I have blogged before (here) about how the Classical Music industry could and should learn from sport. The events of the past week have thrown up another instance.
First, a bit of background.
The News of the World revelations about alleged ‘spot-fixing’ in cricket have caused, it is safe to say, a bit of a stir. The moral high ground is now more crowded than Groucho Marx’s cabin as commentators, ex-players, bloggers and ordinary-men-in-the-street wring their hands while simultaneously throwing them up in the air in horror (quite a feat when you’re also balancing on the High Wire of Hypocrisy).
Most laughable was the look on ECB chairman Giles Clarke’s face as he handed Mohammed Aamer his Man Of The Series award. Obviously Clarke himself is above criticism and has never associated with shady characters or accepted money for actions that could endanger the future of global cricket. Oh no. Of course not.
Anyway, the ins and outs of the case (and they are complex) are not my concern.
Cricket has its problems, but Classical Music has been beset by similar headaches for years, with performances being manipulated by betting syndicates shamefully indifferent to the effect on an unsuspecting concert-going public.
The following is a brief extract from a conversation held in a central London hotel this week. Full details are in the hands of the police, and I have obviously had to change some names to protect the probably-guilty.
Man A: So we’re talking big money?
Man B: You’d be amazed. Spot betting on Proms has escalated hugely in the last few years. All the money’s in the little details: wrong entries, split notes, all that kind of stuff. Enough to be noticed, but not enough to disrupt the performance as a whole.
Man A: And you can arrange it?
Man B: OK, let’s go into details. This is just to prove that I have these guys in my pocket, ok? Tomorrow night’s Prom, in the overture, the principal horn will split the third note of his solo.
Man A (taking notes): The third note in the overture.
Man B: That’s right. The Bb. Then at the beginning of the recapitulation of the last movement of the concerto, the pianist will have a memory lapse and go into the wrong key. He will be out for a whole bar.
Man A: OK. Wrong key in recap.
Man B: And the third event that we will arrange is at the beginning of the main allegro in the first movement of the symphony.
Man A: Allegro in symphony.
Man B: the flautist will play double speed for half a bar and then correct himself.
Man A: OK I think that’s all clear. Thanks. Here’s the first payment.
(Sounds of money being counted).
Man A: Second payment to follow after the concert.
Man B: Thanks. Believe me, you could make a lot of money on this.
Man A: Just one question.
Man B: Fire away.
Man A: Do you ever fix events with conductors? You know, dodgy upbeats, wrong tempi, that kind of thing?
Man B (snorts derisively): Tchah! You have to be kidding. Who’s going to notice another mistake by those guys?
Man A: Fair point. Nice doing business with you.