The Evil Imp

No Pulse

At the moment Arts Council England, along with many others with a vested interest, are talking up all things “digital” in the search for mass popularity of the arts and culture.

One programme, run by ACE in conjuction with the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (holy acronym pile up Batman! Ed!) has spawned the “Pulse” application from the London Symphony Orchestra.


“Pulse” is the LSO’s outreach programme for students, offering discounted tickets for a range of performances by the orchestra, all for £6.

As well as buying tickets you can also leave feedback about the shows you have seen, listen to a short excerpt from a show you might want to see and earn “reward” points. These points can be traded in for certain gifts and like all such “reward” schemes, the more points you have the better your free gift.

When you actually purchase a ticket what you get, instead of a piece of paper, is a “QR” code saved to your phone with complete details of your seat and the date and time of the show.

Presumably when you rock up to the theatre on the night the hapless usher will have to scan your phone to let you in.

The “Pulse” programme itself is available universally, not just through this mobile application.

So Far So What?

That’s all there is to it. You can buy tickets, leave feedback and get some free stuff. Apparently this is, for reasons past understanding, innovative!

All is not well however if you dig a little deeper. Nobody here in TheLab™ is a student, and hasn’t been for a very long time. That didn’t stop us signing up for “Pulse” and getting full access to the app itself.

To get an access code all you have to do is fill in a form, state the name of your university or college and that’s it. When you show up to the theatre they may ask to check your ID but that’s an old world solution to a new world problem.

The ticket prices for a show in London are very good, but if you want to buy one via this app then you need a PayPal account. You can’t just plug your credit card details in and get your ticket.

As far as we could determine there was no way to sign up for a PayPal account from within the app, even if you wanted to.


If you do actually manage to buy a ticket you will be given reward points, 25 for each ticket. Build up enough of these and you can have a range of free gifts for your efforts.

The starter gift is a free month of Spotify, the online music service. 100 points, or 4 tickets, gets you 4 weeks of “Spotify Unlimited”, worth an eye watering £4.99.

At the time of writing however there are only 3 shows available to book, one shy of your free gift, so you might be waiting a while.

For the most dedicated ticket buyer a trip to Paris (for one) awaits for 2000 points which will only take 80 tickets or £480 to acquire. Which is great if you want to go to Paris all on your own and let us not forget the “Pulse” project is for students, the guys spending £9000 per year on tuition.

Call Me A Conclusion

Over all this app feels like half an idea, if that. It’s exactly the kind of thing you would expect from a large arts organisation where everything is about selling tickets and nothing is about the actual art.

The convenience of using a native application to book tickets is lost because you can’t use a regular credit card, you have to go through PayPal to use your regular credit card. If an application is a hassle, then it has failed the user and will, in all probability, be deleted.

We also have an issue with incentivising buying tickets by giving away free stuff, however nondescript that free stuff may be. When you buy a ticket to a show the “reward” is getting to see the show, not some cheap trinket or money off vouchers. You’re selling art here, not multi-packs of toilet roll.

If the LSO doesn’t feel like attending a performance is good enough to entice people through the doors for just £6 a ticket they might as well pack away their violins and go home.

This native application offers nothing you can’t do through the LSO’s website where we presume you can just use your credit card to buy tickets and also collect your points.

The only thing that ACE, NESTA and the AHRC have achieved here is to spend money for the effect, the effect of making it look like something “digital” is helping the arts.

Rating this app out of 10 we give it an Epic Fail!

LSO Pulse is available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, we tested the iPhone version.

[ iPhone app Version ]

Image Courtesy of Samsung