Dear Cirque de Soleil,
First, I need to tell you of my absolute admiration for the incredible accomplishments of Cirque de Soleil – artistic and creative, ingenious and inventive, athletic and graceful, masterful and musical – just a true joy to watch and experience the “grandest circus” of them all. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing 3 Cirque de Soleil shows in my life, the first was Saltimbanco in Seattle about 12 years ago, the second was Zumanity in Las Vegas 6 years ago, and last weekend I saw Totem in San Francisco – all of them beautifully executed with breathtaking moments and memories.
But last weekend at Totem, as the crowd began to gather towards the huge tents at AT&T park and we took our seats under the huge main tent of the “cirque” – I noticed that many people, including me, had their cell phones in their hands and were happily taking pictures of each other in the excitement and anticipation of the evening.
And as each cell phone flashed to take a picture, an usher would quickly rushed over to advise the audience member that “No pictures are allowed”.
A “No pictures allowed” policy – in an age where information can be published so freely on the internet (news, music, speech, photos, video…)?
I couldn’t help but wonder – how does this policy of “no pictures allowed” help Cirque de Soleil?
In the last days of 2011, with the possibilities of viral video and images through social networking and mobile (“hey, I’m at Cirque de Soleil – check out this incredible performance by these gymnasts on the trapeze!!!”) – the policy of “No Pictures Allowed” seems terribly antiquated and short-sighted.
Isn’t it time to re-visit this policy?
Think of the benefits of allowing the audience to take photos – MUCH more visibility, free publicity, sharing, liking, posting and tweeting all over thousands of people’s profiles across all kinds of social networks – the net gain would be SO much greater.
People take pictures at sporting and lots of other types of events all the time. Baseball games, basketball, football, political events, fundraisers, concerts, parades, outdoor festivals, fairs – even uprisings!
What’s the downside? Are you worried that people will take a picture with their cell phone and “sell” that picture somewhere? Believe me, most people aren’t even thinking of that type of thing anymore – digital information is far too easy to create and the value of the small amount of “bootlegging” or high-res quality images that are produced and sold from most people’s cell phones has to be negligible at best. Isn’t there much higher value in the visibility and free publicity you would gain?
I can understand concern about camera flashes during performances, but is there a technical way to mitigate some of that? And I know any time I’ve performed on stage, I can barely see the audience or flashes or even movement because the stage lights are so bright.
Seth Godin talked about this paradox of “No Pictures Allowed” in a post on his blog 5 years ago – “In an experience economy, where a bear workshop or furniture superstore is a form of tourism, photography is part of the deal.“
This is an experience age. The Cirque de Soleil is an experience – do you really only want us to talk about our experience with words – and words alone – and not pictures?
Think of the irony. Doesn’t “no pictures” fly against the whole concept of the visual and sensory experience that is Cirque?
Think of the free publicity!! Think of how many more people would hear about your shows!! Think of how many more people would attend and support you!!
I’m pleading with you to re-think this policy which is firmly embedded in the 20th century philosophy of scarcity and control – neither of which belong in this day and age where it’s now really easy for ANYONE to publish information in this highly digital world.
Remember who you are, and how we, the spectators, are part of your incredible story from the earliest days of Guy Laliberté’s idea to “bring the cirque” to the people of Quebec. For so many years, you have brought us joy. In your own words – “Cirque du Soleil tale is that of a remarkable bond between artists and spectators from around the world. And it is the latter who feed the sacred fire of Cirque du Soleil.”
Let us help you now by allowing us to spread the word of Cirque de Soleil and feed that sacred fire.
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