According to the BBC, the Royal Albert Hall sold 85,921 tickets in the first 12 hours of Proms booking yesterday, a 7% increase over last year's total of 80,000. 71,808 (83%) were sold online. They say 22,560 (26%) went in the first hour alone (though I find this hard to swallow given how long I spent queuing online). 39,348 individual orders for tickets were processed, compared with 36,406 in 2010 (an 8% increase), meaning the average customer bought 2.18 tickets (2.19 last year). If the BBC want to match last year's total ticket sales of 313,000, they've another 227,000 to go.
They claim - without any further analysis - that this shows "more people than ever are being enticed by the broad range of concerts on offer at the Proms". Or could it just be that more people have got the hang of the online booking system, and fewer gave up in frustration after a lengthy wait?
Booking opened at 9am. I joined the online queue at 10.15 and didn't get to the front until 1pm - nearly 3 hours later. By this time, many of the concerts I was interested in were - of course - sold out. So I gave up and settled for a half-season promming ticket instead - plus the 2% 'booking fee', which came like a slap in the face after a frustrating morning.
Is this really the best way to sell Proms tickets? Or just the most profitable?
The Proms may have started as 'People's Concerts', but these days the Proms is a BBC show made in front of a live audience. The BBC is not a concert promoter, it's a broadcaster, and everything about the Proms, from odd start times to intrusive cameras, reflects that fact. And yes, it's expensive for the BBC to produce Proms concerts. But the alternative - buying in outside programming - is even more expensive, so it makes good business sense for the BBC to continue in its current Proms role.
By subsidising the BBC's programming costs with their ticket purchases, the live Proms audience is doing the BBC a massive favour, financially. When the BBC broadcast other promoters' concerts, they get no cut of ticket sales and in fact pay large sums for the right to air the programmes. Why, then, are Proms live audiences nobbled twice - once with the most expensive classical music tickets in London, and again with a booking fee charged for precisely zero service?