Waiting for Rights

BLT’s new season has been ready to go for some time. We are waiting for the publishing houses that own the rights to the shows to say it is all right to produce the shows. Of course, if we do produce the shows we pay royalties to those same publishing houses.

As a general rule I do not mind paying royalties. A playwright has the right to be paid. Most royalties, for our size house, are about $75 to $80 per night. That’s all right, a little high, I think, but if playwrights cannot make a living, there would be no new plays and soon nothing for BLT to produce.

What does make me mad is the waiting to see if we can get the rights to the show. I am told on the publishing houses’ websites that it typically takes 2 weeks to a month to get permission to “the rights” to do a show. And up until this year that was my experience.

This year things changed. The last show I requested was on April 14, 2011, the others were all before that. Now, June 9th, I have heard back on just one show. And that one was a “backup” in case I did not get the show I really want in that time slot. I was just told BLT will not hear until mid-July if BLT can get the rights to the musical it wants. This after being told I would hear by the end of April, then mid-May, then by June 1, then by mid-June. Needless, to say I am looking for a new musical, but I am 8 weeks later than I should be in the process all because Rodgers & Hammerstein cannot be honest with me.

I recently read a blog post on Seth’s Blog – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ – saying that the number one complaint in customer service is when the customer feels they were lied to. Once again I fully understand and agree. I would not have waited 8 weeks to apply for the rights to another musical, had I known it would take Rodgers & Hammerstein this long.

Today, BLT got the rights to “Inspecting Carol.” I asked for them on April 4th from Dramatist Play Service. Despite multiple emails, I heard nothing. Today after my 4th phone call I was told the Seattle Rep had a hold on the show. A quick email to the Seattle Rep and the show is ours to do. Thank you Christy.

I think you may be beginning to see why I prefer to deal directly with the playwrights or their agents to get the rights to a show. I did that for all the shows last season, except “Reefer Madness.” First, it is more fun. Second, sometimes the “per-production” rate is lower, but most importantly, I know within a day or so if BLT can get the rights to the show.

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