Marketing Entertainment in Shakespeare’s London

I’m reading Bill Brysons’ Shakespeare: The World as Stage. He lived in a world where not many could channel their voice, but lucky Will Shakespeare had his own channel at the Globe. Of course the apparatus required to cast his show to an audience was quite elaborate. Amusingly, not much has changed in marketing and product launch mechanics.

According to Bryson, plays started at about 2:00pm. Handbills were distributed that morning and early afternoon,. A large banner was hoisted upon the highest parts of the structure wherein the play was to be held, and then horns would blare in fanfare for the play when 2:00pm was near. The horns could be heard across much of the city.

For those aroused enough to take in an afternoon’s amusement, tickets came in three flavors. Groundlings (standing room) paid a penny, sitters paid another penny on top of that and those who like to sit upon a cushion paid another penny on top of that. (a day’s wage was less than 10 pennies) The money was dropped in a box, which was taken to a safe room for safekeeping and counting — the box office.

Then the upsell! Apples, pears, (the cores became projectiles for performers ) nuts, breads, bottles of ale, and tobacco were all for sale inside the theatre. The tobacco, delivered in a small pipe, cost three pennies, or three-times the cost of admission. (been to a multiplex to buy treats lately?)

Recently, an internet marketing conference sent handbills to my email account. Three tiers of entrance fees were offered, and of course when I show up, back of the room sales will look to extract many times the price of admission.

A walk through Times Square will illustrate the staying power of these methods. It still works for plays on Broadway. For that matter, it works for the airlines, credit card companies, health clubs, churches, etc.

As the good Bard said, “…the more a thyng justly changeth, the more it truely stayeth the same.”


One response to “Marketing Entertainment in Shakespeare’s London

  1. The Bard rules! Now if bloggers could write as well, we’d all be heaven.

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