I was talking to Wanida online yesterday and telling her I really enjoyed Avenue Q, so she asked to borrow my soundtrack. I initially said no because she should watch it in person! She countered by saying that hearing the songs, will further increase her interest to catch the next time in New York. I realised that was pretty much the same for me: listening to Les Miserables on cd on an almost-daily basis when I was young made me really want to catch it when I first flew to New York to see how the scenes I imagined in my head played out on stage.
With that in mind, I went to the website to find a song or video clip to show her, but the only clips on the official site were 29 seconds long (featuring a cast who isn’t even performing anymore), and those on youtube are secretly filmed in the theatres.
So how in the world does someone in Singapore get an actual sample of what Avenue Q is about?
First of all, let’s establish that Avenue Q does a great job with traditional marketing. There are huge billboards in Times Square with really funny, provocative advertisements. That works fine if people are living in the United States and are exposed to it.
However, Avenue Q is never going to go to certain countries like Singapore and others because it’s controversial and we’re conservative. When Singaporeans (and perhaps most tourists) visit New York, the tendency is to catch the newest show (Is He Dead?), the hottest show (Wicked) or the sold-out-for-ten-years show (The Lion King). Given that there are easily 20-odd theatres with musicals at any one time, how does a show like Avenue Q get the average tourist to consider their show instead? (And hey, before you think Avenue Q isn’t any good, they won the Tony over Wicked).
My solution is to release full length audio and video clips for download and/or streaming. Before you get up from your seat and go “What? Those seats go for a hundred bucks!”, hear me out.
This will enable people to really sample what the show is like, get the show some exposure, and if they ever make a trip over to the United States, you can bet that in addition to Wicked and Lion King (which will probably be sold out anyway), they’ll have Avenue Q in mind as a possible Broadway musical to catch as well.
Why full length audio? Avenue Q has an advantage in that it has absolutely brilliant and attention-grabbing song titles. Imagine seeing a friend listening to “The Internet Is For Porn” or “It Sucks To Be Me” on MSN or Last.fm, that is definitely going to generate interest, which can translate to word of mouth and eventually, ticket sales.
This concept of distributing certain bits of a product for free isn’t new. I first read about it in October when Chris Anderson gave away a chapter of his book, Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation has also explored How to make money by giving something away for free.
Joseph Jaffe also has a new initiative UNM2PNM (that’s Using New Marketing To Prove New Marketing) by giving away 150 copies of Join The Conversation, as long as the recipients give an honest review of the book. I’ve applied for a book, hopefully geographical restrictions allow for it to happen.
Finally, let me say that I’m providing a fairly simplistic view of Avenue Q’s distribution. I don’t know what the legal scene is like and if this is actually possible. But if it were, this would be something I’d do straightaway.