Listening to your audience

There is a reason why John Frost is such a successful producer in the musical theatre industry. And at the Rocky Horror launch he gave us an insight into why this is the case with some very insightful words.


If you have been to the theatre in the last ten years, then you have most likely heard the name John Frost. He is the managing director of the Gordon Frost Organisation and has produced some of Australia’s biggest musical hits in the last decade including The Producers, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Chicago, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Legally Blonde, South Pacific, Grease, 40th Anniversary Rocky Horror Show and that little know show Wicked.

A rather impressive resume, isn’t it?

Well, on Monday night he provided an insight into Australian theatre audiences:

Australian audiences love to have fun, and you don’t have to compromise good theatre for fun. The fact that Rocky Horror has been around for 40 years says that it is good theatre.

Mind blown yet? Okay, it’s not a particularly revolutionary thought – I mean I get on a soap box and rant about this point every time I sit down for coffee with a friend – but it is something that a lot of arts industries have trouble doing. And it all comes from a rather simple marketing concept; market orientation.

Remember when you used to fight with other children when you were young? An adult would always come over and tell you to ‘Put yourself in the other person’s shoes’. Well, that is basically what is mean by a market orientation.

When you are trying to decide which products (plays, operas, musicals, concerts etc. etc. etc.) you are going to offer to a certain audience, you need to put yourself in their shoes and see what they want. John Frost has clearly done this . . . and the results are ‘fun’ and ‘good theatre’.

So with this knowledge in mind, the idea of fun should underline every offering that you bring to the marketplace. Let’s have a look at his current offerings:

  • Wicked
  • South Pacific
  • Grease
  • Rocky Horror
  • The King and I

Notice a trend? Yes, they target different audiences – on the whole the audience from The King and I probably won’t be in the front row of Rocky Horror – but they are all fun and enjoyable shows and they are all ‘good’ theatre which is shown through their longevity.

And what is the payoff from thinking about your audiences? Well, look at those first three shows (The King and I and Rocky Horror haven’t opened ticket sales to the general public yet): Wicked, South Pacific and Grease. They are all on at least their second tour of Australia, and their ticket sales are going through the roof. In fact, Grease was so popular in Brisbane that they had to add a ninth show each week!

It isn’t a coincidence that John Frost shows have ticket sales going through the roof . . . So learn from it!