Monday, March 2, 2015

TDF Overreach Continues

We saw it last week, and I guess it's a permanent feature on the landscape now, kind of like a strip mined mountainside. TDF places their latest advertorial, with Playbill.com as the vector. They continue to advertise their discounts for shows, without regard to the fact that each show listed would surely prefer to sell their tickets at full price, or at a higher discount than TKTS, that they authorized through their own marketing plans. 

Broadway theater ticket purchasers may remember some years back, when waiting on line at TKTS, there used to be flyers offered for discounts to shows that may have been on the board at TKTS that day. On a hot summer day, it wasn't a hard decision to leave the long and winding TKTS line and take advantage of these offers by going to the theater, where, who knows, maybe the box office might even upsell the ticket buyer to better locations for a few extra dollars. Kind of a win-win all around. 

TDF/TKTS didn't much like that, losing out on commission sales and fees. So, this practice was abolished by the powers that be, insulating and protecting TKTS and their commissions and fees. Forget that this may have put more money into the individual shows, that is really not TKTS mission, is it? 

At the end of the day, TDF/TKTS does not give a fig about the health of Broadway shows, only that they get to sell the tickets to those shows, for less than the shows can sell themselves. That may be all well and good, if you are earning a bigtime administrative salary in a corner office at TDF, but for the shows themselves, the producers, investors, and those whose jobs that depend on the shows meeting their expenses each week, not so good. 

As I've said before, the advertising of TKTS discounts is bad for Broadway shows. It will only tamp down the revenue of each show so advertised, and it diverts ticket buyers away from the shows not advertised by TKTS. It's a lose-lose situation all around. 







Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just The FAQs, Please



Image result for 10 questions



I've been at this blog for a few years now, and I figured it was long past time to have a post like this, trying to answer a few questions, clear up a few ambiguities. Here are ten questions that nobody has sought to ask, with the answers that no one was clamoring for. If I've missed anything pertinent, feel free to post questions in the comment section.

Q.  What the heck is a "Psychic Infection"? What does it mean? Do you think you're a psychic?     Are you ill?

A.   As seen on the lower part of the front page of my blog " Psychic Infection":
 The spread of psychic effects or influences on others on a small scale, as in folie a deux, or on a large scale, as in the dance and witch manias of the Middle Ages or the spread of hysteria or panic in a crowd.*
* Psychic Infection definition taken from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com
I am not psychic, but occasionally I'll catch a cold.

Q. What's the point? Are you just one of those America hating Libertards?

A.  I guess you could call me that, if you were of a particular Conservative stripe. I don't hate America, but I hate when America falls embarrassingly short of it's own professed ideals. I suppose I'm a progressive liberal, and proud of it.

Q.  Why should I read your drivel? Do you think you have anything worthwhile to say?

A.  No reason at all to read this blog. It's just my own hobby, an outlet for myself. If I think I have something worth saying, I'll blog it. My readership is mostly bots and web crawlers, so if it's not your cup of tea, don't read it.

Q.  So you don't want to hear any opposing views? It's your way or the highway?

A.  Actually, I would encourage any and all comments on this blog. I don't care whether or not you agree with me, I do not edit other view points. I'll only remove vulgar language and spam.

Q.  What's with all the goofball videos?

A.  Just a bit of whimsy. Stuff I like or am amused by that I like to highlight every now and again. Someone my age has an annoying propensity for nostalgia, and it often comes out here.

Q.  Are you some kind of journalist?

A.  No, I am that twenty-first century version of a pamphleteer, now called a blogger. I'm not a journalist, but I yearn for the days of ethical and responsible journalism. I respect journalism, but I'm strictly op-ed. This blog contains my opinions, beliefs and interests.

Q. What's your plan for Psychic Infection? Why no ads?

A. There used to be a couple of ads on here, but I don't think they really fit in, so, for now, no ads. I don't have any specific plans for Psychic Infection, other that to just keep on keepin' on. We'll see where it all goes.

Q. Why a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge?

A.  I took that picture about thirty years ago (you can make out the World Trade Center in the background), and I've always liked it. I grew up in NYC, and this blog does seem to have a New York sensibility. The picture and font confer a noir-ish feel that appeals to me.

Q. Yes, but why? Why a blog that is often such a downer? What do you think you are doing?

A.  "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,"- Thoreau
Blogging, for me, is a great way to release the desperation, and break the quietude. The result may be a downer, but there is no up without down.

Q. Whatever.

A.  Indeed.

TDF Making Mischief on Broadway World

Those TDF tentacles that were seen wrpped around Playbill.com are also weaving their way into Broadway World, another theater website known prmarily for their popular chatboard.

Here's a screenshot from the other day:


Once again, TDF, and Broadway World (by proxy) commit the sin of competing with Broadway shows on price. TDF only makes commissions on tickets they sell (at up to a 50% discount!). They are not concerned with the long term health of Broadway shows, because they are trying to draw customers away from higher discounts, or even full price sales by advertising their exclusive discounts. In the above screenshot, the four "lucky" shows are being touted for sale at 50% off.  TDF is actively seeking to draw customers to their TKTS discount booths at the expense of these shows' individual marketing plans, which, by the way, costs these shows a great deal of money to implement. 

Not only that, but by selecting specific shows to highlight, they are clubbing the other shows that make use of the TKTS discounts. TKTS and/or Broadway World have decided these four shows deserve special attention, again, at the expense of other competing shows. 

With Broadway attendance more or less stagnating, maybe up a bit one year, down somewhat the next, this must be viewed as TDF's plan for growth in a non growth industry. The only way for TDF to increase revenue is to grab a larger slice of a stagnant pie, and that's not good for Broadway shows or their producers. 

The only fair way for TDF to operate, as what must have been the original intent of the organization, is to not compete on price with the shows that utilize TKTS. TDF/TKTS must return to their previous method of selling shows with no editorial bias or preference. Every show that offers tickets at the TKTS booths should be on a fair and equal footing with other shows offered. Advertising their TKTS discounts should be verboten.

If TDF has identified a need to increase it's revenue, rather that continuing this sort of destructive policy, it should commission a top to bottom audit of it's entire operation. Like most non-profits, there will likely be a profound amount of simple cost cutting that could easily be implemented to fiscally shore them up.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Big Ol' Jet Airliner

                                   

It was just over six years ago when we all marvelled at "The Miracle on the Hudson", when Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his crew managed to safely land their Airbus on the Hudson River, after losing power following collisions with birds that stalled the jet's engines. Sullenberger and his crew were able to accomplish this, amazingly, without serious injuries or any loss of life to the passengers. 

The crew were justifiably hailed as heroes as they calmly worked the situation they were thrust into. It was a story that the world needed so badly then, with the world's financial system at the brink of collapse and as major economies the world over slid helplessly into what would be called The Great Recession. 

The world needed heroes then, and the crew of  USA Airways Flight 1549 reluctantly obliged. 

As is always the case, there was to be a bit of a backlash. "Experts" came crawling out of the woodwork to claim that modern jets, like the Airbus that Sullenberger safely landed on the Hudson River, are such sophisticated machines, that the plane could have, and likely did much of it's own landing, and that Sullenberger was just "along for the ride". We all leaned nifty phrases like "fly by wire" which referred to the autopilot, and that since modern planes were often operated in this fashion, the hullabaloo about the heroics of Sully and his crew was just an exaggeration.

That backlash, an example of some of the worst aspects of human nature, was wrong then, and is wrong now. We are, hopefully, ending a period of time when airplanes are going missing without a trace over the ocean, and are careening over highways and into the drink with a horrific loss of life. Where are the benefits of modern technology in these aircraft? You know, "fly by wire" and all that jazz.  

                                   Image result for taiwan air crash

The actions of Captain Sullenberger and his crew that January day six years ago were the epitome of heroism, and professionalism. I wonder how and why modern aircraft can just go missing in this day and age. How can pilots of commercial airlines allow these horrible situations to occur over and over again? 

And how can airlines continue to grind down the pilots and flight attendants unions, reducing benefits and pensions? These are the people that stand between an uneventful flight and unimaginable horror and death. Now comes news that United Airlines plans to continue the industry trend in outsourcing aircraft maintenance. Nothing, nothing, good will come of this. 

The story of "The Miracle on the Hudson" will be told for many years, there can be no doubt. It represents the very best in human nature, the trained professionals coolly performing their life saving duties to perfection in the face of staggering odds. The gratitude of their passengers and a needy and wounded world highlight the heroism that Sullenberger and crew never sought, but humbly performed. 


BEEP-BEEP!!!




I got another email from that outfit, Your Broadway Genius, that group sales-cum-discounter-cum-smartphone app seller. The one that just happens to be owned by a Broadway producer. Here is an excerpt from the email:






This looks like any number of offers that stuffs our inboxes on a daily basis. But wait, upon further inspection, it appears that Your Broadway Genius, a self described "concierge of Broadway theater" is pushing a show that is being produced by the owner of Your Broadway Genius. Huh, fancy that.

In the "Why We Love It" section of this promotion it lists a few reasons why the email recipient should love it as well. It was produced by the same fellow as The Awesome 80's Prom, and it's great for Birthday Parties and other fun nights out. (BTW- Awesome 80's Prom producer, same guy that owns Your Broadway Genius).

Now, there's no law that is being broken here. I'm not saying that there is. What I am saying is that it's a smarmy and deceitful example of marketing. 

A genius is defined as, among other things, "a person that is exceptionally intelligent or creative." It doesn't make any mention of honesty or integrity. In this latest pitch from Your Broadway Genius, there is certainly none to be found either.









Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From Life On Mars

           

A few years ago there was a TV show called Life on Mars, about a NYC detective thrown back in time to 1973. It was a terrific look back at that gritty era. Vintage music, and realistic locations made it so very enjoyable. Naturally, it was cancelled in quick order.

In one episode, this song was featured, and it was a blast from the past, a half remembered song not heard by me in many a year. The nostalgia was palpable. Hats off to the producers of Life on Mars, it was a terrifically realized and compelling show. And thanks for bringing this song back.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brave or Foolish?

I received this in my email today. It's from Broadway Genius, a group sales concern owned by a Broadway producer. It promotes an app that tells you whether the New York Times critic liked or did not like a given show.  


Your Broadway Genius
Broadway's favorite website is now an app! DidHeLikeIt.com is your official guide and translator for all the Broadway theater reviews by Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic for the The New York Times.

We developed DidHeLikeIt.com for two reasons:

1. Everyone wants to know if Ben Brantley and The New York Times liked a Broadway show or not.

2. No one actually wants to read the reviews.

At DidHeLikeIt.com, you can find out if He liked it or not with a quick glance at our Ben-ometer. 
Ben Brantley Reviews At Your Finger Tips
And presto, you've just saved yourselves three hours of trying to decipher the latest linguistics lessons from Mr. Brantley! However, contrary to The New York Times' belief, the world doesn't revolve around him. Therefore, we also use the Ben-ometer for all of the other prominent publications in town so you can see whether or not other reviewers liked the show as well.

And now with the new Did He Like It™ App we’ll send you a push notification every time a new Broadway review comes out. Never be out of the Ben-loop again! 
Download now and let Broadway reviews come to you!
Get The App!

We Know Broadway Best

I guess there are some people that might feel like this app and website are worthy, that those interested in theater would not want to read the New York Times reviews. The dumbing down of the population is an undeniable trend. But what is dumber than trashing the New York Times theater critic when you are a producer of Broadway shows?  

Gee, I hope Ben doesn't carry a grudge. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Great Geometry Lesson

                                 


Pythagoras couldn't have said it any better.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

Every day it seems there is yet another automobile recall, for any number of issues, large and small. The incredible scope of the Takata airbag recall is the most infamous recall in recent years, but it is hardly the only one. The airbag recall affects mostly foreign manufacturers, but includes many domestic models as well.

What the hell happened? American car manufacturers in particular, beset with years of problems, saw their lives flash in front of their eyes at the onset of the financial meltdown in 2008. With bankruptcies looming, a government bailout was the only thing between life and death for much of the American auto industry.

The auto industry promised,,,, nay, swore, that with the lifeline given to them, things would change. The auto industry would take this second chance and come back stronger than ever, with better designed and better quality cars.

Well, that hasn't quite happened. Ratings on American cars, after a brief rise, have sunk back to their historical hit or miss levels. The industry has issued more recalls than cars produced in recent years, and that is just absurd. Auto manufacturers continue to hide known problems with their vehicles, and abjure their responsibilities only until they must capitulate at the point of multiple lawsuits.

It's time to require the very highest standards of American car manufacturers. All parts in American cars should be built in America. Any higher cost involved should be offset by an equalizing tax on imports, to level the playing field. The tax could be avoided if the foreign brands also used American made parts. That's not such a stretch, many popular foreign brands are already built in the U.S..

Requiring quality controlled American sourced parts will avoid the fiasco of Takata Industries claiming that a recall is not "useful" in spite of U.S. government demands that the recalls must be enacted. It's time to reclaim control of the auto manufacturers for the safety of all riders of cars in this country. The corporate overseers concerned only with their own compensation packages and short term appeasement of Wall Street have proven over and over again to be not up to the task.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

More Bad Behavior From TDF?...and Playbill Too?

Those irrepressible scamps at TDF are at it again!

Last year, @TKTS, the Twitter feed for TDF-owned TKTS discount ticket centers (purveyors of Broadway, Off Broadway and other theater tickets) was seen tweeting specific ads for certain shows, highlighting the discounts offered on each show, to the detriment of the financial health of those shows ( http://psychicinfection.blogspot.com/2014/07/tdf-tedium.html ).

That misguided and destructive practice seems to have abated, and the @TKTS feed is more appropriately concerning itself with attempting to "engage" with it's followers over theater news. Score one for the shows that must utilize TKTS to sell their tickets. Unasked for competition and promoting of discounts will never help the marketing plans for Broadway shows.

One might have hoped, this "mistake" would not be revisited upon Broadway, the producers of these shows, and the ticket buyers as well. That hope has turned out to be yet another mistake, because there is new malfeasance afoot.

I've noticed recently on Playbill.com, the online version of the venerable theater icon Playbill, the throwaway/collectable programs distributed at Broadway theaters, a similar situation to the problem from last year with the @TKTS feed. The following is just the latest example:


Due to problems with copying this screen shot, the author of the article, a fine and upcoming reporter named Playbill Staff, did not carry over for us to view here.

The problem with this story, of course, is that it is clearly an advertorial. Wikipedia defines "advertorial" as:

  1. An advertorial is an advertisement in the form of editorial content. The term "advertorial" is a blend of the words "advertisement" and "editorial." Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946.

This uncredited article (Sorry, Mr. Staff) extolls the virtues of theater tickets purchased from the TKTS discount booths. The story links to the TKTS website, and offers a select list of offerings with the discounts prominently displayed. By choosing to list only a few of all the offerings available, this story confers a specific editorial recommendation pointing readers to these anointed shows. 

Since this story is so clearly an ad for the TKTS booths and the specific discounts they, and only they, may offer, one may wonder how much did TDF pay for this article and it's placement on Playbill.com's website? And, why isn't it, at the very least, clearly labeled as an advertorial? Playbill.com owes that, at the least, to their readers. Omitting this information is an egregious breach of journalistic ethics and it risks their credibility and integrity as a source of theater news and information. 

There is another aspect to this sordid mess. Playbill.com offers a "discount club" to it's readers, as a free service.  (see the right side of the above screen shot.) Just for signing up, members may avail themselves of discount ticket offers from Broadway and Off Broadway shows. Producers of shows pay Playbill for the privilege of inclusion. How can Playbill.com, in good conscience, run this club, then get in bed with TDF to offer discounts that typically beat the Playbill Club discounts? Sure, the fees for the advertorial must be a nice bonus, but running this sort of bushwa will only hurt you in the long run. 

I guess this is the sort of end run we might expect from TDF/TKTS. If they don't want to explicitly tweet their offers and discounts, better to pay Playbill.com to do it for them. It's disappointing to see Playbill.com wallow in the mud now as well. They have admirably refrained from hosting the kind of knuckleheaded chat boards seen on other theater websites, but now it seems that their slide to insignificance has begun.