Reaching Musical Theater Producers: How to Make your Best Pitch

I hear from a lot of musical theater writers who are interested in participating in one of my new works programs. This is great news, since I’m always interested in knowing about new musicals and new writers. However, before you reach out to me or any other new works venue or producer consider the two following examples of emails I’ve received recently.

“I wrote a show that you should bring to your development lab. The music’s beautiful, people are raving about it and we’d love to work on it out there. Attached is the script and demo. Let me know what you think.”

While your show may in fact be the next Wicked, this email isn’t likely to spark my interest.

Here’s why:

  1. Slam, bam, thank you ma’am. I don’t know about you but I don’t often appreciate strangers telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.
  2. Just because it’s a good show doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for my particular program.
  3. Given the number of shows people who support new works read, an unsolicited script from a stranger is inevitably going to end up at the bottom the pile, even with the best intentions.

On the other hand

I received a lovely email like this recently from a writer I’d never met and as a result, we met for coffee in NYC and are building the beginnings of a great relationship.

“I heard about your program from [insert respected theater person I know here] and she thought you might be interested in knowing about my work. After looking through your website I’m impressed by your program and would love to talk with you further about what you do as well as tell you more about my current projects which include [x,y,z] which are in development with [producer] or [theater].

We’re all guilty of sending emails like the first example. It’s certainly faster to create a template and send it out to anyone and everyone. It cuts to the chase, gets the script in their hands and eliminates any need for ongoing conversations in everyone’s busy schedule.

A proper introduction includes respect

HOWEVER, you must remember that by submitting your show, what you are attempting to do is to start a relationship with the program, producer or theater — AND relationships don’t blossom over night.

Why did the second letter capture my attention?

  • He was referred by someone I know. (In the age of Facebook and LinkedIn it takes just a few moments to look me, or any other person you are approaching, up to see if we have any mutual friends or colleagues). The theater community is small, odds are we know someone in common and they’d probably be willing to lend their name.
  • Know what you’re applying for: He lets me know he’s looked at my website and understands the program. Then when he says he’d like to talk it’s clear to me he knows he’s already qualified based on the basic criteria for participation.
  • Close strong with something that tells why you’d be a good fit. By this point, if my interest is piqued, when he closes with a list of his projects and a brief description of where they are in development, I’m actually interested.

Does this take extra time? Yes.

But is it worth it? Big time.

Relationships, carefully cultivated, can get you far. This business is nothing without the relationships you make and tend. Even if the particular opportunity you were seeking this time around doesn’t pan out, you’ll have made a connection and impression that can serve you well in the long term.

One comment

  1. Dear Sirs: I have a completed musical, all music, lyrics, and dialogue, plus orchestral parts. I have a CD of an entire amateur production that I would like to send you if you are interested. The work is “Socrates–Knowledge is Sexy”–and while the non-professional performance does not present everything in the best way, everything is there from toe-tapping production numbers to serious ballads.
    Yours most sincerely, James Anderson

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