It’s my birthday and I spent all day drinking and watching Season 4 of Arrested Development yesterday (WITH PEOPLE, don’t worry), so I feel today is as good as ever to revive the blog.
About a year ago, my friend Mark–with whom I have often conspired about staging modern-day production of the before-its-time Baby–emailed that the Transport Group in New York was putting on a concert version of the musical. Baby was on Broadway for a year in 1983 and is about three couples–one in college, one having just sent their youngest to college, and another at just the right age to start a family. Guess which couple can’t get pregnant! 89% of the songs are really excellent, the best being “I Chose Right”, sung by the college-age father to his pregnant girlfriend, who doesn’t want to ruin his life by agreeing to marry him.
Mark, my sister and I went to the Transport Group concert last June, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in New York. Despite being unstaged, the production was worth the $60 because the company put on the best possible presentation with the resources they have. It was done on a Monday at the Lucille Lortel Theater, and it was sold out. Because most of Broadway is dark on Mondays, actors in current Broadway shows could participate. Each actor sang one song, and the original two actors who played the college couple explained the story, offering at first annoying but then hilarious commentary. Let’s take a look (even the summary video is simple but good):
Hold on, I got distracted.
I bring all this up because Transport Group didn’t try to do more than they could. If you want to get actors currently working on Broadway, you can’t expect them to learn more than one song, or one part of one song. If you want to compete with the rest of the goings-on in New York City, you do a musical that hasn’t been revived in New York in the past 20 years, and that, actually, is probably better suited for a concert version than a staged one (until Mark and I stage our revival, of course).
The New York Philharmonic, similarly, has been doing a remarkable job with their quasi-staged productions of late: those designed by Doug Fitch (La Grand Macabre, The Cunning Little Vixen), the recent Carousel (which featured New York City Ballet dancers as Louise and the carousel boy!), and their “360” concert at the Park Avenue Armory. Both artistically and in their marketing, these productions don’t try to be non-Philharmonic, but rather acknowledge that certain source material demands different treatment.
Transport Group used their artistic resources efficiently and effectively, and the same needs to be applied to promoting content as well as creating it. This runs in contrast to an experience I had at a radio station around the same time as the Baby concert. The show wanted to film my client playing and hadn’t asked permission in advance. I said no, as the client had just gotten off a train. Sitting in the booth, I then heard the show’s producer and a staff member talking about another video they had just done. “Who’s going to edit the footage?” the producer asked. “I don’t know,” said the staff member, “Is X’s daughter available? Maybe she’ll do it?” “Sure, ask her.”
Now, X’s daughter could be Steven Spielberg for all I know, but the point is that they hadn’t thought about the editing process when they shot the video. Radio stations (presenters…orchestras…) are so desperate for Content that they often don’t care what it looks like, how it’s done, if the artist is comfortable, if there’s an aesthetic that matches the branding of the rest of the enterprise, or what the Big Picture Point is at all, really. This same station once sent an intern with a FlipCam to interview a client of mine. There was no producer there, and the questions weren’t written in advance. After the video is shot, there’s no plan on how to midwife it into the world: will it go to your subscribers or ticket buyers? How will your listeners know about it – will you mention it on air? Do you even have a YouTube channel?
This more is better vs. quality control carries over to social media as well. What does an organization with one marketing person (who’s maybe the development person while that colleague is on maternity leave, and possibly the house manager as well…) do when there just aren’t enough hours in the day to think about the organization’s various social media feeds. Social media serves as many people’s newsfeed; I gave up Google Reader (which was ultimately shut down) when I joined Twitter, because Twitter became my source of daily news. Social media also demands a voice, even when used on behalf of an organization. Organizations as big as Major League Baseball manage to Tweet with a voice (“What has gotten into Dom Brown? He now has 8 HRs in past 9 games & 16 in 2013 after smoking this one off upper deck: http://atmlb.com/18HEEuP ” “4 #walkoffs in one day? Yes please: http://atmlb.com/18HmuJC pic.twitter.com/gzsA7ZvGa7“).
If your marketing department is too small to handle the social media component of the organization, maybe ask if anyone else on staff uses Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, Tumblr, or Pinterest on their own. Odds are, if they’re drawn to the outlet anyway, they’re the best person to use it on behalf of your organization. It would be an interesting 360 view of an organization, actually, if different people from different departments handled different social media outlets. Additionally, have a discussion about why you’re using an outlet. What do you hope to gain from the Facebook account? New ticket buyers, new listeners? Who are the videos for, and how are they different that the people for whom you’re Tweeting?
Transport Group puts on another one of my favorite musicals, Once Upon a Mattress, on June 17th.