BLOG: How access to live music has changed over the years
Posted on 17.03.2016
So here’s the thing!
Way back in the halcyon days of the 70’s, getting tickets for gigs was simple. What ticket agencies there were concentrated on West End theatre so most tickets for gigs went on sale direct from the venue. However, just like launches of the latest technology nowadays, people queued for the box office to open and those queues grew longer as the gigs got bigger and fear of missing out set in.
For a Who gig at the Lyceum I camped overnight on a freezing pavement in November. Even then, it still took around 3 hours before we were successful. This is only one example and my mum still thinks that the chill in my bones from such adventures was the cause of my incoming disability.
Fast forward to the present day and there is usually a choice of more comfortable ways to get tickets (in theory). However, it is still not a level playing field, particularly for Deaf and disabled fans.
The importance of information
The biggest issue is often knowing what to expect at the venue. Just getting to the gig can be a trial so it is imperative that we know that we will be in safe surroundings and comfortable.
Sadly, in a world full of technology, there is an assumption by companies that everyone can work a PC or their phone. So, if you or a friend/carer/relative can, the obvious place to look is on the website. Yet, on a number of occasions, relevant or access information is missing which puts us at a disadvantage from the off. As contact phone numbers are often only manned during variable box office hours, the website has to be the “place to go”.
Luckily, there has been a definite shift by a number of venues to treat us fairly. I would say that in the last two years in particular, since the second State Of Access report, more venues are adding good information to their website.
How you can help venues to improve
Now, I know that Attitude Is Everything has a fine team of “mystery shoppers” but you don’t need to wait for them to get involved. Question any missing or inaccurate information at the time with the venue. They may not even be aware that there is a problem! If you do get in touch with them, encourage them to join Attitude is Everything’s Access Starts Online campaign and make use of the campaign’s guidance on how to set up their information.
Improvements in customer service
I think the biggest cultural change I have experienced has been the attitude of the security and stewards at many venues. Sure, the odd bad apple is still around but more venues such as KOKO, Islington Assembly Hall and O2 Brixton to name a few are now almost performing a “meet and greet” service, so strong is their commitment to customer service when it comes to access. A few have even offered to get me a drink although no one has actually bought me a free beer – YET!
I am excited about access card schemes such as Credibility’s Access Card and hope that a standard approach for eligibility can flourish amongst venues to help simplify the booking process. This, together with a standard format for web pages outlining accessibility in clear, simple terms could really help to improve the process for agencies, venues, festivals, and disabled fans alike.
Finally, next time you are on a platform, chat to others there. You will be surprised at how many people only visit their local venue and have no idea that other venues offer any access or that organisations like Attitude Is Everything exist.
Remember, whereas sport can be difficult for many of us, music is there for everyone to enjoy. Sure we can face barriers, but I can see that there is an increasing number of people and organisations starting to understand that we should have the same customer experience.
Let’s seek them out and show them our appreciation.
See you at the next gig, right?