The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Music and online promotion 

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Actually, I've come across plenty of terrible sites for opera houses. It almost seems a prerequisite for the job. Heaven forbid that someone without time to download every available plug-in, or someone visually-impaired, or using a text-only browser might want to visit the site. It's even worse if you want to find out what's on, or even buy a ticket. Like the recently discussed horrors of classical music 'promotional' press releases, we should also add the ghastliness of music's institutional websites.

Here are three other stinkers I've come across today. I could have listed dozens more.

Teatro San Carlo - Firstly, there's the cardinal sin of using images where text would be fine (top left corner). But the peach on this site is the explanatory text at the bottom (again, an image when actual text would be fine), which is needed to explain how to find the current listings - probably the most important bit of the site, promotionally speaking. If you need to explain it, change it.
Teatro Real - Yes, it's the usual over-fussy, pointless flash interface. But the gem is the right-hand column, which leaps around to make space for itself when you mouse over it. Why? Why why why? A couple of hundred pixels' extra height would have done just as well. Even better, a straightforward HTML page with the information on it that we can all read.
Teatro Massimi Bellini - Well, there's the pointless front page 'Click here to enter' nonsense (why do people still do that?). But the thing that really got me about this site is that it took about a dozen clicks and several minutes to find out how to navigate it. It's less than obvious. The even funnier part is that even when you find the navigation, it still appears in Italian, no matter what language you've selected. Cheers!

I have a pet theory that the web has gone through stylistic phases similar to musical and artistic periods - Usenet etc. was pre-Renaissance, CSS and web-standards are bringing us into a sort of neo-classicism - that sort of thing. If that's so, it's interesting that music's promotional websites should be so tied to an overblown, Romantic model of exclusive elitism. The actual experience of buying a ticket from sites such as these (and I emphasise again, these are a truly representative slice of the dozens of similar sites I've seen for opera houses and concert halls around the world) eerily echoes the sort of thing that rightly deters many people from visiting the venues in question - dress code (Windoze, IE, Flash, cookies enabled, etc etc), elitism (don't be disabled, on a slow connection, or short of time), and absurd self-importance, an emphasis of superficial achievement over experience and value.

(Oh, and in case you think I'm singling out classical music for these crimes, try Sting's website. Particularly like the Thai lovebead-style navigation that disappears after three seconds, like world-championship Kim's Game.)

(Second oh - I know this site's hardly perfect, but at least I've the good grace not to ask to be paid for its design ;-))

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