Breaking Out Of The Stereotype
Holler If Ya Hear Me, the latest musical on the block, is pushing some boundaries featuring a new story based on the lyrics of rap legend Tupac Shakur. And while it may not be aiming for a traditional audience, a recent revamp of their promotional strategy has led the show in the right direction.
A musical based on the lyrics of Tupac Shakur is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. It is probably not going to hold significant attraction for majority of traditional Broadway audiences looking to see Cinderella, Aladdin or The Lion King, however, the audience is changing and new shows are bringing these new audiences into this entertainment sector.
There are currently four shows performing well above their potential grosses on Broadway. These popular shows are; Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Book of Mormon, Wicked and Aladdin. With the exception of Aladdin, these shows are making their mark with a younger crowd who are either looking for huge production value (Wicked) or edgy, boundary-pushing material (Hedwig and The Book of Mormon). Seriously, how many grandmothers can you see lining up each week for tickets to see Neil Patrick Harris play an East German Transvestite singing provocative and sexual rock songs eight shows a week?
The audiences are changing and it is through these new offerings that different audiences are building their relationships with musical theatre. In fact, Holler If Ya Hear Me is not the first show to aim for radically different audiences.
A few years ago Spanish-Harlem inspired musical In The Heights hit the Broadway stage and received great acclaim for providing a platform which involved new theatre audiences by showing stories they could relate with on the stage. Holler If Ya Hear Me is aiming to have the same effect.
So far, it has used some clever tactics to reflect this direction. The foyer has been given the hip-hop treatment displaying graffiti walls, beat boxing and DJ-ing. The show’s story portrays situations that can relate to new, and younger, audiences. The music is much closer to current chart-topping singles. And the theatre has been dramatically renovated to feature raked seating more suited to a cinema or basketball stadium and ensuring that every seat gets a good view of the stage. A great way to ensure value for money!
These are all great strategies once the audience has stepped inside the venue, but the production has found that its initial communications weren’t getting across to the community they wanted in the seats. Despite being a non-traditional show, Holler If Ya Hear Me was taking the traditional route for promotion. Until now. The show has teamed up with New York agency Cornerstone to run a series of communications specifically aimed at engaging and interacting with the hip-hop crowd.
Putting a greater emphasis on Tupac (which would, unfortunately, scare away traditional Broadway audiences) and running a series of grass root and outdoor campaigns, the production is changing their focus to specifically target a demographic which will receive significant value from their product. And in an effort to set itself apart from mainstream theatre fare, this new branding features the new slogan “Most critics are scared of this show . . . they should be.”
This new strategy should certainly help Holler If Ya Hear Me bring Broadway to a new community. I wonder what is coming up next on the promotional cards for this innovative show.