Back in 2004, to great local excitement, the Sage concert hall opened in Gateshead on the south bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle quayside. It was supposed to be a concert hall for the people and for a while it was. Unfortunately within a few years it succumbed to the inevitable and became, like most cultural institutions in England, a night out for quite well off middle class people pretending they like classical music. This is not just another example of the unfairness of the capitalist system, where some people get to have an enjoyable life before they die whilst others can only watch the lucky ones enjoying themselves because they can not afford to do so, it is a real obscenity. This is due to the fact that in the U.K. much artistic endeavour is paid for out of the public purse and the public purse contains the tax payments of everybody not just the middle classes and the rich. Furthermore, having been financed by everybody, venues, such as the Sage, charge ticket prices that are well outside what is affordable to anybody who is on the minimum wage or thereabouts, and certainly those who are unemployed. This applies for most concerts and it doesn’t matter if it’s a full symphonic orchestra or a comedian with one microphone. For example, I see that Mister Right On, Randy Newman, will be at the Sage in a few week time and is charging people £39.50 ($59.72) to listen to him sing about how shit being poor is and the like. Steve Earle is charging £32.50 and The Waterboys, £34.50. Hypocrites!
The classical concerts at the Sage can also cost well over £30.00 even though they are usually performances by the singularly dull and uninspiring Northern Sinfonia. There is one way that you can get to attend a classical concert at a price that even I could just about afford if I sacrificed something else to do so. If you are prepared to sit in one of the back two rows of the upper balcony, taking with you your own binoculars and oxygen tanks, you only have to pay about £10.00 a ticket. However, this deal is often impossible to take advantage of because of the ticket allocation system that the Sage management employs that I have never come across anywhere else. They refuse to sell tickets for the balcony until all the tickets for the stalls have been sold, and they refuse to sell tickets for the upper balcony until all the tickets for the balcony have been sold. This means that all the expensive seats have to be filled before the few cheap seats become available. This crazy system also results in full price tickets not being sold and concerts being undersubscribed as people will not pay full price for seats at the back of the stalls if full price seats at the front of the balcony are being held back by the management. I expect the Sage bigwigs have lots of worthy sounding excuses for their imposition of this totally unfair and overly controlling system but my guess is that the real and number one reason for them doing so is that they do not want to pay for staff (most of whom are employed casually on a when needed basis) to man the upper floors if they can shove all the patrons into just the one floor. It is lunacy.
To complete this catalogue of deceit and conceit all the tickets sold for events at the Sage are subject to a compulsory booking fee, even if you go to the Sage booking office to purchase your seats.
Who the heck do they think they are kidding?!!
If all the seats are subject to this extra cost however they are purchased then it is not a booking fee, it is the price of the ticket.
They must think we are stupid, which, of course, most of the Geordie Bourgeoisie, who are willing to pay silly prices for mundane underperformance time after time, actually are. I wish I could afford to be so gullible.