Monday, March 02, 2009

metaDRAMA: Affiliation?

Producer Ken Davenport's got an interesting post up today about his new affiliates program for Altar Boyz--interesting, that is, because he's not the only person to start planning one of these. Chicago sent out some e-mails this weekend looking to recruit some razzling, dazzling shills. (As of now, I still refuse to post advertisements on this site, though I am always happy to run discounts for shows that I have seen or believe, based on past experience, are worth it.)

I said as much in the comment I left there, but I thought I'd broaden up the discussion to those who actually deal with marketing their shows in the off-off-Broadway community (or to those avid theatergoers who have to deal with constant e-blasts, coupons, and pop-up links). It's my personal belief that affiliate programs are bad, for they encourage positive reviews, corrupting underpaid critics (or newspapers) that see this as a perfectly acceptable form of income. After all, they might think, let the buyer beware.

If it were just a critic's personal credibility at stake, that'd be fine, but this whole process seems to be eroding criticism in general. After all, it becomes harder and harder to tell if a person is actually writing what they think or if they have been biased when such marketing schemes exist to continually cast opinions--fragile enough as they are--in doubt. Worse still is the effect agglomerates may have (like Critic-O-Meter) if the majority of critics are skewing the grade, causing the few "honest" ones to become outliers--or perceived as liars, soon to be out of a job. This last bit is one hell of an exaggeration--we're nowhere near that point (at least, not with the off-off-Broadway critics like Zinoman, Shaw, &c.)--but it does seem, a little frighteningly so, like where we're headed.