When it comes to pandering and sucking up nobody does it like the PR folks at Convent Garden's Royal Opera House. When they want to kiss some ass they go all in, charging at the wall full tilt until all you have left is an ROH PR person shaped hole in the wall.
ROH, home of the Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera, both publicly financed, have struck a deal with the tabloid newspaper The Sun to sell all 2,200 tickets for the opening night, in September, of Don Giovani to the paper's readers.
The Sun, like many tabloids, is not a big fan of the arts, the paper doesn't have an arts page or an arts editor, and it's really not a big fan of the arts when that art is paid for with tax payers money. Given a choice between going to the opera and going to hell most Sun readers might, just might, choose the latter.
For a bit of context; today's headlines in The Sun are, predictably, hysterical in nature and include words like "Rage", "Executed", "Lambaarrrghini" (don't ask) and "Cactus abducts pregnant girl" (you really don't want to know). Safe to say that your average Sun reader has little interest in news, the arts, or facts and accurate reporting.
What The Sun does have though is readers and lots off them. Three million people, apparently, buy the paper every day for reasons past understanding (there's a whole book in the psychology behind that we feel sure) and the ROH wants to give exclusive access to its opening night to these folks and these folks alone.
Ticket prices will of course be cut dramatically from £195 for the best seats to about £30. Ironically, Tony Hall, the chief executive of ROH, told the Guardian newspaper that the ticket deal was being done because the average Sun reader "...may not have thought that the Royal Opera House was for them, or [they] felt it was too expensive".
Mr Hall, if you are charging £195 for a ticket then yes, it is too bloody expensive and not just for people who choose, of their own free will, to read tabloid newspapers, but we digress.
You may be wondering what the point of this exercise is? The ROH will tell you that it's all about encouraging the great unwashed to come through the doors. That opera is for everybody, the Royal Opera House itself is for everybody, so come on in and mind the carpets while you're at it!
This is, of course, complete nonsense. The ROH couldn't care less who comes through the front door just as long as somebody comes through the front door and buys one of their very expensive tickets.
PR exercises like The Sun promotional idea are about justifying the massive amount funding given the to ROH every year by Arts Council England, over £24million at the last count. It looks good on an evaluation report when you can say that two thousand or more common folk took the opportunity to come and see 'Don Giovani'. Keeping the politicians, who run the Department for Culture Media and Sport, happy is what this is all about because they need to keep their constituents happy.
It looks even better when you can say that a couple of hundred thousand common folk entered the draw just to be in with a chance of buying the tickets and enjoying a night of culture. These people want it, they love it, and we gave them the chance to experience it, even if it was only the one time because we have to put the ticket prices back up again.
Then the ROH can put out its press releases celebrating their magnanimous behaviour and opining that they have "touched the people" and all is well in the world.
Of course what nobody seems to have thought of is the ranks of regular ROH theater goers buying copies of The Sun so they can enter the draw themselves and score some cheap tickets because they are actually a little bit sick and tired of the sky high prices. Perhaps there will be some kind of tabloid loyalty test involving questions about Britney Spears, football players and "cacti people"?
Whatever way you look at this "promotion" the same conclusion will always be reached. This is pandering of the highest caliber.
Devoid of any workable strategy to encourage people to enjoy live music, become more informed, more cultured, more open to new ideas (which surely begins with the education of very young children) the ROH reaches out to the most vapid, incompetent and idiotic medium of news dissemination in the country.
Instead of unreservedly telling The Sun and its throng of, for want of a better word, readers to go shove their ill-informed opinions where the sun don't shine (no pun intended) they touch the forelock, they capitulate, they pander!
Let's make one thing clear. Here in TheLab™, we thoroughly dislike the ROH's artistic stagnation and the amount of money they spend on the unimaginative drivel they produce year in year out. But, we will defend to the last their right to be artistically useless, whomever pays for it, and it is our money they're spending too!