How do you get people to come and review a new musical?
— BromanceMusicalUK (@Bromancethedude) September 18, 2018
First of all, write to them. Whether by post or email, people respond to a proper invitation. Let them know what the musical is about, who is in the cast, why they should go, and whether they’ll get free wine (this is a big selling point for some of our most esteemed critics). Give them options for the night they can attend.
The old formula of having one press night is now as dated as Katie Hopkins: most shows offer a few nights for press and ‘influencers’ to attend. Basically, if you can be flexible about when reviewers can see your show, then more will come and see it.
Give as much notice as possible. There really is little point sending an email a week before the show starts. People have babysitters to book and boxsets to finish – they need time to plan. Also, very importantly, state in your invite that the ticket(s) will be complimentary, and that they can bring a plus-one. It makes the whole evening more appealing.
Bribery can also work. Attach wine vouchers, an after-show party pass, and a signed headshot of Michael Ball. Reviewers love getting little treats. It makes them feel special and is good for their ego. This starts inside the theatre when they first arrive. Make sure they get good seats (no restricted view for people who could potentially award you five stars), and make it easy for them to get tickets. You don’t want long queues at the press desk, dear.
It’s often misunderstood, but reviewers don’t always want to be at the theatre watching a show – some of them don’t have children they want to get away from. So you need to make sure that their sacrifice is worth it.
An excellent way of getting people to come along is by asking them face to face. Go to press nights and other such events, and literally talk to people. I know the ancient art of talking is now very underrated, but if done well it can reap marvellous rewards. If you spot a reviewer, introduce yourself, tell them about your production and invite them along. They are much more likely to come if they’ve been personally invited.
Target well-known publications as well as smaller ones and independent reviewers. Email The Stage, Broadway World, Whats-OnStage, West End Wilma, Jonathan Baz, A Younger Theatre, The British Theatre Guide and Exeunt Magazine, among others. And if you don’t hear anything, it can be worth following up with a little nudge a couple of weeks before.
Also use social media by tweeting reviewers directly. Twitter is a useful tool and cuts out the middle man. And it is also a great way of marketing your show, as is Instagram.
And finally, make the show sound like it’s the best thing they could be seeing that night. They will most likely have other invitations for that evening. So upsell, dear. Use phrases such as “hugely successful”, “unique”, “selling out” and “contains nudity”. This last one can be particularly useful, dear.
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer