Right now is the absolute best time to be in the live event business.
We live in an age where the trifecta of job happiness -- inspiring work, engaging environment and potential for growth -- is on the upswing in the entertainment business, and particularly in the Broadway community.
Nowhere was this clearer than at the fourth annual TEDxBroadway event, which took place on Monday, February 23 at New York City's New World Stages.
Co-organizer Jim McCarthy and I cast a wide net to bring together speakers with diverse backgrounds and talents who shared their passionate answers to the question: "What's the best Broadway can be?"
As I watched the speeches of an amazing line-up of 18+ speakers, one major theme jumped out at me: change is in the air and gaining an unstoppable momentum. We all know it's coming, in many forms, and that's one of the reasons it's so thrilling to be in this business right now. Anything is possible.
Experts from outside of the Broadway community, like climate scientist and Columbia University professor, Adam Sobel, who established the relationship between global climate change and performing arts consumption, took the stage next to experts within the Broadway community like set designer Kacie Hultgren. Hultgren illuminated not only the possibilities of 3D printing in the entertainment realm but also the effect it has already had on the creative process -- changing the speed and ease with which designers are able to collaborate.
Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, explained that 90 percent of the world's data has been created over the last two years. This stat is mind blowing -- even when taking into account the incredible digital growth (particularly in terms of content) and the resulting data from this growth over the past two years. Living examples of this digital content explosion, Tony Award-nominated writing team, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, shared the history of their partnership on the TEDxBroadway stage. Coming of age as songwriters in the "YouTube generation" provided them with unique opportunities unknown to their predecessors.
And one element of change that is most exciting to me personally was addressed by Osh Ghanimah, Founder and CEO of Broadway For All, who identified the opportunity facing Broadway today to embrace new audiences and the urgency with which this must happen. Four years ago at the first TEDxBroadway, I announced the creation of The Situation Project, a nonprofit organization founded to provide high performing schools in arts-deficient areas with access to Broadway -- which I believe is an effective driver for the long-term diversity problem of which Ghanimah speaks. Since the program was effectively born on the TEDxBroadway stage with the help of some amazing folks, I called attention to the fact that Broadway as an industry has been running at approximately 85 percent capacity consistently over the past 10 years -- which financially is pretty darn good. But what interests me is the remaining 15 percent (which is the equivalent of approximately 2 million tickets annually), the massive potential of those empty seats, and the impact it could have on audience development. We need to make strategic decisions today about simple ways to use this untapped inventory using logic that leans more on "audience value" rather than simply "ticket value."
Now is the time for big ideas on Broadway. We're poised for change and open to growth. If you are sitting on the sideline, your Rudy moment is now.