I just had a killer idea for selling advance tickets to concerts online – a way of migrating ‘pay what you want’ across to the live music world, without having to do loads of gigs for £1.50. I think someone needs to build this app (or Eventbrite and other online sellers need to add it as an option). By the way, if this is already happening somewhere and I just missed it, I’ll happily stand corrected.
The ‘pay what you want’ model (popularised by Radiohead I guess) is now widely used by artists to sell downloads. It’s available as an option on Bandcamp for example; I tried it myself for 2010’s Christmas download and it worked beautifully. But to my knowledge nobody has set it up for gigging in a way that works: Eventbrite does have a ‘donation’ based ticketing option but it has two deal-breaking flaws: 1) they still charge a booking fee on the donation (!) and 2) if you reach capacity mainly from people who donated nothing, you can’t then prioritise those people who donated more. You get a room full of people who valued the experience at zero and turned away some folks who were willing to donate a chunk. So here’s a simple twist on the system that would make it beautiful:
Pay-what-you-like but the promoter can keep offering tickets after capacity has been reached. At close of sale (based either on a fixed point in time, or on a total amount of money donated), the highest offers (bids/donations) are the people who get the tickets and have their money taken.
The promoter can even set a cut-off point, so they want to earn a fixed amount and (once capacity has been reached) the system keeps prioritising higher offers (bids) until that amount is reached, then cuts off – which will still allow some lower bids access to the show. Meanwhile punters can keep checking back on a gig’s popularity and raise their bid / donation if they start worrying they won’t get it. It needs to be open to be fair, I guess.
*EDIT* and I guess it needs a reserve amount too, below which the gig doesn’t happen!? Hadn’t thought of that…
I bet this would be a relatively simple add-on for an advanced system like Eventbrite or The Big Cartel. (Not to even mention good old WeGotTickets, because they’ve got some catching up to do)
*EDIT* Luke Beesley (@LukeTotD) has found a catch: it makes life tricky for people who travel to gigs via public transport, since there’s an element of risk involved, yet you get much cheaper public transport bought in advance. And you’re more likely to want to donate *less* if you have to travel, because of the total cost involved. Yes, this is a problem.
I wonder if you could include in the model an option for a ‘secure it now’ price, for people who don’t like the risk. This would have the added bonus of encouraging gig prices upwards (from my point of view that’s a bonus since I fundamentally believe most non-‘heritage genre’ or ‘tribute’ small live music events are currently underpriced), while taking the risk out for those willing to pay a little more. It’d also be fun and perhaps, with a forum-style comment space under the ticket thing, create more of a community out of gig goers?
Am I now over-thinking it all? Comments welcome below, as always…
*BIG EDIT* Rhodri Marsden made a strong critique of the idea on ideological grounds on Facebook, and he’s agreed I can add our conversation in below:
I thought “Wow! that’s a good idea!”. And then I thought, no, it’s not. The reason it works for music is that there isn’t a finite number of products. If people want to pay more, then they can. That’s fine. But excluding people from gigs because people with more disposable income pushed ahead of them in the queue just seems a bit crap.
Gigs shouldn’t be about exclusivity. Certainly not in our world. Part of the reason it’s nice is cos everyone has paid a tenner to be there. Except the freeloaders, but I don’t believe in freeloading either and always pay even if I’m on the guest list. (I’m rambling now. I also appear to have become more left-wing in the last 3 minutes than I thought I was.)
my starting position (which you may disagree with) is that most small gigs (discounting ‘heritage genre’, ‘tribute bands’ and ‘lineup of local hopefuls’) are currently underpriced. Secondly, surely this system is no more exclusive than setting a fixed price in the first place? I believe a key to the gig industry is the disconnect between what promoters and artists believe people will / can pay for live music and reality. The myth is: people won’t pay £10 for a evening of live music but they’ll pay £8.50 for the cinema. To counter your ‘exclusivity’ issue, you can still run the ‘auction’ but stick in a ‘buy it now’ price.
Oh right. Yes. For some reason in my head we were talking about a room full of people who’d paid £20 squeezing out those who could only afford a fiver. If it’s a roomful of people paying a tenner squeezing out those who are only paying a measly quid, somehow it becomes more palatable.
In many places in the country a glass of wine in a bar costs almost £5. I’m not feeling bad about people only prepared (able) to pay that, perhaps (sometimes) getting edged out. But fundamentally, folks would set their own levels.
But doesn’t supply & demand economics set gig pricing levels in any case? Popular gigs cost more money, less popular gigs don’t. I don’t think there’s going to be a rush of people (say) desperate to pay £15 to watch something at the Buffalo Bar.
MY FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2011
I think it’s been a fantastic year for LPs. Even if fewer punters want to listen to whole records, still the classiest talents want to make them. How did Decemberists, Sam Duckworth, She Makes War, The Horrors, MJ Hibbett, Standard Fare, EMA, Grace Petrie, tUnE-yArDs, Metronomy and Matt Creer not even make it into my Top 10? All made superb records in 2011. But oh no they di’in’t, my 10 favourites are…
1 PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
2 Scroobius Pip – Distraction Pieces
3 Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
4 The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
5 Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes
6 British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
7 Something Beginning With L – Beautiful Ground
8 Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
9 Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
10 Tom Williams & The Boat – Too Slow
The Muppets – ‘Am I A Man Or Am I A Muppet?’
Standard Fare – ‘Darth Vadar’
Joanna Neary – ‘Youth Club’ closing song
Franz Nicolay – ‘Do The Stuggle’
Jim Bob – ‘Mr Blue Sky’
James Blake – ‘A Case Of You’
This Is The Kit – ‘Easy Pickings’
tUnE-yArDs – ‘Bizzness’
The Singing Adams – ‘The Old Days’
Hugh Laurie – ‘Swanee River’
Second annual honourable mention for Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day project, which in June successfully completed a new recording of a traditional tune every day for a year. Inspiring and brilliant. Also excellent was Darren Hayman’s January Songs, where he wrote and shared a new song each day for a month. Insightful into process.
FAVOURITE GIGS OF THE YEAR (AUDIENCE)
Carter USM, Tim Ten Yen at Edenfest, Mr Spoons’ garden, south-east London
Clowns at The Hydrant, Brighton
ONSIND and others at Book Yer Ane Fest 5, Dexter’s, Dundee
Robyn at The Roundhouse, London
Jim Jones Revue at Blissfields 2011
Midwinter Picnic 3 at West Hill Hall, Brighton
Tom Williams & The Boat, My First Tooth, She Makes War, The Borderline
The Singing Adams at The Basement, Brighton
Frank Turner, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, Franz Nicolay at Newport Centre
Dive Dive at The Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham
FAVOURITE GIGS OF THE YEAR (PLAYED)
In 2011 I did 112 shows (solo, Hoodrats, Milne, activist stuff, short spots and a few public talks). This top 10 is just based on how much I enjoyed the time onstage – doesn’t mean much about the whole night, or audience quality, or even how well I played. It’s just that magic (hard to explain) ‘thing’ onstage:
1 Laurence, Jølle and Kenneth’s basement party, Copenhagen
2 The Hoodrats in Cheltenham, Swindon & Art Uncut gig, London
3 Falmouth University on their new Yamaha CF6 grand piano
4 Carter USM, me and Tim Ten Yen in Neil’s garden
5 Cambridge Portland, supported by MJ Hibbett and Anna Madeleine
6 The Church stage at Indietracks Festival
7 frantic Pecha Kucha talk about Twitter and post-Capitalism at Brighton Digital Festival
8 Edinburgh Fringe – pretty much the whole thing, especially the final two weeks
9 York, maybe Edinburgh and/or Reading on Franz Nicolay’s tour
10 Robin Ince’s late night show, Comedy Stage, End Of The Road Festival
Honorable mention to Matt Creer’s brilliant gig in a church in Douglas on the Isle Of Man, which was magic but for the absence of some Manxie friends. Also honourable mention to the Aberdeen Lost & Found show where (entirely coincidentally) the stage set was toilets, because they’d had a play on set in a public loo.
FAVOURITE TV OF THE YEAR
Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle
Game Of Thrones
The Shadow Line
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Bruce Parry’s Arctic
The 10 O’Clock Show
(I’m sure The Killing and The Slap would be in here but I haven’t watched them yet)
*EDIT* just realised (watching Adam Curtis on the Screenswipe review of 2011) that I forgot the magnificent series All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. Stick that in at number #1 and drop the 10 O’Clock Show off the list. 🙂
FAVOURITE OTHER CULTURAL THINGS
1. Isy Suttie ‘Pearl & Dave’ at Edinburgh Fringe
2. Adam Curtis’ BBC archive blogs
3. collection of English and Scottish ballads Franz Nicolay found me in Buxton, published in 1868
4. Private Eye, a vintage year for Hislop & co.
5. Joanna Neary ‘Youth Club’ at Edinburgh Fringe and the Three And Ten, Brighton
6. Jason Burke – The 9/11 Wars (book)
7. Louis CK’s Beacon Theatre $5 special
8. debate about protest songs at Interrogate! Festival in Dartington Hall
9. Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman (book)
10. Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, thanks to Franz Nicolay
11. Margaret Cho at Edinburgh Fringe and Brighton Comedy Festival
12. Boring 2011 (even though I only saw 2 hours)
13. Tom Price ‘Say When’ at Edinburgh Fringe
14. MJ Hibbett & Steve’s ‘Moon Horse’ at Edinburgh Fringe
15. Charlotte Young and Mark Dean Quinn’s Darwin show
16. Josie Long in various places
17. revisiting Chomsky vs Foucault
18. Crunch Festival in Hay-on-Wye
honorable mention: Jim Bob’s second novel is extraordinary and brilliant but I’ll list it when it’s published (2012 I believe).
HERO OF THE YEAR
Time Magazine named ‘the protester’ and I agree. Specifically, my heroes of the year are: UK Uncut, Anonymous, Art Uncut, @BendyGirl and The Hardest Hit, Josie Long and Neil Griffiths’ Arts Emergency campaign and the global Occupiers.
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
Of course: government, bankers, corrupt media and the tax dodging corporates are ugly villains but I’ve got a personal one this year: celebrity conductor Charles Hazlewood. He briefly got involved with a project developing an orchestra for musicians with disabilities, which UK charity Drake Music had been working on for years. But when his participation didn’t work out and he walked away, suddenly he was developing his own near identical project with TV production company What Larks. I wrote about it in the Morning Star and Private Eye picked up the story – but mainstream press steered clear, with the Evening Standard even publishing a puff piece for his plans. I can’t imagine much worse than stealing ideas from a charity.
Thank you very much if you came out to see me over the past month, on Franz Nicolay’s UK tour, or one of the shows I stuck around it. I’ve had a brilliant, exhausting time and finishing so close to Christmas has left me even more excited than usual about domestic things like seeing my family and getting time off.