Insights From NAMT’s New Success Survey

As part of NAMT’s 2011 strategic planning process, we evaluated all member services, including the publication formerly known as the Royalties Survey. Members surveyed were more interested in the overall success of the various musicals produced by NAMT’s members than the royalty information, which has become more standardized in recent years.

Thus, the Success Survey was born! Recognizing that success is relative (was the show a risky labor of love that you didn’t expect would make money? was it a hit with the audience but a flop financially? did it meet your financial goals but not your artistic ones?), we asked a variety of new subjective questions to measure how respondents felt each show did. We also asked about marketing and overall production income and expense.

Full results of the survey are only available to organizations that participated in it, but we wanted to share some of the most interesting findings more broadly.

Defining Risk
Theatres’ very definition of risk varied. Classic titles like A Chorus Line and Sweet Charity were ranked as risky by some theatres, perhaps due to expense. As theatres’ missions and audiences vary, some saw the same titles in very different lights. While classic musicals were generally considered not to be risky, that did not necessarily make them successful (though we would have to survey the audiences to understand why).

Audiences appreciate risk…if they attend.
Risky shows seemed to pay off, at least with those who attended. Over half of the shows considered “somewhat risky” or “extremely risky” scored well for audience response, and a third ranked high financially.

Does Safe = Successful?
Meanwhile, about 20% of the shows ranked “not at all risky” by members also received “lower than average” audience response or financial success scores. While that is a much better success rate than shows deemed risky, it still seems high considering the perceived risk factor.

Looking Ahead
We learned a lot from this first round of the Success Survey, and I hope to see it expand over the years (it will be administered every two years, alternating with the Salary & Benefits Survey). I hope this peek inside the survey results will inspire more NAMT members to participate next time! More data will allow us to zero in on trends that can help members plan and manage risk and reward in their seasons.

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