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9 - Ken Davenport: Actionable Advice for Artists, Creators, Entrepreneurs, and Producers

2x TONY Award-Winning Broadway Producer, Ken Davenport, has grossed ~$500M with productions seen in 25 countries. In 2019, Davenport Theatrical Enterprises was just named by Inc. 5000 as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies... Read More

46 mins



2x TONY Award-Winning Broadway Producer, Ken Davenport, has grossed ~$500M with productions seen in 25 countries. In 2019, Davenport Theatrical Enterprises was just named by Inc. 5000 as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies. If you’re feeling stuck and want to create change, discover Ken’s practical tools.

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00:58 Ken:

Success is not defined by a specific theater in Times Square. Success is defined again by just doing what you love and being surrounded by people you love.

01:17 Tony:

Hello, it's Tony Howell, digital strategist for artists. I want to thank you for listening to my podcast. In this episode, we get to have a conversation with Ken Davenport—two time Tony award-winning Broadway producer. His productions have been seen in 25 countries and have grossed approximately $500 million. He was named by Crains as 40 under 40 and Davenport Theatrical Enterprises was just named one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies in America.

So if you are like me and you are wanting to make a change to really change the world and to put your work out there in a large way, this episode is for you. Ken's got some super practical tips for balancing all of your jobs, relationships, and priorities, as well as getting some major press and creating commercial success. So I am so excited to share this conversation with you. Stick around because I have an awesome surprise for you at the end. Enjoy!

Ken, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I am so pumped to talk to you today. I just want to start by saying thank you for being here.

02:45 Ken:

It's my pleasure. Truly, I'm a big fan. So thanks for having me on.

02:47 Tony:

Oh my God. That goes both ways. I wanted to kick off the conversation just because I have observed your work for many, many years. And then in researching you, can you delineate for us what is the difference between a producer, an entrepreneur, and someone who considers themself an artist or a creator?

03:09 Ken:

So that's a very good question. And I've actually been thinking about it a lot lately, including as of about five minutes ago, because I'm about to address about 500 creators and entrepreneurs at Create Con out here in Portland and deliver a keynote.

So I've been thinking about this a lot and I actually think there's a much finer line between business person or producer, if you will, and creator and entrepreneur and artist than ever before.

In fact, I always think about Andy Warhol who said one of my most favorite quotes of all, he said being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art, “Making money is art, working his art and good business is art." And this is one of the most creative and artistic people to ever hit the art world. And if this guy was thinking about business and art at the same time, then you know, the two are much more closely related than we think.

And in 2019, this is more important than ever because I don't care what you're creating, whether you're creating an app, whether you're creating a painting or whether you're creating a new script or a performance. It's so important to think of yourself as an entrepreneur or as I like to call it artrepreneur than ever before, because the person that is out there pushing themselves is the person that's going to get their stuff done more often than the person that's not.

04:33 Tony:

Well, I thank you for being the artist and the entrepreneur and the creator and producer that you are, and I know that you have built a name for yourself really using the Broadway community as your playground. You are not afraid to break the rules, create new paths, and create a blue ocean, if you will.

So can you just rewind for us and go back to, what is it that first attracted you to theater? And can you tell us a little bit about your path into becoming the producer that you are today: the two-time Tony award winning producer?

05:09 Ken:

So I got involved in theater when I was five years old, when my parents dragged me to my first audition at the local community theater in South Bridge, Massachusetts, which is a town next to where I grew up. And immediately I found my family. My parents were actually divorced when I was five and I don't think that was a coincidence. I think the theater was the one place that they and everyone could get along. And I still think about that today.

I think when you go to a show, you are united with 500 - 2000 other people, all sharing a single vision from an author and the theater can be very uniting. So I found my tribe, my community of people, and I did theater until I was about 12 years old until I got too cool for it, thinking I was going to play for the Boston Celtics and the Boston Red Sox simultaneously. I was going to be that kid and was going to be a lawyer and all that stuff until I got bit by the [theater] bug my junior year of high school that changed my life and started me on the path that I'm on today.

I went to school for the arts. I was going to be an actor, and then I did a production assistant position on a Broadway show that opened my eyes up to the other side of the business, a side that I was much more attracted to. And I felt my talents were much more suited for it than just performing a role eight times a week. Now, actually every time I get in a room (I did it the other day - I'm producing Harmony, the Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman musical at The National Yiddish Theater), and I was in that room auditioning the other night, like watching all these performers, going “All these people are exactly why I am not performing today because they're amazing.”

So all those things led me to just keep looking for places in the theater where I belonged, and eventually I found company management and general management, but all the while wanting to create theater. In the same way that when I was a kid, before I was involved in theater, I was looking to create businesses.

I opened a candy store in my father's cardiologist office. I sold everything under the sun. That was the business aspect. And then came the theater, the artistic aspect. And now (I combined two) I come up with ideas for shows and then I execute those ideas and I try to get them up on their feet.

I came up with products for the theater. I created and built a board game called Be A Broadway Star that's on Amazon.com. It's one of the top-selling Broadway theme gifts. Again, it goes back to the answer to that first question. I have innate business sense and I have a love of the theater and I've combined the two to create theater and things surrounding the theater.

07:47 Tony:

It's wonderful. And it's also very inspiring I think for people who work in every facet of their career. I just read your book, Ken, which I have to commend, and is available on TheProducersPerspective.com for free, but one of the stories that I loved reading about was your meeting with Hal Prince. So just to honor him and sort of maybe…talk about how that had a huge effect on your life. Can you just give us a glimpse of what that story is about?

08:19 Ken:

I love talking about Hal, especially now that he is gone, but certainly not forgotten. I think a part of every single show that happens these days, he's looking at.

I had worked with Hal on three occasions as a company manager, and he wrote this very famous article in the nineties, how there were no more creative producers. Again, no more combination of artists and business people. That's what he was talking about. And I literally went up to him and said, this is what I want to do. And he said, “Well, I can't talk about it now, Ken. I'm teching Act Two of Candide, but come to my office and we'll talk about it.

And I pitched him every idea I'd had under the sun from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to a musical about the people who lived in the subway tunnels of New York city called Mole People, which could be the worst idea for a musical to ever come up with.

Hal stopped me in the middle of pitching all this stuff and said, you remember the first show I ever produced? And I said, no. And he said, “Don't come out of the box, trying to produce West Side Story, Ken. Be happy if you get The Pajama Game, which was my first show, made people money, made people happy, and got me started.”

“Just get started, Ken, do something, stop trying to do something so big and so important." That was a very important lesson for me, because I think all of us when we're starting, but especially young men, actually, we think we know everything and that we can change the world just like that when we're not ready to. So I went home that day and I started working on a show that was an idea for a show I had years before, but didn't want to do, because it literally wasn't important enough in my book.

I wanted to do West Side Story. I wanted to do Les Mis. And instead I said, I'm going to listen to Hal and just do something. And that show was this small $120,000 capitalized interactive show called The Awesome 80’s Prom that I created from scratch. And that show ended up running for 10 years and is done all over the country now and all over the world.

And it got me started and it led to my second show, my third and my fourth and my fifth. And I can honestly tell you I wouldn't be talking to you today. I wouldn't be delivering this keynote today. I wouldn't have won a Tony award if it wasn't for Hal saying, “Just start for God's sake. Just start.”

10:36 Tony:

As a producer, a veteran seasoned accomplished creative producer, what are common misconceptions that people have about that art form?

10:45 Ken:

Well, the most common misconception about producers I believe is that we are all money hungry, that we're in this to try to make a buck. And the fact of the matter is I know a lot of producers, I don't know any producer that is in the theater to get rich. They're just not.

I've got innate business sense. I know that. If I wanted to make a lot of money, I would be doing it in another industry. I would've marketed my talent in another way. I'd be working in, I don't know, Silicon Valley or God forbid working in like Wall Street. That's not what this is about.

I fell in love with the theater and all that I want to do is make theater. And yeah, unfortunately we have to think about the bottom line. You know, why? So that our shows make money so that people will continue to invest with us so that we can make more theater. That's all that we want to do. I don't know many producers that have produced a big hit and they're like, “That's it, I'm done. I'm just going to cash in my chips and go retire in a big mansion. And that's it. That's all I want to do.”

That's not why we're in it. We're in it to create great theater, just like actors, just like directors. And the one thing I try to remind everybody is that we're all in this together. We're all in the same community of theater makers. When we think about that, then remind ourselves of why we got in, which is the same reason. We'll actually make better stuff and we'll take care of each other more.

12:07 Tony:

That being said, the harsh reality of commercial Broadway theater is that only 20% of these shows earn back their investment. However, you have a batting average of double that, more than double that, of almost 50% of your shows. And overall you've brought in $500 million.

So with that, can you tell us a few, just little tips for anyone who's producing their own projects, how to make sure that they make money, that it's successful, that it gets out there and it's seen by the most amount of people?

12:46 Ken:

Well, what I really try to do is put the money in the things that the audience is going to see. That's one rule, especially when you're starting off and you're just doing something small and on your own, put stuff in the product itself: script, save, do things yourself, [etc].

Literally The Awesome Eighties Prom, my first show, which only cost $120,000 and the reason it did [was because] I wrote it, I directed it, I ran the box office, I was the group sales person: I did it all. We were a startup, and you have to think about it that way.

Every show that I do is a startup. It's a brand new product. I'm unveiling to the community, and that takes a startup mentality, and that's difficult. I've had many consulting clients and artists come to me and say, I want to do this show. And so I'm going to pay myself this money. And I'm like, great. If you can raise that money, great, go for it. But that's not why you should want to do it.

I just wrote this blog yesterday of like, why not to do a show, because I think it's very important that we learn to say no to projects. And this is something that I struggle with all the time, because I tend to come up with ideas, just walking down the street and I always want to execute them.

But one of the reasons to say no to an idea is like, “Oh, this is going to make me a million dollars.” If ever that's your motivating factor for doing a show, stop, just quit. I can tell you from personal experience every time I've thought, “I'm going to do this because it's going to make money, which will allow me to put food on my table, and put my daughter through college, and all those things - and maybe I'll retire someday on it.” Forget it. It's never worked out, never worked out. So just think when you're budgeting, [think] “How can I create the best experience for my audience as possible?”

14:35 Tony:

On the digital side of things, I'm working with one of your pro plan members on an Off-Broadway opening. So we'll be working on that next year. Question for you, because I love what you said about holding back, waiting for the show to open, getting some word of mouth and assets created. So a lot of times people will invest a lot of upfront money otherwise, but I like what you said about creating the assets, getting the production photos, the sizzle reel, and then turning up the juice on your marketing budget. So from your perspective, when is the right time within the process to buy the domain, to build a simple landing page and set up email and social media accounts.

15:21 Ken:

Well, I always do that very early. One of the first things I tell people, if you have an idea for a show, grab the domain right away. First of all, make sure that no one has it. And I believe again, from a digital perspective that the sooner you create a simple digital footprint, the better and part of this is for branding of the show. But part of this is just technical from Google and SEO perspective. Google likes sites, it's like wine: the older they are, the better. So I like for people to establish some kind of presence online. You are selling a product when you've created a show.

And in 2019, your storefront, the modern day storefront is a website. So you want to make sure people know that the product is coming, even if you can't buy it right now, it's important to know that it's coming. When I get a Broadway theater, if there's no show in the Broadway house, they let us put up the marquee right away. And I do, I don't care if the show is coming six months later, I put them up as soon as possible to let people know that this thing is coming. It's like when you're walking down the street at a retail store and you see future home of a Starbucks or whatever it is, they want to get it in people's heads. So I'm a big fan of doing that.

It also establishes, it makes you look more important. It makes you look further along. It gives you some authority and you never know who's going to stumble along that website. I had a website up for a show that was a year and a half away from its premiere. And someone had stumbled upon it and sent me a cold email saying, I love this idea. I would like to talk to you about investing in it. Never would've happened unless we have a simple one-pager website up there. So start your digital footprint soon as you're moving forward with your show.

17:17 Tony:

Keep that real estate. So Ken, you touched on it, and I want to put some highlights around this for people: you ran the box office, the group sales, you did everything for your first show. So you haven't always had the budget and the network and the resources that you have now.

I remember back when I was at MTI hearing about how you were crowdfunding Godspell and I just think you are known for your unique and innovative ways of doing business. So do you have any secrets on ways to get attention for your work? Get that word of mouth or even press without having to spend too much money on digital advertising or branding and all these other, other things.

18:09 Ken:

Yeah, for sure. I've been known for or I've become known as a bit of a marketing stunt guy for a lot of the things that I've done, whether it's crowdfunding Godspell, which landed me in the show on the front page of the New York Times, whether it's At The Booth app I created years ago, which was in Entertainment Weekly. One of the most famous was my “First Time Virgins Get in FREE” promotion that landed on the homepage of CNN, and Jay Leno did a joke about it in his monologue. So I've done a lot of different stuff to get attention. And frankly because it was by necessity, because I lacked the budget. I lacked the ability to gain big awareness for my shows and I needed them to stand out.

Theater, live entertainment, New York City: it's one of the most cluttered environments there is. So I'm constantly looking for ways to get my shows to stand out or as a press agent once told me, a mentor of mine. What you want to do is get your show talked about in any other pages in the paper, but the theater pages. If you can make it off the theater pages, that's when you're achieving some market penetration. So I always try on every one of my shows to get a story somewhere that's not covered by a theater reporter and how you do that is very simple, look at what's unique about your show, and then you try to do something that hasn't been done before.

Now that's what the press is attracted to, things that haven't been done before. Gettin’ The Band Back Together was produced in part by a town. The town of Sayreville New Jersey was named as a co-producer. That had never been done before. It got attention. 13: The Musical, which was just announced for a Netflix movie, we had for that show, the first all-teenager invited dress. So we only let teenagers see the show before anybody else. No adults allowed. We got press. So it's trying to come up with what's unique about your show. Gettin’ The Band Back Together was about Sayreville New Jersey. So it made sense that the town would be involved.

13 was all teenagers in the cast, so it made sense that all teenagers would do it. My First Time was about demystifying a person's first sexual experience. So it made sense that we'd want people who had yet to experience that, to learn from other people. So take what makes sense about your show and then go do something that hasn't been done before and you'll get attention.

20:35 Tony:

Where has all of this craft and knowledge and expertise come from? So who have been some of your most influential mentors, teachers, and coaches?

20:46 Ken:

There are a variety of them that I've learned from over the years. And I remember being an actor and I went to Tish at NYU and I studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. I had some amazing teachers down there, but I had one teacher I remember that said, when an actor was doing a scene, oh, I tried this. And the teacher was like, well, that's not our method. You can only do our method. It's our method or nothing. It's Lee's method or nothing, and I thought that was a very restrictive approach because I thought the performance was actually quite good.

So I've adopted a different approach, which is, I believe you create your own method. You learn from all the masters, and then you take a little bit of each one to create your own style. And that's what I've done. So I had the incredible opportunity to learn from Hal Prince. I learned, yes, believe it or not from Garth Drabinsky, who also told me a lot of what not to do, because he ended up going bankrupt and serving some time, but there was some stuff that he does very, very well, takes care of artists, and produces incredible productions.

I learned from Robert Fox, I learned from Hal. I learned from Sam Mendez, watching him do Gypsy. Every show that I did, I found something in someone to learn from until I eventually created my own style. Of course, watching Cameron Mackintosh, reading about David Merrick, another of what to do and what not to do, until I've again, created my own vision of what a producer I think should be in 2019.

22:23 Tony:

Speaking of 2019, we're heading into 2020. And I know that you just created with your method, a journal for artists. So can you tell us a little bit about that and the method that's inside to make things happen?

22:37 Ken:

Absolutely. Look, I went through a very difficult period in my career in my life a few years ago. And I can point to, when I look back as to, how did I get out of it? Keeping a daily journal was one of the things that got me out of it. It's that simple. It took me about 10 minutes, 15 minutes a day, but there's no question it focused me. It had me feeling more positive and it got me started in the day to conquer the challenges that I was facing. And I looked at them with a whole different mindset. So I tried every journal under the sun. This is me. I get obsessive and I love them all.

Except again, like creating your own method and your own style. I found that they weren't suited for the entrepreneur life, the artist and the business person, and again, the modern day creator. So I did what I often do if I don't see something in the market, I create my own. So I created The Action Journal for Artists which is a daily routine. Again, it takes you just 10 minutes, 15 minutes every day at most. [It] focuses you, sets you up for success by putting into a practical process, how to accomplish something that may only exist in your imagination. And you can check it out at ActionJournalForArtist.com.

And we've found that a lot of people are having a lot of success with it. And I promise you, whether you get this journal or not, put journaling into your life, it'll make a change fast.

24:12 Tony:

I agree with that so much. And also having dealt with a little bit of rough few years, I don't think you and I are alone in that. So what would you say to the person who's listening, who does feel stuck? Who feels like they're in a rut? But how do they go from this, I have no control to feeling like they are making things happen every single day?

24:36 Ken:

So this is exactly how I started The Awesome 80s Prom and it's exactly how I get through those moments of like, I'm stuck, I'm stuck, I'm stuck. And it's an entrepreneurial process that I call "Serve the Tennis Ball." So an entrepreneur's job is to start the game. We're all dreaming and hoping that someone will gallop in on a white horse and pick us up and option our script, produce our show, discover us and put us in a giant movie. And there, we'll be whisk away to a land of seven figure deals and royalties and all these things.

And I have news for everybody. There is no white knight. There's no cavalry, no one is coming for you. The only person who is going to take you into that land is going to be you. That's it. By doing hard work, by doing the stuff that you need to do, eventually people will discover you, but you've got to do the work yourself and how you do that is much simpler than it sounds, which is again, this process of I call "Serve the Tennis Ball", is just start the game, start the game.

If you want to, like me for The Awesome 80s Prom, I didn't know what I was doing. I can honestly tell you when Hal said do this show, do anything. I stared at a blank screen and a blinking cursor for an hour, not knowing what to do. And that was when I was faced with this very difficult choice I could stop and I'd still be a company manager to this day or I could figure out a way to hack it. And the way I hacked it was by serving in the tennis ball, which means I placed an ad in Backstage looking for actors, because I knew actors would respond and then I'd have to audition them and then I'd have to cast them. And then I'd have to have a rehearsal and slowly but surely, just by hitting a tennis ball with these very simple, small tasks, I ended up creating a show.

And everything I've done, build a board game, which started by me Googling how to build a board game. That was me serving the tennis ball, Google responded. And I slowly but surely just put the thing together. I didn't know how to sell something on Amazon. Click on Amazon, how to sell on Amazon. You just figure it out. This isn't brain surgery. No one's going to live or die by any of the things that we're doing, only good can come from it.

So take these small, simple steps and you will find that eventually you'll be somewhere when you're like, how the heck did I get here? Which is exactly how I felt when I won the Tony Award a couple years ago. I really was like, how did I get here? And now when I look back, you know how I got there? You know what the serving the tennis ball moment was of me winning a Tony Award? It was at the opening night party of Spring Awakening.

I turned to Michael Arden and I served him a tennis ball and said, what do you want to do next? And he said, I want to do Once On This Island, he hit it back to me. So I served the ball over to the authors. I would like to do Once On This Island. And they said, let's talk about it. And then we met and then slowly but surely we're all on stage winning a Tony Award. And I'm like, look what happens. So that's how you get unstuck, focus on something very small, something you know how to do, make a phone call, Google and it will help you accomplish what you don't know how to do.

27:57 Tony:

Amen. Ken, interestingly, I was surprised to read that you are a fan, I don't know if I can use that word, of The Secret. At least you believe in the Law of Attraction. But what I also love is that you balance all of that with very scientific data-driven theories in relation to life, business, marketing, etcetera. So how does one bring in this level of Law of Attraction and the secret into that idea of taking action?

28:31 Ken:

So I love the concept of The Secret because it puts you into this mindset, this positive feeling that anything is possible and that anything can happen and that you can achieve your goals and dreams. Where I don't agree with it is like, oh, “I'm just going to think about money and it's just going to appear like that.” That's not what happens. What happens is you say, “Oh, I want to do this. This is happening to me.” And you'll find yourself making things happen. You still have to put that action behind it because you're in this positive frame of mind that, yeah, that's real. It's real that I can earn this much money. It's real that I can win a Tony Award. It's real that I can star in a movie. And then you're like, well, how do I do that? Well, I'll take a simple step.

So it's this combination of mindset. And then again, putting action behind it that I truly believe in. The secret is something that's been said about a lot of things. I'm a huge fan of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which I think actually now is a horrible title because it sounds like a get rich quick scheme. It's not at all. It's just about, even more practical than The Secret, it's about mindset. But it's also about how you accomplish things, including surrounding yourself with people that are after the same goals or are achieving a level of success that you haven't achieved yet so you can reach up to them. It's a lot of stuff. So that's a book that I strongly recommend.

30:00 Tony:

And then are there any other books that have been really influential for you?

30:04 Ken:

Yeah, I read and devour what I think again has a very negative connotation in today's world because I'm a big reader of self-help books. The other one that really really changed my life is Wayne Dyer's stuff. And the big one, which is How To Be a No-Limit Person. And I got turned on to this by Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. I heard her speak and she was asked, what's the one book or one thing, and she said, Wayne Dyer's, How To Be A No-Limit Person. That's it. She used to listen to this when she was selling fax machines door-to-door and it changed her life. And it's one that isn't as known about today, although the guy wrote a ton of books, but I strongly strongly recommend it because it's not only very helpful - It's funny and entertaining.

30:56 Tony:

Oh, well, I know what I'm going to go check out right now. So can you live this wonderful life of wellness and personal development, business development but you also, I'm sure juggle quite a few things as a husband, as a father and as a busy CEO of multiple startups? So because you are such a balanced person or at least from the outside, what are some of your secrets for integrating, having a podcast, a blog, 7 shows at one time: How do you juggle all of that?

31:36 Ken:

Well, look, I try to eliminate the word busy from my vocabulary now because I'm very blessed with the life that I have and the life that I lead and the things that I do. And compared to the challenges that other people have to go through. I don't consider myself busy. You think of how J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter in poverty with a young child all by herself, and she still figured out how to do it. So I'm blessed. Now, practically, it's a lot. And actually part of the blog I wrote about saying no to stuff was reminding me I had to say no to stuff. I'm not 27 anymore,I'm 47, and I know that time is limited and I know I want to accomplish great things and I'm not going to be able to do that if I just constantly do everything.

So I have to figure out a way to focus. And one of the ways I work things. I calendar my day. So I will put writing time into my day when I just want to write. I will put in work on this project. I will calendar every moment so that I stop checking email or I stop doing these other things and just focus on the big stuff. I'm also a big believer in what I call the big three or the top three. And this is a big part of The Action Journal for Artists, which is at the beginning of each week, I identify three things, three tasks, projects that I have to do, that I should do that will have the biggest impact on my life or career. And those come first that week and that's it. And I execute those and then I can move on to the other stuff, but I won't move on to the other stuff until those three things are done, it helps me prioritize and I pick three a week. That's been a huge change for me. I've only started doing that in the last 9 months. And that's a good one I recommend.\

33:29 Tony:

Now Tim Ferris style, I want to ask you, just give us a great app or something…but what is a specific tool that you just have recently discovered, or you've always used that really helps you with this idea of balance as well as productivity and efficiency?

33:49 Ken:

I am obsessed with to-do lists and I've tried every single one under the sun and then some and I always go back to the same one, which is this app/website called Toodledo.com. It's so simple. It's not the prettiest, but it allows me to do everything I want. Set things by date, by folder, by priority. It syncs perfectly to my phone. It's absolutely free, and that is what keeps me going after the priorities. I update it every night. I print it out every morning and I love crossing shit off. So that's the thing that I definitely recommend.

34:33 Tony:

It brings you joy to cross it off.

34:36 Ken:

It certainly does.

34:39 Tony:

So Ken I have many parents in my audience, some of them single parents and some of them future parents. As a new father and someone who I know places a lot of value on your work. Can you share how you also create time? Maybe it's literally just hours in your calendar, but how do you honor your relationship with Tracy and McKenna?

35:06 Ken:

Well, that's been a big adjustment for me because I'm a guy that used to go to the office 7 days a week. I'd come home late every night, and what's amazing about having a child is it forces you to rebalance. What's amazing about getting married is it forces you to rebalance. And those were things that I wanted. So it's a constant process and it's a struggle at times.

There's no question I have to really listen. I have to watch: What does my wife need? What does my child need? What do I want? The good news is, listen, you get married, you have a child, you find yourself wanting to go home to spend time with that kid before she goes to bed. It's part of what happens, which is great, but I can't stop doing the other stuff.

I don't have a 9 to 5, 10 to 6. I'm not going to get paid unless I produce, unless I create. I'm really not willing to take that job in Wall Street that I talked about. It's not what I want to do, which means I have to figure it out. And that's what entrepreneurs do. That's what artrepreneurs do, you figure it out. I get up every morning at 5 o'clock in the morning. I go downstairs to my Starbucks in my building and I spend an hour writing because that's the only time I can find to do it. I go to the Starbucks because we're living in a one bedroom apartment. My daughter is sleeping in a walk-in closet and it's tough and it ain't easy, but that's what we do right now.

And that'll change. We actually have an apartment (we’re moving) where I created a little workspace, so I can be home more. But it's about figuring it out. And again, however challenging it may be for you, me, everybody, we all have our unique challenges. There are so many other people out there that have it much more challenging than we do. And that's what I try to think about, is that wow, I'm blessed. Look at this. I'm so lucky, I get to do what I love to do every day. So yeah, I can figure out how to find the time to do it more and how to find the time to spend time with my daughter.

37:10 Tony:

Thank you for that. And also the vulnerability there just of peeling back the curtain for us. So because you have two Tony Awards and multiple other accolades can you just talk to me about how you personally define the word success or redefine it for yourself? Just your definition of that word.

37:34 Ken:

Well, it's interesting, whenever I create a show, I try to come up with a thesis for that show, just like a 10th grade English paper. And then it's the job of the authors to prove that thesis to the audience by the end of the show. So for something like Somewhere in Time, it was true love transcends time. For Gettin’ the Band Back Together, success is doing what you love with the people you love and with people who love you. And that's it. It starts with doing stuff you love and then surrounding yourself with people that you love, who also love you back. Finding your community, finding your tribe. But it's really that first part about if you're doing what you love. I don't care where it is.

A lot of people say like, I want to write, I want to act. I want to, wherever, period. It's not, “I want to act on Broadway.” That's a different goal. “I want to write a Broadway show.” That's a different goal and comes with its own unique set of challenges. But if you want to be an actor, you can be an actor anywhere in the world. We’ll figure it out. You want to be a writer, we'll get your show up. Maybe your show is set for high schools or regional theaters, or maybe you want to do a show on a sidewalk. But we can get you to create theater. We can get you to act. We can get you to do all those things. Success is not defined, unless you define it that way, by a specific theater in Times Square. Success is defined again by, I think just doing what you love and being surrounded by people you love.

39:12 Tony:

So glad to hear that. I want to sort of wrap up with one of your questions that you ask your guests on your podcast. So there is the “Genie of Broadway” and he is so happy that you have created shows that have reached 25 countries, given so many people, employment, touched so many lives, thousands of audiences lives. And to thank you for all of your work, both on stage, on Amazon, all the places, even consulting and coaching, he's giving you one wish Ken, for the thing that you could change about this industry. So what would you like to wish for Broadway?

39:58 Ken:

I never should have started this question in my podcast because it's being turned around on me now all the time, and I struggle with it because I have so many things that I want to do, change, shape about Broadway and about the theater industry. Right now it's very challenging to get a show on Broadway because there are only 41 theaters and we're getting much better at running shows longer and longer. The cool thing is we're getting to a tipping point. Whenever anything is inflated, which is what's happening, like the Broadway world, like there are so many shows that want to come to Broadway in this bubble, the bubble usually bursts it overflows. The cup overflows.

I am hoping, and we're seeing the beginning of it, with Little Shop, with Rock of Ages, with Avenue Q, which I was one of the movers of that with Jujamcyn, the move from Broadway to Off-Broadway, to Jersey Boys. We're seeing a revitalization of the Off-Broadway market. And I believe it's because the cup is overflowing and people are saying, well, “I can't do my show on Broadway.” Well, what about Off-Broadway? And five years ago, people would say, “No, I'm not doing it.” “You can't win a Tony Award.” “You can't make any money.”

Well, I am very hopeful and I really wish and hope that Off-Broadway becomes an extension of Broadway in the coming years, rather than this little stepbrother, which it has been over the past few. And that we become more like the West End, where there is less of a distinction between the two types of theater. And I will practicalize that by saying one day, I hope there is a Tony Award for Off-Broadway shows.

41:59 Tony:

From your mouth to the theater gods’ ears.

42:02 Ken:

Meaning the theater owners.

42:06 Tony:

Thank you so much for being on the show. So many wonderful things. Anything that you can tell us about that's coming down the pipeline for you or Davenport Theatrical.

42:17 Ken:

We've got a lot of shows in development now from a Neil Diamond musical to Broadway Vacation. So people can go to the blog at TheProducersPerspective.com to check it out. But the show that I'm most excited about producing right now is our Super Conference.

So I started this a couple years ago and just with the idea of what does a producer do? A producer gets people in a room and I wanted to get the most passionate, excited theater-makers from all over the world in a room for a weekend and invite Broadway A-listers to talk to them about the stuff we've been talking about, how you got started and what they should do to achieve the same type of success. So we are doing that, and it is this year on November 16th and 17th. We are just less than two months away, and you can go to TPPSuperConference.com.

I'm telling you if you do one thing this year, if you are fascinated by the theater, interested in the theater, actor, director, producer, whatever you are, come, I guarantee you, you will leave it educated, inspired, and motivated to make theater and make a change not only in your career, but also in your life. It's just the biggest collection of passionate theater-makers there is. And I frankly, hope I see everybody there, please come up and say hello and say, you heard about it on the Tony Howell podcast and I'll give you a big old hug.

43:43 Tony:

And I will echo that and say that Katherine and I both attended the Promote U spring conference and just walked away with pages and pages of notes. And we are implementing all of the strategies, including daily journaling from Rodrick and just so many wonderful insights there. So Ken, what is the best way to just get connected and stay connected with you?

44:08 Ken:

So go to the blog. It's TheProducersPerspective.com you can sign up there, and we'll deliver the blogs to you. I'm also on Instagram @KenDavenportBWAY and Facebook, of course, at Ken Davenport. You Google Ken Davenport, I'll pop up, my email address is right on my blog. So you can literally send me an email and it will get to me.

44:28 Tony:

Thank you, Ken, and break a leg today at your keynote.

44:33 Ken:

Thank you very much.

44:38 Tony:

So there you go. Thank you again my friend for listening and thank you to Ken for being on the show. Now I mentioned a surprise. Well, if you work in the theater or in the arts, I feel that the Super Conference is pretty much a no-brainer. And Ken and his team have graciously extended us a 60% discount code. That is a huge discount on top of an already affordable ticket price.

I told you, Katherine and I went to the spring event and it was a one-day conference that blew my mind. So this special two-day event and the amazing lineup of speakers is going to rock your world. Go make sure that check out TPPSuperconference.com and use the code TONY19, that's all capital letters, and you will save 60%.

Of course, that isn't all I would absolutely love it if you would share this episode, let's help it reach more people. So take a screenshot and post your biggest takeaway. Please make sure that you tag Ken so that he sees it. But of course I would love it if you would also tag me as well.

Now up ahead for Tony Howell & Co., we have some amazing podcast guests in store for you, as well as some really special events throughout next year. So make sure that you're subscribed at TonyHowell.me. And while you're there, you can peruse existing podcasts, articles, videos. There's so much content there for you and if you're open to it, you can even contact me and let me know if you have any feedback or ideas. I would absolutely love to hear from you.

So keep making things, keep making things better, and keep making things happen. Truly, thank you so much for listening and thank you more importantly for the work that you do. You're changing the world.

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