I really don’t have time to write this posting — as a certain magazine editor anxious about last-minute copy will undoubtedly confirm! — but I’m annoyed and unhappy now, so I’m going to make time…
What’s got my dander up on an otherwise pleasant Monday evening is that twice in the last 24 hours I’ve come across individuals on ‘social media’ who were publicly swapping illusions with each other about that great non-existent problem of our culture, ‘the off-puttingly high cost of attending classical music events’. And the fact is that I really, really wish people would just give over with all this junk about ‘live’ classical music — chamber music, orchestral concerts, operas, and all the rest — being stuff that ‘only the wealthy’ can afford to go to: it’s not true, and repeating the falsehood does absolutely nobody any good.
Of course, I am perfectly aware that modern Britain — a fundamentally vicious and socially backward polity whose endemic corruption and entrenched class system conspire to prevent intelligent reform and perpetuate a historical legacy of gross injustice and privilege — is a place in which 1 million people currently eat from ‘foodbanks’, one household is evicted every 13 minutes, and cancer sufferers claiming benefits find themselves declared ‘fit for work’ in the very week that they die. In such a society — sick, dysfunctional and doomed — many millions of people will inevitably live lives in which any urge to spend money exploring the classical repertoire in the nearest concert hall comes a very, very poor second to the need to avoid a court summons over their Council Tax.
But even with that unforgivably obscene set of elite-imposed political choices acknowledged, the fact remains that, in comparison with other, more obviously ‘popular’ spectacles and entertainments, many classical music events are not in purely relative terms ‘expensive’ at all.
Let’s imagine you live within easy reach of London; want to explore so-called ‘Premier League’ football; and are thinking of going to the Emirates Stadium one Saturday afternoon to see Arsenal play at home. If you’re not going to pay up-front to become a ‘club member’ (and why the hell should you, since you just want to see what it’s like?), these are the seat prices you’ll be faced with:
Now, as a comparison, let’s imagine that you live within easy reach of London; want to explore world-class orchestral performance; and are thinking of going to the South Bank one Friday evening to see the London Philharmonic playing at home. You’ll find that you don’t need even to consider paying up-front to be a ‘club member’ — and that the prices that apply on the day are these…
Do, please, take a moment to compare the two — because this is important…
I’m telling you straight: never in your life have you heard anyone say that the cost of attending Premier League matches is so high that ‘it rules out top-class professional football as a ‘live’ experience for all but the wealthy’ — and yet, in spite of that, the following two facts shine out as clear as day. First, there is no seat at our concert in the Royal Festival Hall that is as expensive as the dearest seat at the Emirates Stadium. (Pause, then read on…) Secondly, there is no seat at the Emirates Stadium that is as cheap as the cheapest seat at the Festival Hall. In fact, while there’s nowhere at all you can sit to watch Arsenal that’ll cost you less than £27, the South Bank concert actually offers four different grades of seating for less than that amount. What’s more, the concert even offers ‘concessionary’ prices to people who qualify by virtue of receiving Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, or by being full-time students, school or college pupils, or aged under 16. My shy suggestion at this point is that you try telling the Arsenal ticket office that you’re studying sociology at London Metropolitan University and would like a cut-price seat — and let us all know how that turns out…
Let’s cut to the chase here. I chose that LPO concert completely at random — it was, literally, the first one that came up when I googled (as I said, I don’t have time to spend on this) — and since I have no idea what are the precise musical tastes of the vast majority of this blog’s readers, I’ve no way of knowing whether the programme will widely be regarded as ‘appealing’. But here, pasted into this posting, are four YouTube videos corresponding to the entire content of that concert — a concert to which you or I could gain admission for, literally, £10. If you want to play all four of those videos when you have the time free, please do so — and then come back and tell me something. Don’t feel that you have to go reading about the pieces in advance or spend time worrying about what they are, or who they’re by, or what they’re supposed to ‘mean’ — just give them a spin as sheer musical thought that either you enjoy following or you don’t. Then, think about that amount of music, that amount of first-rate professional playing, that amount of ‘live’, real-time access to the staggering legacy of Western musical creativity that is your birthright and mine — and then tell me: is that worth £10 of the ‘discretionary income’ of someone currently lucky enough to have such a thing?
Come on: is that worth a tenner…?
Seriously: you tell me.
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