Using a big reveal to attract an audience!
In Australian theatre, cast recordings are often only used as a way to gain a little more money from people who have already bought a ticket. This stems from the main distribution channels being located in the theatre during the hours of performances. But this is slowly changing in American and English theatre culture where the cast recording is beginning to act as an incentive to engage with the show.
I have called JB Hifi or visited a store with the question ‘Have you got (insert random cast recording here) in stock?’ and I am usually left with silence. Either that or the person behind the desk pretends to type something into the computer as though they actually care about my cast recording search issues and then proceeds to tell me that it is not and has never been in stock. That’s right JB Hifi, I am onto you and your staff who don’t actually look anything up on those computers!
Ok, I am being a little harsh towards JB Hifi. I am sure that they are actually trying to help with my search (most of the time) and the computer comes up blank because cast recordings are hardly ever sold in general retail shops.
Generally, cast recordings are only ever sold at the theatre during the hour before the show has started or during the 20 minutes of interval. This is a big issue for promotion because the cast recording is only ever shown to people who have already shown an interest in the show. What about the people who could be won over by the music but never get the chance to hear it?
What American and English productions are currently doing is previewing their cast recordings a week or so before the release date. I wonder where they got this idea? Maybe the entire body of popular music which uses this technique regularly and they use it for one reason . . . because it works!
There are several advantages of using this method to promote your cast album.
Firstly, whether in snippet or full version, the cast album is online for people to share between their friends. This generates talk about the musical on social media networks which encourages devotees to send it around their networks and encourage other people to go and see the show. It also enhances the loyalty of the devotees as they get early access to material before it is officially released.
I’m going to use myself as an example here. I had very little interest in The Book of Mormon when it first came out because I had never really been a fan of the South Park style of humour and then a friend directed me to their Facebook page where I heard most of their songs and headed promptly to the iTunes store to purchase selections from the album. As a result of the online release of their cast album, they picked up at least one more fan (me!) and also earned themselves a little more money from someone who has not seen the show and been exposed to the physical retailing of their album.
The same thing happened with the new musical Kinky Boots, of which I was ahead of the general public. I got such a thrill out of listening to the songs online that I might have, just this morning, made quite a dent in my iTunes account when I found out that the music was released yesterday for sale.
Secondly, while production’s Facebook pages can be the hosting site for these previews, there may be a more advantageous method that will drastically increase the reach of the music. Teaming up with a rather large news network, for instance, is bound to affect the reach of the cast album because through this partnership the musical gains access to the news networks populations of influence. Especially if they have a big network – then why wouldn’t you?
For an example, check out the preview of Pippin’s cast recording: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/05/28/pippin-broadway-cast-album-exclusive/
If not for the clever promotional strategies, at least check out the music – it is pretty awesome!
Long gone are the times when the cast album was purely an extra grab at a few dollars. It is now an effective way to actually gain new customers and increase the loyalty of your existing audiences!
Am I right, wrong or somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below!