REV: JANUARY 6, 2012
SHIRLEY M. SPENCE
Blue Man Group: Creativity, Life and Surviving an
Sometimes when we look at where Blue Man Group has gone; we just sort of scratch our heads. And we think about how we started, basically just the three of us saying, “Why don’t we get bald and blue and do stuff?”
— Chris Wink, co-founder with friends Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton Monday evening on July 7, 2008, Chris, Matt and Phil were slumped around a conference table littered with leftover sushi boxes, and sales and financial reports. Their CFO had just left the room. It was clear they were in a red ink-black ink situation; they could go under. It was frightening to think about, after twenty years of living and breathing Blue Man. What would happen to the Blue Man community, their coworkers and friends? What about the Blue School? What about them and their own families? The issues they were worried about extended well beyond the Blue Man Group enterprise, but the business was where they needed to focus their attention right now. Without the ability to forecast and tremendous uncertainty in the economy, they would have to assume the worst and make some dramatic changes.
By 2008, Blue Man Group sales had climbed to approximately $90 million,2 and employees numbered approximately 580. CMP had become known as much as the heads of a performance arts empire as creative geniuses. The three co-founders bought out their original producer early on to gain creative control, but over the years had been involved in numerous production partnerships and other collaborations. They were far from done, however, working on a growth strategy aimed at expanding beyond live productions to become the global leader in “multigenerational entertainment that’s smart and cool,” with a long list of exciting projects. The Blue Men made their formal debut in 1988 by staging a “funeral for the 80s” in New York City’s Central Park. The bald and blue character and his antics evolved as Chris, Matt and Phil (aka
1 This case is complemented by a DVD entitled Blue Man Group: Creativity, Life and Business (810704). It includes
interviews with CMP, live footage from Blue Man performances, and a profile of the Blue School via interviews and in -school footage.
2 Blue Man Group financial information has been disguised to preserve confidentiality. See Exhibit 3 for revenue data.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Senior Lecturers Bhaskar Chakravorti and Janet Kraus and Research Associate Shirley M. Spence prepared this case. Some company data has been disguised. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsem ents, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2010, 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-5457685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to www.hbsp.harvard.edu/educators. This publication may not be digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.
This document is authorized for use only in Innovative services management by Renu Argawal from September 2012 to March 2013.
Blue Man Group: Creativity, Life and Surviving an Economic Meltdown
CMP) began playing hip venues, and did their first full length performance. They offered up an interactive audience experience that combined theatre, drumming, art, science and vaudeville, and appealed to a wide range of ages and cultural groups. Critics described it as “ground breaking,” “hilarious,” “visually stunning,” and “musically powerful.” 3 In 1991, Blue Man Group opened at the Astor Place Theatre. That same year, they won the Village Voice Obie...
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