If you want a career in musical theater, you better embrace your inner Harold Hill. Because to make it in the business, we all have to be salesmen (sales people?) peddling our wares. If you aren’t willing to make the pitch, as Harold Hill would say, “Ya Got Trouble.”
This came up recently because I was talking to a writer friend who said, “I’m so tired of constantly pitching producers. You producers have it lucky.” I stopped him right there… just as writers are pitching to get their work produced, producers are constantly pitching investors and theater companies, not to mention ticket buyers!
Up and down the musical theater food chain, we are all pitching – and being pitched to – all the time. Actors, directors, writers, designers, producers. You can’t avoid it, and you can’t grow out of it. There’s a common myth floating around that if you “get a producer,” “land that big gig,” or “make it to Broadway,” that suddenly you get a free pass to never have to sell yourself or your work again. Wrong!
The reality is that if you want to stay in the game and succeed in this business, you had better embrace the pitch.
The good news is, there are a few things that can make the exhausting (and sometimes discouraging) pitching process a little more manageable:
Remember that you love what you do.
And if you read that sentence and disagree then quit now. Musical theater people work tirelessly, gamble big, pitch hard, and put themselves out there day after day because they are passionate about theater. Expect a bad day or even a bad year, but if you truly love this business, stick with it and remember that things will turn around.
Recognize that pitching is a huge part of your job description.
I learned this trick from my actor friends: They are auditioning (aka pitching) all day every day and the ones who have the best attitude think of the audition process as an equal part of their work as the performing jobs for which they get hired. The rest of us would be smart to borrow their perspective.
Set reasonable benchmarks.
If you limit yourself to only one lofty goal like “be on Broadway” nothing you do leading up to that will feel like a win. Instead, I recommend setting intermediate goals. For example, say to yourself this week my goal is to meet three new producers or send out five demos or get so-and-so to record my song, etc. It’s helpful and satisfying to feel like you are meeting your goals. Not to mention, that it’s only through these kinds of incremental steps (and successes) that you can achieve your ultimate goals.
Remember that we’re all in the same boat.
If you are sick of pitching your show as a writer, becoming a producer isn’t going to help. If you’re tired of auditioning, becoming a director isn’t going to get you hired any more often. Focus on what you do best and surround yourself with supportive people who can give you pep talks when you get discouraged.
So, stop wasting time trying to avoid the pitch. If you hate it that much, this business isn’t for you. But if you can find a way to make it palatable or even fun, then there’s no business like show business.