When it’s bad to have an informative website

I occasionally go to concerts in London, and like to look up what is on in the coming months. Until recently it was hard to get classical music listings for such major venues as the South Bank Centre and the Barbican. The South Bank Centre in particular only allowed you to see classical events a few at a time. It has now improved, though the site is still slow.

Why make it so hard? Is it just careless website design, or is there an ulterior reason for putting barriers between classical music lovers and the information they seek?

Major London concert venues send out listings to their subscriber mailing lists every month. Unlike local venues such as St. George’s or the Wiltshire Music Centre, you have to pay to subscribe. There are of course other benefits such as priority booking (though when I was a South Bank subscriber I still wasn’t sent the advance brochure for their ‘international concert series’!) but for many subscribers the brochures are the main reason to join.

If you make it too easy to get information over the web, you may lose income from selling subscriptions. On the other hand, if you make it easy to get information that way, you may sell tickets to non-subscribers who might not otherwise find out about your events. It looks like the latter view has now prevailed. I estimate that the profit from a couple of extra tickets sold would more than cover a lost subscription.

A similar issue applies to the BBC site, which does not put listings for Radio 3 in an easily printable form for the whole week, presumably so as not to dent Radio Times sales. (You can however get them here.)

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