Theatrical Loss Leaders
The loss leader is something which is very closely associated with supermarkets in Australia. Drop the price of one necessary commodity so that customers will come in droves and end up buying more of your products. Well, did you know that the same concept can occur in the theatre? And the much acclaimed upcoming musical theatre writing team, Pasek & Paul, are pioneering this new strategy.
If there is one writing team who have the power to bring the theatre into the 21st century, it is Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. This talented pair are behind the Tony-nominated A Christmas Story, wrote the Off-Broadway smash Dogfight, created music for the fictional musical Hit List on the television hit Smash and have even written for Sesame Street getting their music out to thousands upon thousands of future theatre-goers.
But it is their latest project which is the most exciting . . . James & The Giant Peach.
(On a side note, Roald Dahl books seem to be undergoing a bit of a revival at the moment. First Matilda hit the West End stages with the help of the Royal Shakespeare Company, next was Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and now James & The Giant Peach. Which one could be next?)
James & The Giant Peach hasn’t been written to premiere on Broadway. It has been written for smaller theatres across the country. Theatres that want to get more children into their audiences but also provide an entertaining show for adults. And this is a fantastic goal because not only will the reaches of the goal extend much further than the Great White Way, but it will also give kids (the future theatre audiences) an exciting and accessible way to get interested in the theatre.
That is great for long-term audience development, but it is the marketing side of this show which is the most interesting.
Unlike most shows that wait for their Broadway casts to get a few weeks of performances under their belts before they record the cast album, Pasek & Paul just went straight for their wish list of Broadway stars and got a concept album. This album, featuring all the pretty rockin’ songs from their show, stars a cast of theatre fans’ dreams. Megan Hilty (SMASH, Wicked, 9 to 5), Brian D’Arcy James (Next to Normal, Something Rotten, SMASH), Christian Borle (SMASH, Something Rotten, Legally Blonde), Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family, Xanadu, On The Town, Hairspray) and Marc Kurdish (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Beauty and the Beast, 9 to 5) all star among many other incredibly popular theatre performers.
And then they released it for free . . .
Yes, you did read that correctly. Zip. Nada. Zero. Free. Anyone can download this album for a limited time without paying a cent.
When most musicals are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of their productions, why would you release a soundtrack for free? Sure there is some financial loss involved . . . in the short term. But what it does do is spread the show far and wide. Theatre fans are listening to it. Parents are downloading the child-friendly (but also parent-satisfying) songs for their car trips. The average, price-conscious consumer is downloading this album and listening to it. And all of a sudden, you have a theatrical loss leader.
Pressure then gets placed on smaller theatre establishments to mount their own productions of the musical across the country because audiences want to see the whole show. And when it comes to bringing children into the theatre, the parent’s risk has decreased substantially because they already know if their kids will enjoy the production!
Plus, who knows, if people enjoy this soundtrack maybe they will also go and seek out other Pasek & Paul productions wherever they are in the world?
If you haven’t downloaded this free album yet, get on it right now. It is an amazing soundtrack and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it for the last week! To download, visit JATGP.com and follow the links.