The Business of Claque

Imagine that you go to the theater or to the opera, you enjoy the spectacle, you laugh or cry, you applaud and at the end of the show you get paid for your performance as a spectator. This is the business of claque, the business of clapping, claque meaning clap in French. It sounds a bit ridiculous to get paid for being a spectator and enjoying a show but la claque was often employed in the theaters and operas of the nineteen century in order to use the power of social proof to improve the ratings of their performances among spectators. Sometimes, to get some work (and money), claques would employ some underhanded methods like extorting singers and performers: the singer was contacted before the show and advised to pay up or else he/she will be booed off stage.

Business of claque, clapping
Image source: Flickr

The claques were well organized and structured, they were led by a chef de claque, and their members had various specializations: commissaires, commissaries that knew the piece by hart and told their neighbors when a good scene would follow, rieurs – laughers,  pleureurs – criers, they were women usually, chatouilleurs – ticklers, they would go around and tickle people, no, I’m kidding, apparently their role was to keep the audience in good humor and bisseurs, the guys that would enthusiastically shout “Bis! Bis!” after an act.

After the nineteen century, the claquers and their art were discouraged as the adoption of concert etiquette started to spread.

The business of claque was successful due to the effect of social proof (influence) that states that people have the tendency to look at other people for hints on how to behave in a certain context, the more people act and behave in the same way the more correct their behavior seems and the more it influences other people to copy their behavior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *