Does Bono Like Ballet?

Earlier this year U2 scheduled a concert on the same day as we had scheduled a ballet company. I had two concerns about this 1- The publicity and stories in the media were going to totally eclipse anything I managed to get written/broadcast about my performance. 2- I really wanted to go to the U2 concert and failing that, wanted it to sell out so they would add a show.

Last week brought an announcement that the U2 show had to be postpone bringing welcome relief to both my concerns. (Except now I have to join the competition for tickets!)

Back when the two shows were postioned on the same night, every time I mentioned the fact, people told me not to worry because U2 and ballet don’t share audiences.


U2 started getting airplay in the US around 1983. I figure conservatively that the ages of people who became interested in them ranged from 13 to 30. Today that 13 year old is 36 and the 30 year old is 56. True, a lot of those 56 year old probably retired from the whole concert scene and weren’t planning on going to see U2. A lot of them probably weren’t planning to come to the ballet that night either.

I can’t believe that there aren’t U2 fans who don’t go to the ballet though. I don’t know if Bono is one of those guys who won’t go to the ballet if his wife doesn’t push him or not. But I think I am on pretty firm ground claiming that he would appreciate the mastery and artistry he saw on stage.

I am seriously considering adopting this approach as a way to promote the performance. At this point, I don’t expect much more than our usual dance crowd to turn out.

I was thinking of something along the lines of:

“U2 is Postponed so come to the ballet!
What? U2 fans don’t go to ballet? How do you know?

The founders are former NY City Ballet dancers and their aim is to make ballet about the fun instead of the perfection of technique. If there is one thing U2 fans know, it is artistry and that is what this company offers.”

I wrote this in my head on the drive home so it is still rough, but you get the thrust. This is the stated aim of the ballet company so I am not misrepresenting difficult material as accessible to sell tickets. I will have to ponder it some more, but I don’t think this approach will alienate my usual audience, (such as it is), either.

In addition, I am pondering taking some inspiration from Drew McManus’ “Take A Friend To the Orchestra,” and offering a special rate if people mention they are taking a friend to the ballet–“So You Can Talk About What You Saw Afterward.”

The whole idea of ticket pricing and discounting is always a hot topic rife for debate. I am in a particularly tough spot since Neill Archer Roan just responded to a comment I made on his blog that he applauded my decision to avoid rush discounting. Now here I am saying I might do that. (Though the discount will be available prior, I predict most people will wait until performance night to invoke it.)

However, last week I also invoked Neill’s entry, “How Audiences Use Information to Reduce Risk.”

I think proposing you bring a friend along so you can talk about the experience can cause a mental shift from “who the heck do I know would want to go with me?” to “hey, X is a smart person, maybe (s)he would be interested in trying something new.” Even though the situation hasn’t changed, suggesting that you will be inviting a friend to share a new experience rather than trying to convince someone to come along so you don’t enter an alien experience alone is less intimidating.

It’s also easier to convince said other person that you are inviting them along to enjoyable experience if you aren’t giving off a vibe that you desperately feel the need to have a familiar presence to anchor you in an alien environment.

Anyway. Some things to still ponder before I start writing press releases and ad copy. If nothing else, the idea is a good jumping off point since it is more interesting than my typical campaigns. Not much to lose. And while the potential gain might not ultimately be all that much either, if I do get a positive response, maybe I learn how to reach the community a little better next time.

I’ll let you know what happens.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “Does Bono Like Ballet?”

  1. Great idea!
    I teach a class at Drury University in Springfield MO (I am also MD of the Springfield Symphony) called Audience Connections, and last week we talked about Bono and his extraordinary connection to audiences (using excerpts of the book of interviews published last year) so how timely this story was! My class came up with a suggestion for you: Advertise that if anyone brings and shows a ticket for the postponed U2 performance, they get in for a serious discount. Then you will know at least partially if your theory is right! By the way my class is required to look up the same 4 blogs each week, and yours is one of them! Let me know if you try it
    Ron Spigelman


Leave a Comment