Interview with Kurt Deutsch, co-founder and CEO of Sh-K-Boom

unnamedKurt Deutsch is the co-founder and CEO of Sh-K-Boom/ Ghostlight Records www.sh-k-boom.com along with his wife, Sherie Rene Scott.  Sh-K-Boom has recorded many Broadway albums including THE BOOK OF MORMON, IN THE HEIGHTS, PIPPIN, NEXT TO NORMAL, and so many more.  They have won Grammy Awards and received a Drama Desk Award  excellence in musical theatre.
The Playbill Collector (TPC): Before you were in the recording business, you were an actor.  Give us some of your background.
Kurt Deutsch (KD): I went to Syracuse University and was an acting and directing major.  In the middle of my senior year of college, I was cast as an understudy in BROADWAY BOUND and then toured with it for a year and half.  Joan Rivers was in the show with me.  It was her first time on a Broadway stage and we had a lot of fun together.  I was thinking a lot about that lately because of her passing. She was the most generous and funny person.  After that, I did A FEW GOOD MEN on Broadway and a few Off-Broadway shows.  Then I moved out to Los Angeles and did a lot of really bad television. I also was part of an amazing theatre company called The Matrix Theater Company. I did many plays including THE SEAGULL where I played opposite Anna Gunn, Richard Kind, Jeffrey Tambor among others. It was a highlight of my acting life.  In August of 1995, I met Sherie Rene Scott (my wife) doing Randy Newman’s musical FAUST a show at La Jolla Playhouse.  We moved back to New York City because Sherie was getting ready to star in  AIDA on Broadway.
TPC: Where did making records come into play?
KD: Well, we felt that Broadway artists were being pigeon holed. We wanted to expand people’s perception of what Broadway artist’s could do. We wanted to create a company with Broadway artist’s who were bridging the gap between rock-and-roll and theater.  It was the time of TOMMY and RENT.  Many actors wrote their own songs and didn’t necessarily want to do show tunes.  Our first album’s were Sherie’s debut album MEN I’VE HAD and Adam Pascal’s MODEL PRISONER and Alice Ripley’s EVERYTHING’S FINE.  We did concerts called THE SH-K-BOOM at The Cutting Room and the Village Theater; Thursday nights at midnight to build community between the artists and the fans. We hosted so many incredible performers at these concerts and did concert readings of new musicals including what was the first NY concert of NEXT TO NORMAL.
TPC: What’s the first cast album you recorded?
KD: THE LAST FIVE YEARS and it took off from there.  In fact, I just produced the film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.
TPC: How do you get most of your clients?
KD: Typically people I’ve worked with before, I continue working with.  Having said that, there is competition. How we consume music is evolving and the economics don’t make tons of sense right now.   It is becoming more and more difficult to profit off the cast recordings.  You have to figure out what to take risks on and what not to take risks on.   However, the necessity of preserving these recordings is something I take very seriously but I think needs to be rethought by everyone.
TPC: What is the range of cost to record a cast album?
KD: Depends on the show and how many songs there are.  A small Broadway show like NEXT TO NORMAL is between 150K -$200,000.  A large Broadway show like IN THE HEIGHTS is around $400,000 or so.  It depends on the orchestrations, the size of the band, cast; the list goes on.  Right now, besides the cast and musicians, everybody involved with the show  gets a piece of the pie from the publicist, company manager, stage manager, etc.  It takes a village to create a cast album.
TPC: Do you record everything in one day?
KD: Most of the time, you have to because of union rules.  The actors get paid a weeks salary for eight hours of studio time.  Sometimes we lay down tracks for the orchestra at one time and actors another time.
TPC: Who are some of your favorite people you have worked with and/or shows you have recorded?
KD: I can’t pick favorites but I have long histories with Jason Robert Brown, Tom Kitt,  Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Michael John LaChuisa.  I also have heroes, PIPPIN was one of the reasons I wanted to be in this business so doing two records with Stephen Schwartz was a huge honor for me.  I remember singing in the mirror in my bedroom as a kid to HAIR and doing that revival album side by side with Galt and Jim was quite a trip.  To know that I am working with performers and artists, to create a document that will be there for all time that other people are going to be able to listen to is a huge responsibility and joy for me.
TPC: Give us a typical day in the life of Kurt.
KD: Today I saw a really good workshop of a musical that was fantastic and could potentially hit Broadway soon.  Tonight I am coaching my sons little league team.  I have lots of meetings, I see a lot of shows and concerts at night and spend a lot of time seeing readings. I am also developing theatre pieces and concept albums as well as TV and film projects so that takes up a lot of time.   It varies day to day, week to week.  In the spring typically I’m producing a lot  tons of records because that’s when many musicals open.
TPC: What is the biggest project you are working on right now?
KD: The LAST FIVE YEARS movie is circulating film festivals right now and then will be in theaters on Valentines Day.  This month I’m working on  finishing the soundtrack which will come out around the same time as the movie.
For more information on Sh-K-Boom check out: http://www.sh-k-boom.com/
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