BWW Interview: Drew Baker Talks Theatrical Rights Worldwide

BWW Interview: Drew Baker Talks Theatrical Rights Worldwide
Drew Baker

If you've seen a production of work such as The Bodyguard, Ghost the Musical, Grease or The Wind in the Willows, then you've seen a show licensed by the Theatrical Rights Worldwide company.

Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW) was founded in October 2006 and opened its UK branch in September 2017. BroadwayWorld spoke to vice-president Drew Baker, who runs TRW UK.

Many people have seen shows licensed by TRW but might not know what you do as a company. Can you explain?

TRW is a major licensing house looking after a wide range of shows - we have our West End and Broadway collections, our Off-West End and Off-Broadway collections, our Symphonic Experiences, Young Audience Collection, and the arm of the catalogue that I started, which is the British Musicals Collection.

What is show licensing, and how does that process work?

As agents for the authors, TRW grants live stage productions the rights of a show.

Something that's really important to TRW is our relationship with authors; it's a family environment. Steve Spiegel, president, and CEO of TRW is amazing at developing this, and our authors feel the same. They love being part of the family and are able to approach us with any questions - they know we're accessible.

Authors come to us with their show and ask if we'd consider representing it. We're also very active on going out and watching shows and discussing if it's something we'd want to take onto our catalogue.

What's vital to me is that if I take a show on, I need to be sure I can give that show the longevity it deserves. Believing in a show is really important to me and to us as a company.

How did the UK office come about?

The UK office became operational on September 1, 2017. When I first started it was just me, and then that very quickly changed when we realised the amount of work there is in the UK. Within nine months we grew to a team of eight, and we're still growing, which is very exciting.

The first seed was planted back in 2014. I had directed Zanna Don't! at the Landor Theatre and Steve was over on vacation and came and saw the show. We had a drink after, and Steve spoke briefly about how he wanted to open a UK branch, servicing the UK, Ireland, and Europe. I casually mentioned that if he needed anything to give me a call.

Previously, I'd trained at the London School of Musical Theatre and worked as a performer for a while before going into directing. I had a successful career, but around 2015 I said "Enough is enough" - I needed a rest, so I left London. I went back home to Wales and then took a job in operations in Devon. I was still in the business but needed a little break.

And then at the end of April 2017, Steve called me and said "Are you ready? I'm ready to open the office" - and here we are now.

What are the benefits of having a UK office?

The biggest difference that our clients find now is the time difference - they don't have to wait until two o'clock in the afternoon to get a reply. Also, they can pay in their own currency; they don't have to worry about wiring money to the US. Plus, they get the reassurance that they're talking to someone who understands the amateur and professional world in the UK and in Europe.

You recently announced your British Musicals Collection - what sparked this idea?

I feel that I'm now in a position where I can support British writing. Since we announced the British Musicals Collection, we've had more than 50 musicals through the door.

Now feels like the right time - there are some great musicals coming through, such as Everybody's Talking About Jamie - so we can say "Hey, you know what, we are supporting British writing and we are here to give those shows longevity".

It's not just about new writing - it could be a musical that's been sitting there for 20 years and hasn't had a life yet. And if it's the right script for us, we want to help it get what it deserves.

Even if it's just an idea in your head, a treatment that you have written down, or even if you've read a book or seen a film or TV show that you'd love to turn into a musical, then come and talk to us!

We can't take everything, it's not possible, but I am keen to hear about anything that anybody may have.

I've recently just taken on three new musicals to our British Collection, all of which are very different. I'm not looking for something specific - when the right piece of work lands on my desk or in my inbox, I can see it going to the next level.

Do you think there's an increase in performers creating their own work for those 'in-between times' in their employment?

I don't think it's a change. When you're a creative, whether that's a performer, writer or whatever avenue you're in, you always look for outlets to express that. I don't think it is new - I just think it's more accessible now.

Venues like The Other Palace have been amazing in supporting creative people wanting to showcase work. That's what has been missing! People have always been writing and putting these shows together, but they've never had anywhere to do them, and now we have venues that want to host these types of events. So, whether it's a new piece of writing, a pop-up show, scratch night or a one-off cabaret, there are more places to showcase them now.

For people like me, from a licensing perspective, these events are great to go to, as all of a sudden you discover a phenomenal writer or composer. Sometimes, by having a conversation with them after, you find out they've written a full-length musical and done nothing with it, or they have an idea to write a musical but don't know what to do next.

You mentioned The Other Palace - are there other venues or events you would recommend to new writers to try and showcase their work at?

I admire Katy Lipson and her From Page to Stage Festival. It's a great chance for writers to showcase their work. I would say the same for Mercury Musical Developments and Musical Theatre Network (MTN) - we met some great British writers at Beam, which was an event through MTN. Those are really important platforms to bring new writing in.

What difficulties or issues arise with licensing?

We get funny questions about people wanting to change characters or add things in. Recently, someone did a rewrite of Act I from a show in our Broadway collection, and they added several characters and replaced the well-known musical songs with pop songs - which changed a lot of the production! Obviously, this is something that we don't authorise or allow.

An author once said to me "The best thing you will ever do for my show is to just do it - that's the show that I wrote."

That's our job: to protect the author's work and look after it. We want to make it accessible to everyone, but we have to think hard about the content and protecting it.

What are your goals for TRW UK?

My goal would be for us to continue to grow, bring on some more amazing titles, and develop the British Musicals Collection. Further down the line, I would love to get on board with musicals very early on.

We're working with Mercury Musical Development to run a masterclass on licensing and what that means, which will be great. I just want to continue to be that approachable licensing house that thinks out of the box.

I and my team are so passionate about the industry, and that is what drives us. There's never a day that we don't wake up and not want to come into work. We want to do the best for our authors all the time - sometimes we have to say no, and make those certain decisions, but we care for the product we have and the authors we work with.

TRW now want new British musicals to apply to join them. Composers/writers should send a short synopsis, script and any recordings they may already have to:

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