Bargain Proms for less than three tenners

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The Independent Culture
The Proms, 102 years old this month, are taking on the comparatively young Three Tenors with an advertising campaign aimed at hitting where it hurts: the box office.

This week, just as Messrs Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo limber up before taking the Wembley Arena stage in front of an audience of 60,000 on Saturday, the Proms, which begin on 19 July, are launching their pounds 100,000 Saatchi and Saatchi campaign early.

Posters on London Underground sites, and advertisements on taxis and buses and in newspapers and magazines, challenge potential concert-goers: "Five operas for less than three tenners", adding that you can reserve seats to see Verdi's Don Carlos, Weill's The Silver Lake, Handel's Semele, Beethoven's Leonora and Berg's Lulu for pounds 4 each.

Gentlemanly behaviour dies hard, however. The advertisement does not mention that the least you must pay to see the Three Tenors is pounds 110 - all the pounds 35 tickets have already been sold - and the top price is pounds 350. The average price for the Proms' offering is a mere pounds 22.50.

When the Wembley extra- vaganza is no more than an expensive memory, the Proms' publicity will continue to emphasise the lack of stuffiness with copy lines such as: "Prom, not prim", "Every night at the Proms," and, "The Proms can make you cry, especially if you forget to book".

The campaign follows the marketing ploy of the Proms' launch in May when pounds 50,000 was spent on a giveaway CD bearing cheery encouragement from the likes of Joanna Lumley, Jeremy Paxman, John Peel and Trevor Brooking with their choices from this year's programme.

The Proms have never before used an advertising agency, and previously have spent more than this year's budget on simply reprinting the programme cover as posters.

Nicholas Kenyon, controller of Radio 3 and director of Proms for the first time this year, said: "The Proms have always been the place where we made it clear [that] music was accessible, but a lot of people are still a bit chary about taking that first taste.

"The success of the Three Tenors was a bit of a bolt from the blue, and what has happened in the record industry since does not altogether bear out the promise of long-term success, but you cannot ignore their current popularity. I don't necessarily need to increase the audience - the 85 per cent over three months for last year is pretty good, and we are significantly up on ticket sales already. But what I do want to do is make it clear that the Proms [are] not stuck in a cosy pattern of the past. What's happening is that people are no longer content with the mediocre."

When the Proms open later this month they have the prospect of an audience many times the 60,000 at Wembley - over 300,000 are expected at the Royal Albert Hall this season, and television and radio broadcasts will add about eight million.