V.com weekend vote: Do you prefer printed programs or online?

March 4, 2023, 5:44 PM · I’ve attended several concerts in the past few weeks, and there’s definitely been a shift in the way programs are distributed since COVID. While I’ve still been handed traditional programs on occasion, other times I’ve been given a brief flyer showing a QR code to scan with my phone. I’ve also attended recitals and other concerts where there is simply a poster containing the QR code upon entrance to the venue.


Printed programs tend to include the repertoire, artist bios, orchestral roster, sponsors, and program notes. For example, the LA Phil has the traditional magazine-style program, with ads from sponsors, a full month's worth of programs, notes on the music and bios of the performers.

Flyers tend to list the repertoire, while the QR code is there to provide all the additional information. Posters have no real information, but once you scan the QR code, you have everything you need.

I have mixed feelings about all approaches. I do hate to think of all the paper that goes into printing full programs and the waste when organizations, by necessity, print more than they end up needing. And then there’s the cost of printing, which is a burden for many non-profits. It’s fun to have a souvenir program at times, but I also think of the boxes I have of those that I’m now trying to figure out what to do with!

As for the QR code approach, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I have great difficulty reading things on my phone. And I do feel funny sitting in a concert hall staring at a screen.

I guess my method of choice is the flyer with the repertoire. I can then scan the code at any time, including the next day, to read the program notes and artist bios. The flyer has a minimal printing cost but does provide the bare necessities for those who need it - and it's a little easier to read!

What are your thoughts about program notes? Would you rather have some kind of paper or booklet in your hand, or do you prefer digital? Do you ever keep programs as souvenirs? What do you feel are the advantages, either way? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts in the comments.

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March 5, 2023 at 12:02 AM · Do an online program, and I can see the glow of cellphones here and there, lighting up the audience, ringing because someone didn't turn it off, making videos of the performers, etc. Please print them.

March 5, 2023 at 09:02 AM · I second that. I was at La Scala a couple months ago to hear some Tchaikovsky and I had to pay €25 (close to $30) for a printed program, of which half was advertising of banks and industries.

March 5, 2023 at 12:53 PM · I prefer online but voted “Something else.” Live performances are off the table for me these days, mainly due to my schedule. My days begin at 4:28 AM. Most live programs are evening events, and I’m not a night person. Then, too, I have a longstanding aversion to being on the road after dark - not to mention today’s ticket prices - plus the drive time and parking.

Thanks to today’s HD audio and video technology, I bring quite a variety of these programs right into the home every day via my YouTube Premium subscription, which gives me unlimited downloads - and ZERO ADS - for a small monthly fee. Repertoire info and performer bios are more than plentiful online - just a few mouse-clicks away.

March 5, 2023 at 01:27 PM · The answer is "both". It's fine if a small price is asked if you want the printed booklet.

March 5, 2023 at 02:08 PM · I like both as well! I print the program notes to read before I go but I like having the program on my lap to check as the concert proceeds…the print is larger and easier to glance at

.I would pay a price for the booklet.

March 5, 2023 at 03:14 PM · The most recent concert I attended used the flyer approach and I really liked that. I had a listing of the repertoire (complete with movements). The next day I got the program online and read the program notes. (I usually can't see them well enough in the dimly-lit theater anyway.) I certainly wouldn't object to paying a reasonable price for a souvenir program if it were a really special concert or opera. (The price Dmitri was charged at La Scala seems a bit extreme!)

March 5, 2023 at 04:10 PM · When I go to an orchestral concert I expect a printed program. It is part of the experience. Time away from technology, alerts, etc.

March 5, 2023 at 05:03 PM · All the concerts I've been to recently have handed out printed programs. I have never seen a QR code for a concert, but I like the idea. The program for Cal Performaces concerts (UC Berkeley) give the information for the guest login to their WIFI. They could just as easily offer a slip of paper with the WIFI information and a QR code, at least for concerts with a smaller audience.

March 5, 2023 at 07:49 PM · The printed programs that have my name somewhere on them go into the archive cardboard bow in the garage. When I am gone maybe someone will enjoy looking through them.

March 5, 2023 at 08:40 PM · Printed programs -- the old standard. Downsides: (1) Wastes paper (especially if they are full of bank and insurance ads), (2) Paper programs in the hands of small children can be very noisy, and (3) Sometimes they dim the lights in the hall so low that the programs cannot be read at all.

QR or Online Program -- Glowing phones all throughout the audience. Our local venue (the Moss Center at Virginia Tech) asks that patrons turn their electronic devices "completely off" which I am happy to do. I've never heard a phone ring in the audience there, even though I'm sure compliance with "completely off" is far from 100%.

I'll tell you what I would prefer: Just the repertoire, perhaps printed on a nice bookmark that could be reused, and then the program provided online two days in advance so that I can read it in preparation for the concert. At the time the concert starts, the online program can be changed out for a message that says "The program will be made available again when the concert is over. For now, please turn off your phone and give the performers your full attention."

Since we're on the subject of programs, here are a few other features that I would like:

> Approximate duration of each piece or movement thereof. I don't think I'm asking all that much. I love music but ever since I was a small child I appreciated knowing when a piece would end. This may be an odd quirk but I don't think I'm alone, and I think this feature would make the event much more family-friendly.

> For a soloist, such as a violinist, the bio could include a brief description of the soloist's instrument and bow.

March 5, 2023 at 10:29 PM · I voted Something Else, because I too am in favour of both.

March 6, 2023 at 09:09 AM · Paul - you have worked out a brilliant system, which should be sent to all concert organizers!

March 6, 2023 at 10:39 AM · Being Child-Free geezers, we don't own a "Smart Phone" largely because none of them fit inside the watch-pocket of the "Geezer Standard Uniform" - Jeans. Like a few of my fellow V.com posters, we don't like driving at night either. (Cataract surgery is in the future.)

My preference is really something other - like an email with the program (even advertisements) that I can read in advance at home.

March 6, 2023 at 12:30 PM · George... Geezer standard accessory: belt holster for smart phone.

March 6, 2023 at 04:58 PM · Last night I went to a concert. They handed out paper programs, and also had them online. What is funny, is the fact that the group - Dreamer's Circus - didn't have a predetermined set. The simply announced the entire evening from the stage, one song at a time, making any program programs superfluous. Frankly, it was great. We just went with it, and enjoyed the music.

March 7, 2023 at 11:10 PM · I voted for a paper program, although I really like Paul Deck's suggestions. I enjoy reading descriptions of the piece and the composer, although that's not always possible in a darkened hall; I could read them on my computer at home before I leave for the concert.

I have no use for QR codes. My flip phone doesn't understand them, and I'm quite happy not to have a smartphone. As George Wells pointed out, a flip phone slips quite nicely into that little watch pocket in a pair of jeans, leaving both hands - and your mind - free.

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