Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

September 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

When we met Mike Karns ’11 for our Sep./Oct. 2015 feature on alums making their way on Broadway, his digital startup Marathon Live Entertainment was handling social media for small, off-Broadway clients, a few real estate agents, and was in the infancy of its current stint with a show that had just started its run on Broadway, Hamilton. And just as the “ten dollar founding father’s” star has risen, so has Karns’ profile.

Today, he oversees a digital and social media empire for the Broadway phenomenon, which still plays to packed houses in New York City and has spawned a national tour. With tickets still in high demand, merchandising for the show has grown to include a mixtape, an instrumental soundtrack, and now a smartphone app—launched Aug. 11 by Karns’ company—that recently surpassed 750,000 downloads.

His social media efforts have attracted more than two million followers. In addition to Hamilton, Marathon Live handles the digital marketing for a number of other Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and he himself has become a Tony-nominated producer, after having latched on as a co-producer with Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a Broadway musical that has featured, among others, Josh Groban and Ingrid Michaelson. Away from Broadway, he’s president of the School of Theatre Alumni Program Group and a recipient of the 2017 Alumni Achievement Award.

Not bad for a guy whose claim to fame before A. Ham was having handled social media for a show called 50 Shades! The Musical, which Karns says “is laughable, now, to look back on.” The turning point? A meeting, set up through a mutual friend, with Jeffery Seller, the Tony Award-winning producer of Hamilton.

“I happened to meet him at a time when he was really interested in finding someone new to run all of his social and digital efforts, so it was sort of serendipitous,” Karns said when we caught up with him by phone recently. “I picked his brain about producing” while also mentioning his social media work with 50 Shades!

Before long, he was on board as Sellers’ social media guy. A few months later, in February 2015, Hamilton premiered at New York’s Public Theater and Karns’ profile took off from there. He shudders to think of where he might be without Hamilton.

“I have no clue, to be honest with you,” Karns says. “I never anticipated starting a business. I never anticipated being in the social media space. I wasn’t even looking for jobs in social media when I met [Seller], and the opportunity sort of presented itself and it’s taken me on quite an unexpected trajectory.”

He still has a goal of producing his own Broadway show, and toward that end he’s taken on jobs with that type of project in mind. Connections he’s made through his work on Hamilton led to his involvement with Great Comet.

“In addition to coming on and running social media, I also came on as a co-producer,” he says. “I helped with fundraising for that show and was involved from a producing level as well, which was a really good learning experience. I was really able to learn and see both sides of it.”

At the moment, he’s in the process of developing a winter concert in New York that hopefully will tour nationwide. And, of course, he’s looking for his next Broadway project. How long Hamilton lasts is anyone’s guess, but Karns couldn’t be happier with his role in its legacy.

“The thing that’s most exciting to me is that one of the determining factors of the brand’s longevity is its digital and social presence,” Karns says. “I feel like I am fortunate enough to be able to really play a key role in helping to lay the groundwork for people to continue to be interested in it.”

And so what ends first, the show itself, or Karns’ time with the production before deciding to move on to other projects?

“I’ll never leave Hamilton, man,” Karns says. “I’m gonna ride this thing until I can’t anymore. I think that Hamilton is going to be an enduring brand for a long time. Watching as the company starts to think not only about what we need to do to sustain the brand now, but also what we’re doing to maintain the brand in 10 years is a really fascinating thing, and I continue to have new opportunities to learn and be a part of that.”

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

Entry filed under: Alumni. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. different crowdfunding platforms  |  September 27, 2018 at 8:33 am

    different crowdfunding platforms

    Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story | The Penn Stater Magazine

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