Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Running Theatres: Best Practices for Leaders and Managers" by Duncan M. Webb (ebook review)

Title: "Running Theatres: Best Practices for Leaders and Managers" 
Author: Duncan M. Webb
Illustrator: N/A
Genre: Non-fiction

Length: 260 pages

I hesitate to buy independent non-fiction ebooks, because I'm always concerned that I'll be able to find the same information online, and for free if I take the time time to piece the websites together. I'm all for paying people for their work, of course, but I can do that at no cost to myself most of the time if I'm reading a page on the internet (ad revenue). However, this book is has a lot of well-investigated material that you won't be able to find in a nice, condensed package on someone's website. The source materials for this book are based mostly on transcribed interviews with people in the theatre management industry. It talks about modern marketing strategies like the importance of becoming a center for the entire community, branding, the pros and cons of having a restaurant in your theater, the pros and cons of buying or leasing space for your theater company, the need for theatres to be educational centers, the impact of parking on ticket sales, the pros and cons of volunteers, the crumbling traditional non-profit structure, the rise of interactive theatre, and the importance of creating an experience for your theater-going customers rather than merely creating a good show (which is hard enough in and of itself).

The advice is a little dated at a few times, especially how social media is not mentioned as a powerful (and free) tool, but this is forgivable since we really do want to hear the voice of experience. We want to hear from the people who've actually succeeded in the areas in which we aspire to, and unfortunately, the voice of experience is not necessarily be on the cutting edge. Here, the focus is on the grizzled theatre manager's brain as it looks on past experiences to make analyses, and then uses that information to look forward to and conjecture about the future. Much of the advice is timeless, and well... heck, maybe direct mail vs. social media is better at bringing in the money than I give it credit for.

If you're keeping a theater afloat or thinking about starting a brand new one, this book will be a big help. At $3.49 for the Kindle vs. print version, this book is well worth the investment for anyone interested in the subject.