The Roth Doctrine

Some people I just know I’m going to like before I meet them. Jordan Roth was one of those people because before we ever spent any real time together, I read this article about Jordan and his then-recent takeover of Jujamcyn Theaters.

I mention it because there’s something in the article that I find myself repeating and emphasizing to venues, producers and marketers all of the time, and which I now call the Roth Doctrine.

Leading into it, he describes what he feels Broadway shows need to be, but I would extend that to say that any live entertainment should try to hit all three of these things. Here’s the quote: “What I’m aiming for, and what I think the long-term health of the industry requires, are three things. Shows that are, one, uniquely theatrical: experiences that need to be live. Two, essential: They matter, they need to exist. And, three, they sell tickets.”

It’s a challenge, but giving up on any of the three is, as Jordan suggests, suicidal in the long run. The more important thing is the belief in the potential for the live product to be able to do it, and, of course, Jordan himself has shown that it’s quite possible.

Fundamentally, this is about a belief in the power of the product, and, I would add, the need to develop the product with the audience in mind, as opposed to building the product and then hoping that “marketing” will somehow find buyers. Or as Jordan says it, “Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to get a young audience to see The Music Man. If you want a young audience, don’t fucking do The Music Man.”

So there you have it. The Roth Doctrine: If you want a young audience, don’t do The Music Man.

Don’t take it literally. The concept is broad, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t want a young audience. Whatever audience or audiences you want, the Roth Doctrine says create content that’s oriented to and attractive to them. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, don’t bother trying to use “marketing” as a patch.

It’s expensive, boring and it doesn’t work.

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