In 2016, Elizabeth Durand Streisand traded in her decade-long career in journalism to launch Broadway Roulette. The Broadway ticketing startup makes it affordable and easy to see Broadway shows. Customers pay a flat fee of $49-$59 to pick a date, number of tickets, and set some preferences about what they like (and don’t). Then Broadway Roulette “spins the wheel” and matches people with tickets to a surprise Broadway show that fits their criteria.
While many industry players were skeptical that the Priceline-style model would work, Broadway Roulette struck a chord with many would-be theatergoers who found the traditional ticket-buying processes stressful and time-consuming. By 2020, Broadway Roulette was clocking tens of thousands of paying users and multimillion-dollar revenues. Then COVID-19 hit and Broadway closed.
“In one afternoon, our revenues went from millions to zero,” says Streisand. Before the pandemic here had never been a Broadway closure of more than a few days. “This was unprecedented,” she observes. “Part of me thought if I just waited, I would wake up and everything would be as it was.” That didn’t happen. Instead, the closure was extended to June. And then September. And now Broadway is scheduled to be closed until January 2021.
Streisand realized she had to take action. She brainstormed with her team on ways they could reinvent their business to operate without Broadway shows. “We went into it with the mantra that there are no bad ideas because we needed that freedom to get started, but honestly, there were some pretty bad ideas,” she shares. But Streisand knew they only needed one good one.
A few weeks later, Broadway Roulette Mixer was born. The concept is simple: make it fun and easy for would-be theatergoers to experience Broadway from anywhere in the world. Customers (aka “users”) pay a flat fee of $12.99 to reserve their spot in a specific Mixer. Each Mixer is 45-minutes long as users get to interact with three surprise Broadway guests for 15 minutes each.
Within two weeks they ironed out the idea. And within a month their beta test was live. “We built a very basic checkout page and handled everything else manually,” shares Streisand. “We didn’t want to put resources into building a system for Mixers until we knew users actually enjoyed them.”
Unlike most live streaming events, Broadway Roulette Mixers are not scripted in advance. Instead, the 15 users in the “audience” get to ask their questions directly, hear behind-the-scenes stories, and enjoy exclusive performances by the Broadway artists. Recent guests have included Samantha Barks, Jackie Burns, Carrie St. Louis, Caitlin Kinnunen, Telly Leung, Austin Scott, Taylor Louderman, Wesley Taylor, Jelani Remy, Samantha Pauly, and Scott Pask to name a few.
“We’ve had a Hamilton cast-member perform the “My Shot” dance on her rooftop and a former Simba sing “Circle of Life” from his mother’s basement. We’ve heard stories about “no fly” shows for Elphaba and “no bubble” shows for Glinda,” says Streisand. Users don’t know exactly what or who to expect before the Mixer begins, and in this way, Streisand feels they have captured a bit of the magic of live theater.
“We’re now working to build the tech to keep up with the demand,” says Streisand. “But that’s a very good problem to have.”