Porn, on average, doesn't stop people from wanting sex: it makes them want to have more of the live experience, and I don't see why this wouldn't be true of ballet on HD vs. live performances (where available).
Hmmm … Maybe NYCB should do a porno. Other than Bugaku, I mean. Coppelia seems particularly rich with promise.
Ahem, but back to one of Helene’s points: as the popular music industry demonstrates, the wide availability of inexpensive (or even free) recordings doesn’t necessarily cannibalize live events. From The Economist’s 10/07/10 issue:
The longest, loudest boom is in live music. Between 1999 and 2009 concert-ticket sales in America tripled in value, from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion.
It is not that more people are going to concerts. Rather, they are paying more to get in. In 1996 a ticket to one of America's top 100 concert tours cost $25.81, according to Pollstar, a research firm that tracks the market. If prices had increased in line with inflation, the average ticket would have cost $35.30 last year. In fact it cost $62.57. Well-known acts charge much more. The worldwide average ticket price to see Madonna last year was $114. For Simon & Garfunkel it was an eye-watering $169. Leading musicians have also, by roundabout means, seized a larger share of the mysterious “service” charges that are often tacked onto tickets.
Fans complain bitterly about the rising price of live music. Yet they keep paying for concerts.
Many musicians treat recordings not as a money-making end in themselves, but as a way to build an audience and pull it into a venue for a live event. As “The Sky is Rising” TechDirt’s 1/30/12 report on the entertainment industry pointed out “There’s actual scarcity (not artificial scarcity) for live music … There really isn’t a way to replicate rock stars like Bono, and many fans will do (or pay) almost anything to see them.” Big acts like U2 grab the headlines in this regard, but many indy bands make a decent living playing clubs and smaller venues. I live in near Irving Plaza and Webster Hall. They’re lined up to get in every night despite the fact that you can watch just about any act on YouTube or download their recordings for nothing if you really want to.
Live in cinema broadcasts of concert music and dance (yes, I’m deliberately avoiding the terms “classical” and “ballet”) might not function as the same kind of marketing tool that a music act's recordings can, however. For one thing, a broadcast of an opera, a ballet, or an orchestral concert is much more like a live event than a U2 single is like a U2 concert. (Sporting events are probably a better analogy here, although there is real money in broadcast rights.) For another, a major ballet, orchestra, or opera company with a “home” is unlikely to undertake the kind of extensive (and punishing) year-in-year-out tour schedule that a music act will. (It’s a different story for smaller dance and music ensembles. The Paul Taylor Dance Company never rests. Ditto the St. Lawrence String Quartet.) And popular music is deeply woven into the of the fabric of daily life in a way that the concert arts are not. (And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but that's another discussion.)
So I can see why a U.S. performing arts organization that is not the Metropolitan Opera might hesitate to race into the live in cinema broadcast market: the barriers to entry are high (you have to negotiate with rights holders, artists, producers, donors / grantors, and distributors for starters), it’s expensive to do well, the financial rewards are uncertain, and it won’t necessarily put butts in seats back home.
For most performing arts organizations, live in cinema broadcasts are unlikely to be any more self-supporting than actual performances are and few can offer the draw of twenty-five star-studded productions over eight months like the Met does. This is where PBS ought to be awakening from its Antiques Roadshow and Yanni Pledge Week Special slumber to provide a real service to the arts. Live from Lincoln Center needn’t—and shouldn’t—be a once-in-a-blue moon TV broadcast anymore. PBS might use its institutional resources to produce a nice smorgasbord of live performances beamed into theaters and high school auditoriums across the nation year-round. (The Lincoln Center theaters are never dark, not even in August.) They could follow up with re-broadcasts on their own network, with downloads on iTunes or Amazon, with streaming on Netflix and Amazon, on the menus of airline seat-back entertainment systems, whatever wherever.
A consortium of major performing arts centers might collaborate to do the same thing. Hello, hello – Michael Kaiser, are you there?