Concert hall shuts balcony for lack of customers

Concert hall shuts balcony for lack of customers


norman lebrecht

November 07, 2022

Abigail Pogson, CEO of the Sage Gateshead, has written to ticket holders (below) explaining why they are being moved downstairs in the hall. Apparently, they cannot fill the upper balcony seats – or the lower ones, either, but packing the hall will make it look fuller.

Ms Pogson is a member of Arts Council England which has just delivered a programme of sweeping cuts to other organisations.

Here’s the letter.


  • Carl says:

    Ironically, the very people who might attend would probably appreciate the social distancing possible by keeping the balconies open.

    Don’t forget, we’re still in a pandemic and being packed into a concert hall maskless is inadvisable, especially for an older generation.

    • BigSir says:

      Ok, but I just attended an event that required masks and it was the older generation NOT wearing masks. Maybe they are not willing to live in fear? Or they realize we are not in a pandemic and havn’t been for quite some time.

    • Tancredi says:

      An older generation? Older than you, presumably. What a cheek. Many mature people at concerts and so on I’ve been to in recent months.

      • BigSir says:

        I’m 70, so I’m one of them. Reread what I wrote and learn that the “most vulnerable” are not the cowards that are creating the culture crisis.

    • Alan says:

      We are not in a pandemic. That time has passed. Time to get on with it. Or are people going to worry about Covid, a disease which kills a very specific type of person, now that we have vaccines and treatments, forever?

      • Carl says:

        We can always count on the Covid denialists to find their way to Slipped Disc. The WHO and CDC still classify Covid-19 as a pandemic. Hard not to, with nearly 3,000 people dying of the disease every week in the U.S. alone (and thousands more worldwide).

        On the older folks not wearing masks, maybe they’ve thrown in the towel, ready for the great concert hall in the sky.

        • BigSir says:

          If you want to hide inside until there are no known cases of the flu, thats your prerogative. Since those two “leading” health organizations, WHO/CDC have never given clear guidelines for when the pandemic is over, I guess you can justify being just plain chickenshit.

  • PS says:

    We went from making masks optional to packing people in like sardines again very quickly.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Nothing new there, every theatre does it. Last thing you want is performers on stage looking at great big gaps.

    • SVM says:

      Try being a performer who is *not* famous… for many of us, “looking at great big gaps” in the audience comes with the territory (especially when doing gigs for promoters who are allergic to the idea of hiring a small venue).

  • christopher storey says:

    Another suicide note : many people do not like the stalls, as they used to be called , and I imagine the demands for money back will not be inconsiderable

  • operacentric says:

    Pretty common in all halls and theatres when sales aren’t good. Most people like it because they are ‘upgraded’ to a seat that costs more than they paid for. The venue can then dim or turn out lighting in the top tiers and the performers see what looks like a full (or fuller) house.

    • drummerman says:


    • Angela says:

      In addition, with a long-term closure, they can probably save on front-of-house and other staffing costs associated with that level: ushers, bar-tenders if there’s a dedicated bar on that level, cleaning, etc.

    • SVM says:

      It is true that many halls will make a strategic decision not sell seats in the balcony if they do not anticipate high sales for a given event. But deciding to close it retrospectively after having sold tickets there is more questionable — yes, I recall being offered ‘upgrades’ of this kind at the Barbican Hall, but the ‘upgrades’ were optional, and done on the day of the event (you turn up at the balcony door, and the usher has a massive pile of downstairs tickets to distribute!).

      Of course, moving people downstairs from the balcony is not necessarily an ‘upgrade’, depending on the acoustics and (for those who care about such things) the sightlines. For example, at the Wigmore Hall, the balcony is the 2nd most expensive category of seating (out of a total of 5 categories).

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    I was sorry to find that the Grand Tier at Symphony Hall in Birmingham was not available to subscribers to CBSO concerts this season. The seats up there give a much better experience than sitting too close to the platform in the stalls. Some of us can’t afford the prices in the top bands. 🙁

    • Robin Smith says:

      Absolutely correct. For late romantic music the Grand Tier is near ideal I have found in the past.
      A real shame the Sage is struggling – wonderful concert hall. If I lived up there (the North East) you’d struggle to keep me out. A better programme of performances than Birmingham now offers.

  • Nik says:

    Is this to do with covid though?
    We went to see the RNS when visiting Newcastle in November 2021 and the hall was packed on both levels.

  • SIngeril says:

    President Biden said the pandemic was over. And, of course, he “never misspeaks”. No danger here at all. (Sarcasm intended). Many people do like the sound higher in the theater/concert hall. Shame that they won’t get their preferred experience.

  • IC225 says:

    Pretty standard practice.

  • Muso says:

    This is happening quite frequently in concert halls and theatres up and down the country. Audiences for virtually everything, at least in city venues, are 20-30% down since the pandemic.

  • Karden says:

    Better to live in fear than attend concerts without wearing a face mask. Or attend when other people aren’t wearing one.

    Trust the science.

  • Leon Bosch says:

    Sack the marketing team? The musicians deliver their part of the bargain, after all.

  • Leporello says:

    I prefer to sit in the balcony …. But I
    remember we once had a parish priest
    who would force the people sitting in
    the back of the church to move to the
    front and the result was that people just stopped coming to mass ! I personally
    think they should bring back ” festival
    seating ” and just let people sit in any
    seats the want ….first come first served !