Commentators would have you believe that the Arts are in some arcane way recession-proof. What a daft notion, you just have organisations talking-up what they do and its contribution to the community and the economy. For example Galway Arts Festival boast that for a two million investment, the arts brought twenty million to Galway. If such versions were true, you wouldn’t need an Arts Council. It’s all spin and arts people sadly are in the spin and magic area too.
The public are sceptical, and in the UK that public is taking theatres to task about the spin they use to promote events. This summer a Salford theatregoer sued the Lowry Theatre under the Trade Descriptions Act because a last Christmas show, a musical, did not actually feature live music. Judgement was for the theatregoer and this single case has shocked the entertainment industry who start to promote Christmas shows about now.
UK theatres argued they were hirers or receiving houses but they did the advertising and sold the tickets. Some say this case was put forward by the Musicians Union but it has caused a major review of music, backing or click tracks.
For example, youth and stage schools in Ireland who pay royalties to UK rights agents, have a choice of hiring sheet music or backing tracks. But there are questions of whether such tracks are for rehearsal not performance.
On another matter the English Arts Council spent £100 million since 2002 to increase audiences and sadly recent statistics showed that while there had been an increase in theatre events, it spread the audience base more thinly, leading to no increase in audience figures. Many of these venues heavily discounted tickets to actually reduce profitability while bringing up figures or bums-on-seats.
One of the dafter promotions on Facebook was a 50 percent reduction on ticket prices for Avenue Q, provided a theatregoer would go in person to the box-office and repeat the special code phrase : “I’m not wearing underwear today!” Couldn’t see that working at Garter Lane or Theatre Royal and it didn’t work in the West End either, but it got extra publicity.
Now, if you want a genuine Waterford value-for-money-bargain, Red Kettle are offering seats in their park-side tent for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, knickers or not on. There won’t even be an extra charge for fur coats.