22,000 home delivery readers.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, the man behind such pop culture phenomena as ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Cats’ has been hyperactive in promoting his upcoming musicals. In 2006 Webber headlined a BBC One reality program, ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria,’ geared towards finding a leading lady for his London production of ‘The Sound of Music’ — the program was merely a glossy commercial airing on TV every week. This model was copied by NBC in 2007 in hopes of boosting ticket sales for Broadway’s revival of ‘Grease.’ While the show was a ratings loser and the stage production was a critical disaster, ticket sales were reportedly high, according to the New York Post.