Relatively straightforward choices

When you’re paying for your concert experiences the decision-making process is surprisingly easy. At least it seems that way to me this week.

Full transparency (and don’t think badly of me): it’s only recently I’ve started paying for my concert tickets. Previously the concerts I’ve attended have been on a quid pro quo basis. When you make a big announcement like I did about ‘stepping back’, then concert-going has a whole different take. Making active choices yields so many more insights.

Take this week. I’ve heard A LOT about the Drury Lane production of Messiah. Danielle de Niese told Neil Fisher she didn’t quite know what to expect from the one night show (she’s one of the soloists). There are dancers and lights, and it seems tickets remaining priced at £56 and £66.

I’m pondering whether I’ll fork out for a £56 ticket when I hear the production promo’d again on InTune tonight in the car back from the garden centre with The Partner of 25 Years, Simon (henceforth referred to as PO25). He’s banging on about how boring he finds the Hallelujah Chorus. I resist. This is a measure of how my view on Handel has changed in recent years. Samir Savant should take the credit here.

The idea of a concert experience over the next week or so is appealing though. An orchestra. Maybe Southbank. I should investigate when I get home I think to myself.

A couple of hours later I discover I can buy a £48 balcony seat to see Sibelius Violin and Mahler 6. That’s a tenner less, in my favourite venue, with far more space AND a ring side seat. As I click ‘purchase’ anticipation rises.

In doing so I realise I’m confirming what endless marketers have been saying for months: people are buying far closer to the wire. In my case I want epic and proximity. And I’m quite happy to drop £50, just not on something like Handel in a theatre with colourful lights and (I bet you) a smoke machine. Still, Drury Lane has sold out (basically), so good on them.

Eurovision: the audience’s critical role

The audience creates an experience that other potential audience members will willingly pay to be part of

Eurovision this year is different: a much smaller audience, distant from the stage. During the two semi-finals broadcast on TV earlier this week, we’ve seen a 3500 strong audience in various shots, significantly smaller and quieter than in previous contests.

On the wide expansive stage below performers (only the lead vocals need to be sung live this year) sing to an arena populated by other artists and their production teams. In the cavernous space, the atmosphere is lost in comparison to the EBU-approved ticketed mosh-pit visuals that were part and parcel of previous Eurovisions. This not only places greater demands on the performer but means viewers at home see an entirely different kind of atmosphere, contrived perhaps even sterile.

A safe distance between audience and stage

The story the audience creates at a live experience is potent, both for those present and those of us watching at home. Eurovision is an aspirational event, something that its eager audience of fans and commentators help amplify the profile of. Eurovision’s renaissance since 2000 is in no small way down to capitalising on the enthusiasms of its most passionate audience members. That audience has over the years first validated, celebrated and advocated the Eurovision brand. The Eurovision audience is an integral part to the experience, and over the years their proximity to performers especailly important too.

Malta’s Destiny in rehearsals

The irony is that this year’s Eurovision is sort of what the Contest used to be when I first watched it as a kid. The audience was small and distant from the stage. But there was still an aspirational air about proceedings when I watched. It triggered the imagination. This was an event that was going on someplace else. What happened after the TV credits rolled was as potent as the event itself.

Staging Eurovision is an achievement on the part of the EBU and the Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS, not least because the revenue derived from it is surely depleted given the restricted lifestyle most people are experiencing at the present time. It also helps science and, like the Brits in the UK, it helps a country’s government and a global record industry who astutely recognise that a return to live events is vital for their revenue stream and their artists’ earnings.

Gjon’s Tears rehearsing Tout l’Univers – Switzerland song appears in the Eurovision final

But the distance imposed on the audience at Eurovision reminds me of what that audience brings to the live experience for those in the arena and those of us at home. The energy the audience brings by being both present and close to the performer is critical. An audience creates ocassion. An audience creates atmosphere.

My visits to Bath Abbey, the Barbican, and Wigmore Hall this week have contributed to this thought process, and remind me of another story not currently being made the most of at the moment: the contribution the other people present make.

This is a valuable currency not being reflected anywhere near enough. Entertainment regards and reflects the audience as a passive observer instead of an active contributor to an experience.

The audience – your customers – create the experience that other potential audience members will willingly pay to be part of. I know because I have in the past.