Open Forum

A Note to Publishing Companies

  • 1.  A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 3 days ago
    Dear Play/Musical Publishing Companies,
    While I applaud your efforts to help us navigate creating theatre in the world of COVID-19, let me suggest to you that many of you are going about it in the wrong way. You are trying to help us livestream our shows to audience members who can't or won't come to a live performance and for that I thank you. But for you to partner up with a ticketing company and streaming platform and then telling us that that platform is the only one we can use, you are cutting your own throat. For most of us who produce multiple shows per year (we do up to eight shows in a school year) you are suggesting that we should change ticketing companies for every show. For example, if I want to produce and livestream a Playscripts show I have to use Broadway on Demand. But if my next show is an MTI production and I want to livestream it, I have to use Showtix4u. This will seriously confuse my patrons and makes it impossible to sell season tickets. I am happy with my online ticketing company and I have no intention to change. If I intend to livestream a show this year I will not choose a show from Playscripts or MTI because I don't want them telling me which platform and ticketing company I must use. If you want to sell me the rights to livestream a show, give me the option to livestream through my chosen platform and ticketing service.

    Just my two-cents.

    ------------------------------
    Tim Buchheit, Director
    Department of Theatre and Speech
    St. Francis Borgia Regional High School
    Washington, Mo.
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Amen. I applaud using the Power of Purchase to send a message. Too often companies think that what works for them also works for customers. It's an easy trap to fall into and I appreciate being reminded of that. If others agree with you, I suggest also making your feelings known to the companies. They can't change if they don't know,

    ------------------------------
    Jean Klein
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]
    Virginia BeachVA
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Just to add a post script to a very well written letter, many of our schools/districts have a bid list and we can only use vendors on that list.  While most publishing houses are on the list, not all ticketing agencies are.  



    Myndee Fleury Washington

    Music & Drama Teacher

    Union Park Charter Academy


    "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you EVERYWHERE"- Albert Einstein






  • 4.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago

    A very vaild concern. 

    As I understand it, using the online ticketing service from Playscripts is an option, not a requirement. I am checking with the people I know there to make sure this is the case. I certainly would prefer if it was simply an option for a teacher to use if they wished, not a requirement that they must use the service. I will let you know what I hear. 



    ------------------------------
    Don Zolidis
    Austin TX
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago

    While I completely understand the frustration, the other component is that licencing companies, in order to obtain authors that will allow steaming, have to be able to offer the stakeholders some kind of guarantee that their work with be secure, and not just posted on YouTube or Facebook for anyone to watch for free without protecting their royalty.  This takes quite a financial investment to do it right, make it stable, and to fulfill the requirements that might make authors who have in the past been Leary at best about even a recording license much less the ability to livestream.  It this time when these companies are all literally purging money with no end in site they are working to help us find a way to produce so that their authors can get their 11 to 20 percent royalty payment when none of us had any way of making money before.  These companies, like all others arts businesses, are facing losing employees that they care about and no real income insight for some time.  But still they are investing in us.  They're gambling to create a platform that will meet and exceed the needs of school and community theatre, authors and stakeholders while still trying to hold on to as many employees as possible.  This is the time to raise each other up, not beat each other down.  You have every right to choose not to do a show from those companies, just as they have every right to approach their authors with a platform that is secure and will meet the needs of their business.  I'm super excited for my Throwback Thursday series where I am live-streaming shows from the MTI catalogue that I have done over the last 16 years that have video and steaming licences. I think I have six scheduled so far! I'm making money, MTI is making money, and the authors are making money!  That's a win in my book!

    Respectfully,

    Jennifer Hemme



    ------------------------------
    Jennifer Hemme
    Henderson NV
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    I emailed Playscripts and they replied that if I want to livestream a performance of one of their shows it must be through Broadway on Demand because they "have yet to find another streaming platform that meets our security and anti-piracy standards." If we want to do a show that does not need to be streamed we can look at their LiveScreen collection. I also got a response from MTI stating that ShowTix4U "was developed specifically for us and it allows us to track exactly how many times a livestream is accessed so that the royalty fees can be properly calculated." They were both very nice emails and I appreciate the responses. I have no desire to tear down businesses, some of which I have been working with for over 30 years, but there has to be an easier way to do this. The ticketing company that I started using last year has just developed live-streaming capabilities that I believe would meet the standards of the publishers. One of my colleagues across town uses another ticketing company that has just developed their own live-streaming capabilities as well. I just feel that, in these times when we are desperate to get our students back on stage and in front of an audience in any way we can, to complicate matters by making demands on the ticketing/streaming platform that we use is counter-productive.

    ------------------------------
    Tim Buchheit, Director
    Department of Theatre and Speech
    St. Francis Borgia Regional High School
    Washington, Mo.
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Edited by Sarah Serbus 2 days ago
    I've been encountering this dilemma as well as I try to plan for our productions this year.  I'm looking for shows that are versatile and flexible in a variety of ways since we do not know how they may be able to be performed.

    I understand the need for security for playwrights and the integrity of the work.  I have been working with Booktix for several years and they have developed a secure, accountable system for live-streaming and I'm sure other ticketing companies have done the same.  I totally agree that streams need to be done legally and responsibly- not just out on Facebook or YouTube but it seems there are other options than requiring a different system for each company.
    This could lead to more production of student written work or works in the public domain- which would not be good for the licensing companies or playwrights that we support.

    If you have several past shows that you are able to stream with this new system and rules that is great, but in terms of producing new material this year with my students- it will be difficult to use only one publishing company.  Not to mention, as Myndee pointed out- the process or inability to get new vendors approved.

    I feel that if we all work together, we can find an answer.

    ------------------------------
    Sarah Serbus
    Theatre Director
    Union R-XI School District
    Union MO
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    One other thought - from a playwright's perspective - 

    Although I do favor the use of multiple ticketing sites, using the publisher's ticketing service is a vast benefit to the playwright of your work. 

    If you're using Playscripts' ticketing service for online sales, then I, as a playwright, get a percentage of those ticket sales, just like I would if this play were being performed in a professional theatre. Many playwrights probably have contracts with their publishers that state something similar - if there's a streaming production, they need to be compensated per ticket sold instead of a flat fee.

    If you use a different ticketing service, there's no way to verify how many tickets were sold, and certainly no mechanism for a playwright to be paid for those tickets. So the playwright would lose out on all that income. Most of my fellow playwrights for educational theater are suffering greatly, and the addition of ticket sale income would be significant for them. 

    I guess the choice comes down to:
    1. A teacher not being allowed to sell season tickets (do many people do this? I certainly never did this when I was teaching and I don't know many colleagues who do) 
    2. The pain in the butt nature of asking patrons to use different systems depending on the show (you'd have to update your emails and website for each play, but I don't think that's too burdensome, since you're updating your website with every new show anyway)
    Vs.
    3. Playwrights not being paid for ticket sales via livestreaming.  

    I'm still of the mind to allow people to use multiple platforms as wanted, but publishers might have their hands tied by the various contracts they've signed with their writers. 

    In any event, I think we're all figuring this out, this is all new, and I think it's best to have empathy for everyone's different situation, rather than jumping into blaming each other. 





  • 9.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Edited by Sarah Serbus 2 days ago
    Don,
    Thank you for that insight.  I'm glad that we have this forum to share information and have these conversations to gain insight into everyone's different situations!  Like I said, I'm sure we can all work together to figure this out!

    ------------------------------
    Sarah Serbus
    Theatre Director
    Union R-XI School District
    Union MO
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    As Don Z put's it: "a pain in the butt to ticket buyers."
    But is it? If I'm buying a ticket once or twice or thrice a year, do I even really notice who I'm paying? ShowTix? BookTix? I follow a link provided buy my trusted school, and then I pay online and am sent a unique link or code to log on and watch a show.

    Are the end-user ticket buyers really going to be so bent out of shape? Perhaps some confusion on the community theater side where you're buying a season of six or eight shows...but even then: you get a link in an email to watch the show.

    Am I missing something? It's all so new; that answer is probably yes! lol

    And yes, I very much understand the annoyance and hoop-jumping of setting up a new vendor with the district portion of the process. (Hello, Texas, I'm looking at you.) But it's once & done.

    ------------------------------
    Michael McDonough
    TRW Asst VP Amateur Licensing
    New York
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Some of the ticketing companies are becoming very advanced and allow the school to have a complete website, showing a season with a quick link to buy tickets, and a place to create a virtual playbill, and a place to set up a venue's seating chart and so on. If I have to do that for several different ticketing companies, on top of all of my other responsibilities as teacher and producer/director, it becomes burdensome and confusing. I understand the privacy and security issues, and I want the playwrights to get paid, but couldn't the publishers somehow find a way to say "Here are the shows that have streaming rights, and here is a list of streaming companies that you can use" instead of "you must use this streaming service"?

    Thanks for all the input from everyone.

    --
    Tim Buchheit
    Apple Teacher
    Director of Department of Theatre and Speech
    St. Francis Borgia Regional High School
    1000 Borgia Drive
    Washington, MO  63090

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  • 12.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted yesterday

    Thank you, Tim. This. Absolutely, this!

      As a teacher - who's $2,000 stipend to direct/design/produce extracurricular theatre for the year averages out to a couple of bucks an hour (if that) - every minute I have to spend learning a new system / interface is significant.

      As Michael pointed out, for most of our patrons it's probably not a big deal to have a different ticketing system or streaming platform for each show.  However, for me, every different ticketing service and streaming platform is a new system to learn and deal with on the back-end. More time spent learning how to use it, populating it with information, and more emails to different companies / people when there are issues which need troubleshooting.

      I appreciate the legal position that publishing/licensing companies are in. (Thank you, Jim, for taking the time to go into some detail there, and for your earnest desire to be as flexible and accommodating as possible.)  I get it, and I empathize. I also understand that this is all very new and was put together in a remarkably short time-frame.

      What I don't understand is this: if a ticketing/streaming service has "satisfied all of the legal requirements... and is fully equipped to deliver an authorized streaming experience" for one major publishing/licensing company, aren't they likely to have met all of the same requirements to be used for another? If BookTix works for TRW, why not for MTI? or Playscripts etc. (and vice versa).  If it's because exclusive arrangements were the only way to make it financially viable, that at least makes sense.

      I don't overestimate the "Power of Purchase" held by a small high school in southern MD, and I don't think that anyone is trying to "beat each other down."  If anything, I feel a desire to support the companies that facilitate our performances each year in a time when they may need it most.  However, we are all facing difficult decisions and a lot of uncertainty. This is a significant factor in making those decisions and is worth discussing. Companies may have their hands tied - either legally, or financially - or they may be able to find a way to make it more feasible for us to license their shows.  I will do my best to understand the former, while hoping for the latter.

    Many thanks to the people who create opportunities for our students, and best wishes to all.

    Cheers.
    ~Guy



    ------------------------------
    Guy Barbato
    Theatre Teacher/Director
    Leonardtown MD
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    This is all fascinating to read, but it remains purely academic for me, as my school district's accounting rules and procedures remain entrenched in the pre-Internet era.  We haven't been allowed to use online ticketing services (even before the health crisis) because we are required to turn in all box-office receipts for a school event either by putting them in a drop safe on campus on the night of the event, or by physically giving them to our school bookkeeper before school starts on the next school day.  The only way we can accept credit card payments is through a district-provided system that requires event sponsors to turn in paperwork well in advance in order to have district IT personnel set up a link where parents and students can charge tickets ahead of time for that specific event, and our bookkeeper provides us with notification as to who has paid for how many tickets through that system so we can pull tickets for them on the night of the show.  I've had two different school bookkeepers send info to our district accounting pooh-bahs about online ticketing companies that many public schools across the country are using, but the response has always been that these companies can't pay us our cut of the box office in accordance with the timeline of the district's rules, and the district isn't interested in changing its rules to keep up with new technology - because, they say, the district itself has already given us a way to accept credit cards internally.  All of that pretty much cuts us out of these streaming services, as well.  If you are able to use them, well, I'm thinking of the old adage, "I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

    ------------------------------
    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted yesterday
    I’m in the same boat with my system except we aren’t allowed to use credit cards or any online system at all. It’s strictly cash only. So I’m not even certain how our season will be going this year.




  • 15.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 2 days ago
    Hi Tim,

    In accordance with United States and International copyright laws along with agreements between the authors of our musicals and owners of specific underlying rights (pre-existing books or movies or other source material) as well as newly assigned rights for film or broadcast usage of the musical, the license TRW issues is very narrow in scope. It allows for the live, stage performance of the musical under a very stringent set of terms and conditions providing assurance to our authors and respective owners that the rights they exclusively control will not be infringed upon or violated by the local production. Separate from the collection of appropriate royalty fees for the performance of their intellectual property, authors and owners must be afforded protection from any misuse of their rights.  

    In the challenging times we are facing together, TRW has, for many of our titles, obtained permission from the authors and owners for an extension of our covenant of rights to include those of live streaming. A component of our extension of rights into the arena of live streaming is the assurance that our streaming service will adhere to a very onerous set of rules and criteria that protect the integrity and intrinsic value of the copyright, mechanical ownership and broadcast use controlled by the authors and owners. To adhere to this requirement and not violate any rights which would subject you, our licensees, to potential legal action, we have partnered with BookTix. In establishing this partnership, BookTix has satisfied all of the legal requirements from our authors and owners and is fully equipped to deliver an authorized streaming experience.

    While we encourage and request all of our licensees to use BookTix for their ticketing services, we appreciate that prior relationships by our licensees for ticketing services might be in place. Therefore, we will allow for your use of a different ticketing service but must require that the streaming platform be under the auspices of BookTix Live.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.   



    ------------------------------
    Jim Hoare
    Vice President, Education & Community Initiatives
    TRW
    Levittown NY
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted yesterday
    This is the situation we are in, as well. We have a 3-year contract with Vendini, who as of yet has no indication of any capabilities of streaming. It's very frustrating, as (I'm told) our contract specifies that we cannot use any other ticketing method. Truthfully, we have been trying to find a way to get out of our contract, but to move on to a specific, local company (VBO) that has all of the functionality we need AND a plan for streaming services.

    But, as Don pointed out, playwrights deserve compensation for their work, especially considering that it is highly unlikely we will be able to have traditional on-stage with a live audience productions for a while. I know my district, oddly, has been taking their cues from Broadway, and the recent announcement of the extension of the shutdown does not bode well.

    There has to be a better way. Yes, I can choose not to work with companies that either require or strongly encourage their associated ticketing service, but these are some of the largest licensing houses that we work with. There's also the fact that, due to the closure, we have refunds credited to our "accounts" to be used on future licenses. Finally, some of us already have the rights to REALLY GREAT shows from these companies, to be performed in the spring.

    Again, there has to be a better way.

    ------------------------------
    Jodi Disario
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Willow Glen High School
    San Jose, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted yesterday

    As a retired teacher of over 30 years, and still a director, I would find it difficult being forced to use a different ticketing company if I had loyalty or simply liked using that company. it seems the concern is that publishing companies and playwrights need a way to track ticket sales. If that is the case, any platform that can demonstrate they can work with publishers and playwrights should be available to use.  After retiring from teaching, I took a job with the company I had used and loved, Ludus.  We've developed a really great streaming product called AnywhereSeat. AnywhereSeat from the beginning developed a tool called Virtual Tracker specifically for publishing companies and playwrights to ensure streams can't be shared publicly across the internet and that access was regulated and easily reported.


     We can work with the companies to ensure everything meets legal requirements per their standards.  So to those publishing companies locking in customers to one platform, please know there are options out there.  I am not sure I see the benefit to either companies or playwrights, or directors, at limiting choices.



    ------------------------------
    Kevin Schneider
    Holland MI
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 12 hours ago
    Hi Kevin,

    A very satisfied Ludus customer here and tested out AnyWhereSeat this past June with my middle school drama production and was very satisfied with how it worked.  We used a play from Playscripts and I made sure to send them the link once the show was set up in the site and they (as least my rep) was good with how it worked.  Don't know off hand if they (Playscripts) now has a dedicated agreement with another online ticketing/streaming service but I know being able to continue to use Ludus/AnyWhereSeat will play heavily into my decisions on what shows to do.

    I was going to actually suggest that maybe the online ticketing platforms could have an option when a performance is set up to check off which publishing house the play is licensed with and that would figure out the playwright's fee/percentage if that works differently when a show is streamed out to an audience and then the ticketing company might be able to divide off that amount to send directly to the publishing company on behalf of the playwright.

    But I also suppose I am a bit unsure of what Don is saying in his post above about getting his licensing fee....when we request permission to perform a show, we usually have to put in how many patrons we expect to see our production based on our house size of a number of performances....isn't that how the playwright's licensing fee is factored in and added to the quote we receive from the licensing company?  Is it because the potential audience for a streamed production could exceed what our physical house size is?  So, the licensing fee would need to be recalculated after the show 'closes' to see if we sold more than anticipated and a "balance" paid for the addition patrons?  Seems that could all be factored into a site's set up.  I'll use Ludus' AnyWhereSeat since I'm familiar with that one.  When setting up the show, there could be a spot where I entered the number of anticipated patrons/views ( estimate of what I gave to the licensing company) and if the views exceed that, then a formula kicks in on what additional fees would need to go back to the licensing company for the playwright and that could be sent to them once the event is over and final numbers are in.

    I do know for my middle school production, my "audience" was only 52 compared to the 100 to 150 patrons we usually get for our middle school shows....and my administration wasn't comfortable with me charging for it...even just $5....since so many are in financial straits right now....so, we put the ticket price at $0 and gave the patrons the option to donate to the show but basically lost money since what we did bring in covered only half of what I payed for scripts and royalties.  I try to at least break even on my middle school shows since we only have what we make for our current show to use to pay for the next show.  So, I don't think (at least at first) streaming a production will get the same audience return as what a live production will get.  From my patron list for my show, I can see that it was pretty much the cast and parents who "bought" tickets even though we posted our show on our district's social media and I also shared it out on my own personal and our group's Facebook pages.

    ------------------------------
    Lynda Gibson
    Director
    Troupe 2829
    Flushing High School
    Junior Troupe 88305
    Flushing Middle School
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 7 hours ago
    Hey Lynda!

    We're glad to hear you enjoyed AnywhereSeat. Those are all great points! We'd be more than happy to work with any publishing company to meet those needs, even including a list of publishers to select from when setting up a show, and ensure the reports are up to standards.  It is easy enough to keep track of those that "purchase a ticket" to a streaming event, and we can guarantee that each ticket (code) is used once and from one platform or device. We are willing to work with any publishing company or independent playwright to make things fair and transparent!

    I think this is all new and we are working through how best to manage things so everyone is treated fairly and wit quality.  Streaming looks like it may be here to stay as a viable option for schools and other performing groups, this discussion is great to have!

    Let me know if there is anything else I or Ludus/AnywhereSeat can do to help make things easier.



    ------------------------------
    Kevin Schneider
    Holland MI
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 8 hours ago
    As we try to make plans for next year, I am faced with a slightly different problem. In an attempt to make our performances accessible to everyone in our community, we have kept our ticket prices ridiculously low. We have a set production budget and don't really rely on ticket sales. The meager revenue that we bring in goes to support other activities. The cost of a ticket is negligible- averaging about $3 for a non-musical and a little under $5 for a musical. We had talked about doing away with tickets altogether, except that selling tickets provides a way for our students to promote the production to their peers. And if a person has a ticket in hand, they are more likely to attend a performance rather than to blow it off. So how would we navigate the expense of an online ticketing agent, except to drop our already tiny charge entirely? We always pay royalties, so that's not part of the issue. I guess, for the time being, we'll be doing original work and recording and distributing in-house. And until we figure out a way to do justice to a musical, we won't be doing those.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Bergman
    Teacher/Director
    He/Him pronouns
    The Potomac School
    McLean, VA
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 7 hours ago
    Hey Michael!

    There are companies that would cost nothing to you or your program.  Ludus/AnywhereSeat do not cost the customer (you and your program) anything to use.  Any processing fees are passed on to the patron, with no additional fees added to cash or comp tickets.  If you charge $3, you will get $3.  The positive side is that you can better keep track of both your patron database, but also have better transparency for reporting (school business offices love this).  Moving to online ticketing helped grow my program as we were able to sell using credit cards (a must in today's fast paced world) and still retain walk up cash and check sales.

    Worth looking in to for you and your program.  It sure makes things easier in so many ways.

    ------------------------------
    Kevin Schneider
    Holland MI
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 6 hours ago
    Edited by Sarah Serbus 6 hours ago
    Michael,
    I highly recommend Booktix.  I've been working with them for 4 years and love it!  They are very easy to work with, the system is user friendly and generates great reports for attendance, revenue, etc.  Their customer support replies almost immediately.  They provide you with a ticket printer (the physical tickets look very professional) and a scanner.  They have also developed a streaming service that looks like it will be very well supported and easy to use.  They also allow that you have the choice to cover any fees or pass them on to the customer- lots of options!

    ------------------------------
    Sarah Serbus
    Theatre Director
    Union R-XI School District
    Union MO
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: A Note to Publishing Companies

    Posted 4 hours ago
    Thank you to everyone who has chimed in and expressed their ideas and concerns. I haven't mentioned the ticketing/platform company that I have chosen to use because I didn't want to make this a commercial for any company. All of the ticketing/platform companies have excellent benefits. And all of the publishing companies have wonderful people who are trying to keep their businesses afloat as well and provide educational theater a way to get back to performing in front of audiences. I simply felt that the companies that make these decisions don't necessarily know all of the complexities of middle/junior/high school theatre, just as I don't know all of the complexities of their business. I wanted to create awareness and a discussion and I think that is what is happening. I hope we can continue this discussion as we struggle through these difficult times.

    ------------------------------
    Tim Buchheit, Director
    Department of Theatre and Speech
    St. Francis Borgia Regional High School
    Washington, Mo.
    ------------------------------