The Innovator's Dilemma

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on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 in Blog Posts

screen shot 2014-04-01 at 7.47.35 pmThis blog exerpt is taken from an interview with Craig Chamberlain regarding challenging issues Theatre owners might facing during growth and expansion.

Moderator: Good Afternoon, I am speaking with Craig Chamberlain, business professional, entrepreneur and Berklee College of Music alumnus. Today we are discussing issues theatre companies might consider when they're going through growth and expansion. Can you speak to this?

Craig: Yes, certainly. The three areas that theaters may want to look at when looking at growth or innovation are marketing, technology and creative content. The third item, creative content, is generally the easiest for production companies to grasp and actually accomplish. That's what people get into live entertainment for in the first place, is creation and innovation. So you write a new play, you sing a different song; that tends not to be very difficult for most theatre companies to embrace.

The other two areas, marketing and technology, are a little different. First, with marketing, going to the outside world, from the non-theater world, to market your productions, can be very daunting. You'll be dealing with people that are non theatre people, you'll be outside your comfort zone and it's a different world. Every industry has their insiders and their comfort zone and going outside to market your theatre can be challenging. You'll be dealing with newspapers or online services or whatever, and they're not the same people you're used to dealing with on a day to day basis, like choreographers or composers, and that can be challenging. So that's one challenge that theatres will have.

The other area is technology. It's very hard to keep up both intellectually and financially with cutting edge technology in theare. If you're a company that's large enough, you might have a technical director that keeps up with everything, who reads publications or is on certain mailing lists. That's great and wonderful but it's hard to justify spending all the money to upgrade equipment But if you take a look at the long-term, look at some of the innovations that have come about in the past few years and you can really see how they have benefited theatre both creatively and financially.

I'll give you an example. Last week I was at Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre, a wonderful non-profit organization that introduces theatre to children in Broward Country and has done it for over 60 years now. In their little house – a wonderful theatre, with sets painted by the kids – it's a small house and almost all of the lighting is LED lighting. It's great. You don't have hot lights a couple of feet above the audience's head. Electricity costs go way down. Easy color mixing, you don't have to worry about changing gels. Although it's a sad sight when children grow up not knowing how to cut gels. But that little innovation, that little introduction into a non-profit children's theater will pay dividends many years, saving both money and increasing the capability for innovation and creativity. So those three areas are dilemmas for producers and theatre companies during their growth period, but all three areas should be addressed, even though two of the three might be a little more difficult.

Moderator: Is there one that would take priority, as far as growth and development of a theatre, over the others, or is it something that needs to be worked on simultaneously?

Craig: Oh, it has to be simultaneously. I think the key here is identifying the weak spots of your growth and shoring that up. You cannot only grow with creativity. For instance, you could write the most wonderful play ever written, but if you don't market and nobody knows about it, nobody is going to come and see it and you can't make a living doing it. You can have the most wonderful marketing campaign of all time, but if you don't have an innovative and interesting product to show your customers, it's of no use. With the technology, if you don't have a facility that keeps up with the times, the old joke is “kids today learn about live entertainment from their MTV.” Well, that's kind of a joke because MTV doesn't show live entertainment any more, but that's what people come to expect. They expect moving lights and pyrotechnics and live entertainment. So even in a local theatre company, you've got to keep up a little bit and it will pay dividends over the long run.

Moderator: How are these three dilemmas that theater managers or owners run into, what would you recommend for them? What is one way that you could help them with these three things?

Craig: Really, Orpheum can help out with two of those three avenues. One is marketing and the other is technology; mainly because that is a financial outlay for the theater company. Of course with the creative, Orpheum doesn't help directly with the creative. But they can help plan, if you bring in outside writers or outside composers, we can help plan a production and plan growth for a theatre company. Not actually composing or writing but certainly all three we can help with. The planning, the forecasting and of course the management going forward of the theatre company.

Moderator: Wonderful. Thank you Craig.

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