Thursday, April 10, 2008

Statistical Analysis of Off-Off-Broadway Budgets

The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation recently released a report entitled "Statisical Analysis of Off-Off-Broadway Budgets" (download pdf here -- h/t Matt Freeman). I haven't spent a huge amount of time with it, and I suspect there are others who are more involved in that scene who can comment in a more enlightening fashion, but I will say that I appreciate the NYITF's everyman approach to the report. The numbers have been crunched in a meat-and-potatoes kind of way that allows a blogger like me who is good with numbers but never had a stats class to understand the basics, and that is good, although it may not be scientific or statistically nuanced. I do think that the study would have been better served by examining not only the averages, but the median numbers as well. For instance, Chart 7 shows the overall production budgets and announces that the average production budget is approximately $18,000, which is true. But the median amount -- the point where 50% of the budgets are higher and 50% is lower -- would be in the $10,000 - $15,000 range. The same is true with many of the other charts, e.g., the average OOB company produces an average of 3 productions a year, but the median would be 2 productions. The reason for the difference is that in such a small sampling the top end has an inordinate effect on the averages. Nevertheless, good info.

For my readers, the takeaway figure may be this: "We recorded approximately 1,700 unique Off-Off-Broadway listings for the year."
  • Conventional Wisdom response: "See? That's why actors go to NYC -- that's where the work is!"
  • My response: "Does NYC really need 1,700 theatre productions when there are communities around the US with few to none?" Tribers, get out a map and find a website that gives info about cities in the US, and start looking for the ideal place for your theatre, so that you can regularly do your work. Remember: "For most artists, making good art depends upon making lots of art...The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over." (Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland)
    • Quotation from Seth Godin's recent book The Dip: "If you enter a market that's too big or too loud for the amount of resources you have available, your message is going to get lost. Your marketing disappears, your message fails to spread. Think twice before launching a mass-market brand of chewing gum. Like adding just a few pounds of air to a flat tire, launching a product into too big of a market has little effect."
(To those who are already in NYC and who love it: no need to listen to me -- keep working, and good luck!)

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