In my long campaign against booking fees in the arts, I have heard quite a number of horror stories from readers. But an email from Susan James this week probably takes the biscuit.
She tells me that she wanted to see one of her favourite bands, Snow Patrol, at Hyde Park in London in July. Tickets were £66 with a £6 booking fee. But that was just the start. She then found that there was a £3.50 delivery charge – essentially an email link which permits her to print off her own ticket from her computer. She was then told that a "processing fee" per order would also be applied. Oh, and by the way, because she was a BT customer she had a "preferential early booking code".
All pretty bad, I would agree. But it was what Ms James told me next that was particularly interesting. She said: "At this point, I decided that I don't want to see any band that subscribes to this dishonest and sneaky way of adding on to already expensive tickets ...They can stuff their gig. I will find something else to do and save myself a packet."
I find that interesting, because here is a music fan railing not just against the rip-off merchants who add all these absurdly named extra charges, but against the band she admits she "adores" for going along with the fees. And this, I think, is the inevitable stage we have reached with booking fees.Fans are at last turning on the artists for conniving with the charges, and for alienating gig-goers, theatregoers and everyone who has to pay this array of booking fees. So it's about time that bands, actors and directors stood up to be counted, said they know full well about booking fees, that they know their fans are being ripped off and that these fees must be abolished, with one simple admission price stated on the ticket.
Snow Patrol could start this. I'd also like to hear from Madonna and Lady Gaga, whose UK concerts this summer will have booking fees of about 10 per cent of the (already mind-bogglingly high) ticket price. And it's about time some West End theatre stars spoke out as well.
Better still, when will we see a band or actor say they simply will not appear if their fans are being ripped off by booking fees? It's time for artists to stop hiding and pretending they don't know what is going on.
The perils of an insincere autocue
What exactly is the point of inviting a big star to present an award and then write their speech for them? That seems to be commonplace at awards ceremonies now, but it's a great shame, and rather boring. At the South Bank Sky Arts Awards, Sir Tom Jones stumbled three times as he read his autocue tribute to award-winner Kate Bush. No wonder he stumbled. The platitudes he had to read out about her latest album were clearly not dreamed up by him. What a waste. He has been around a long time and could have entertained us all with anecdotes about Kate and about the music industry. Awards organisers should have a little more faith in the stars they invite.
Diana, the Princess of Wails
There is no greater insight into a man or woman than their record collection. So, when the teenage collection of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, came up for auction this week. I was ready to scoff. But scoff not. Not only was there an impressive array of classical recordings, Elgar and Liszt as well as Beethoven, Sibelius and Saint-Saëns, there was a smattering of Paul Simon and The Eagles, too.
But what particularly caught my eye was the inclusion of Bob Dylan's Hard Rain in her collection. This was a live album from Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the Seventies. The album is not that well known, but in my view it is one of his very best, with some stunning interpretations of his own songs from that period. This was a teenager with taste.