I saw the ad in the Dominion Post the other day – I guess the paper’s going to print any of the ads it is offered but it seemed in direct competition with the newspaper; certainly it is diametrically opposed to the newspaper’s idea of arts reporting.
Free tickets are a tool of the trade when reviewing, not a perk, a requirement. You can’t write about the show unless you see it – to see it you need a ticket. We shouldn’t feel eternally grateful for entry to do a job. Do you hope your computer will be there when you go to work? Are you eternally grateful a desk is provided – fingers-crossed each morning: “Gee, I hope my desk is there, I kinda need it!
But then, this is not a job, it’s a ruse. It’s a way of Positively Wellington Venues (an umbrella group for all of the main theatre/gig venues in the city) attempting to control the coverage of its shows.
By all means click on that link and have a go – be in to win – they’re looking for “six enthusiastic writers” to “voice their opinions on all kinds of LIVE shows”. But if you write a negative review do you think you’re getting a second (or third) chance replete with free tickets. Guess again.
They don’t tell you that they want positive reviews only. But that’s what they want. They want to run audience reviews on their website to suggest a good time was had by all. And, really, nothing is stopping them. But it’s a bit sad, don’t you think?
Take the reviews on the chin – celebrate the good ones, commiserate if you must, over the bad ones but don’t try to control them. And don’t go labelling punters reporters. Yes, yes, it’s the blogosphere and anyone can have an opinion and all of that – but it’s a bit cheeky (and desperate) don’t you reckon? And the term is incorrect. They are not reporting. They are advertising.
Also I love the opening in the newspaper ad: “Are you our next live reporter?” This presumes they used to have a live reporter. They did not. They never did. And never should. Because they are not a news source – they are a venue and they are better to run reviews on their website by actual reporters and let their punters argue for and against them. That’s how it works. Or how it should work.
You see it’s not Positively Wellington Venues’ job to review its own shows. And even though they are not – as such – offering money to the lucky punter (it could be you!) this is, make no mistake about it, a form of payola.
Oh, I’m not outraged, payola has existed forever and a day and shall continue on – and everyone (that can) tries it (when they can). But this flat out stinks. It’s dubious to say the least.
I don’t want to read Pam from Raumati South raving about Richard Clayderman because she braved the storm and was so impressed that he played anyway. Even with such a small audience. I want someone who says it was a bit of a joke, really; the backing tapes were louder than the band and hardly anyone was there. Okay, yep, well spotted, I wrote that. So, what, I’m saying I want me? I want my opinions out there? Well, dur, of course I do. That’s why I’m writing this. I don’t only want my views and reviews. But it’d be nice if not everything was a competition, this is, after all an X-Factor for wannabe-writers; NZ’s Got Talented Free-PR Lackies.
And yes, Pam from Raumati South can write her own blog too. Anyone can. But she shouldn’t get the platform of having Positively Wellington Venues positively plugging their own shows with pay-off freebie tickets. And Positively Wellington Venues shouldn’t be offering it. They should just get on with the good job they do – putting on shows.
Someone from Positively Wellington Venues bugged me at a gig recently – told me I was unhelpful, that I needed to learn to work with them. I politely explained that I am a freelance writer and file reviews for the newspaper, I’m not there to work with anyone. And sometimes I post reviews here at Off The Tracks too, I said.
No, I was told again that I really needed to help Positively Wellington Venues in their job of bringing people to the city to see shows. My reviews don’t mean a thing I was told, no one reads them, no one cares. But could I please not be so mean and be a bit more helpful in helping them plug shows, offer shout-outs to international acts for travelling so far and generally give thanks to the people of Wellington for turning up and to the council, events staff and good folk at Positively Wellington Venues for sharing in the glory of a concert by One Direction, Ben Harper, Richard Clayderman, Wilco or Cassandra Wilson. The suggestion was that we should always be happy to see such folk. Any folk. Every folk. All folk – and indeed all forms of music. I suggested that sometimes I was not happy to see them – always happy to have a listen; just not always happy after I have – and that was my job: to write what I thought about each show.
I was told again that I really wasn’t helpful. I was always negative you see.
I sent the Positively Wellington Venues staffer my reviews of Chucho Valdes, Cassandra Wilson and Reuben Bradley presents MANTIS: A Tribute to Drew Menzies. Three reviews in three days. All pretty positive I thought. All really great shows.
I received a reply.
“Thanks for sending these through”.
Whatever my pay is – for working with them – I’m going to guess, somewhat reliably, that it was immediately doubled.
Well, soon there’ll be six new “reporters” saying thanks in their reviews, never mind the context to support the view, or that this might be the one show seen by that person since the last time a particular has-been visited last century. No, none of that’s going to matter – not when Positively Wellington Venues starts desperately plugging its own reviews its bought and paid for with free tickets.