Are Pay What You Will Performances Good for Theater?

In this Charleston City Paper article, Connelly Hardaway points out both the good and bad about pay what you will performances.

According to the Guardian’s Lyn Gardner, one plus is that “when price was no longer a barrier, then other barriers — uncertainties about how to behave, what to wear, even approaching the box office — were indirectly reduced too. The whole idea of going to the theater becomes less of a risk.”

Charleston Stage’s marketing director Beth Curley sees PWYW nights as “opportunities for non-theatergoers to check out shows they normally couldn’t afford, saying that families in particular benefit from the reduced ticket prices. And those families aren’t one-time attendees.”

Jim has his own take on pay what you will. He explains his innovative idea in his post How to Do Pay-What-You-Want Better:

” … here’s an idea that uses a pay-what-you-want structure, but does it in a way that might be beneficial in the short and long term.

Think of it as something like a reverse Kickstarter. In other words, the performance is happening no matter what, but it does have a ‘cost.’ Now, this ‘cost’ shouldn’t literally be the cost of one performance. It should be the value of it, as you define it inside your organization. What is it ‘worth’? This is a combination of what it will literally cost, plus whatever you’d like to generate on top of this.

In this structure, tickets would be ‘on sale’ but free. To get the tickets, people would have to put down a credit card, which you would authorize (but not charge) $.01*.

Now you’ve got a line of communication to them and a live card. Start an email and social media campaign to let people know what’s the goal of the performance. … ”

You can read more about Jim’s idea here.

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