““What is popular is not necessarily vulgar; and that which we try to rescue from fatal obscurity had in general much better remain where it is.”” – William HazlittI saw Beach Blanket Babylon today in San Francisco. It’’s the longest-running theatrical comedy in history –or so the marquee says. More than a show, it’’s a cultural institution. This inventive spoof on everything pop or popular has been not only a 25-year tourist attraction but also a job provider for hundreds of performers and theatrical workers. And through a profit-distribution program that its creator, Steve Silver, established, it’s been a longtime contributor to local charities.The show was great – funny, smart, a visual spectacle. It combined just about everything that works in theater: classic music, outlandish costumes, celebrity references, political satire, sexual humor, and audience participation. Beach Blanket Babylon is similar to another longstanding theatrical production, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which also combines popular music with pop icons (in this case, rock ‘n’ roll, monsters, and college-style sexual titillation).

This is a formula that can be duplicated. Pick two dozen proven, popular songs. Hire a small group of great stage performers (a dime a dozen) to sing them. Commission a good comedic writer to create a spoof on national and local politics, celebrities, etc. Throw in some outrageous costumes and props. And there you have it. Your own Beach Blanket Babylon.

Here’s A Different Sort Of Career For You

There is no reason why every decent-sized city in America couldn’’t support its own theatrical production of this kind.

So if you’’ve ever wanted to get into theater, here’’s your blueprint. And the execution is so easy. There are many talented performers around who will work –at first – for peanuts. And the venue can be very modest, since this type of show works best as an off-Main-Street production.

If you pick good songs and great props –and here’’s a hint: include plenty of sexual innuendo, particularly La Cage aux Folles stuff – you won’’t miss.

Just think. You can become your own local legend and enjoy a nice income for the next 25 to 30 years. What do I want in return for giving you this great moneymaking idea? Nothing. Just invite me to the opening.

Even if you are not ready to go into theatrical production, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the success of Beach Blanket Babylon.

One is something we just talked about last Monday (Message #199): That it’s always easier to sell a product/service that’s hot than one that is original. If Steve Silver had written his own songs or selected obscure ones, the show would have never gained its popular appeal. And if he had attempted sophisticated humor instead of gay gags and celebrity bashing, it probably wouldn’’t be as funny.

What Does Beach Blanket Babylon Have To Do With Your Business?

Let’’s say you are thinking about opening a local art gallery. You like impressionistic art and want to sell it. But when you look around at the other galleries, you notice they are selling abstract art. You decide that this situation is perfect, because you’’ll be the only guy around selling what you want to sell. Big mistake. There’’s a reason most of these other galleries are selling abstract art. It may be that you live in a community where homeowners like to match the color of their art with their furniture. Or that their homes were designed with big, white walls that need big, colorful paintings.

Want to open a restaurant? (Longtime ETRs should have been dissuaded of this foolishness by now.) Take a look around. If the location you are contemplating has six Italian restaurants and one Chinese take-out place, don’’t open a sushi bar. Open a trattoria.

This same principle applies to the business you’’re currently in. How are your sales going? Could they be better? Are you being outpaced by your competitors?

Think about the products/services you are selling now. Are they in demand? Selling like hotcakes? Or are they good but unappreciated? Pearls cast before swine?

Was business better last year? Has the market changed and left you behind?

It doesn’’t matter what you do or what you sell. Every market has its trends. You don’’t always need to follow the trends if you want to stay on top, but you can’’t ignore them either. Don’’t make the mistake of thinking that what worked so well last year (or 10 years ago) will surely work again tomorrow (or next week . . . or next month . . . or next year). If you want to be as successful today and tomorrow as you were in the past, you’’ve got to keep moving.

If you accept the inevitability of change (which includes the death of old trends and the birth of new ones), you will be willing to make sensible adjustments to your business and even yourself. The contract you have with your customers, you may come to realize, is not about what used to please them but about what pleases them now.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.