Industry News

‘Pay What You Decide’ model debuted at NY dance venue

A New York dance venue has launched a ‘Pay What You Decide’ ticketing initiative, with customers paying only after watching a full performance.

Ticket-buyers at the Joyce Theatre were able to reserve a seat for $1, and they could pay with cash in an envelope or by credit card as they exited the theatre, or they could pay online within 24 hours.

Executive director Linda Shelton said that convincing audiences to see new contemporary dance artists is a struggle, according to the Wall Street Journal newspaper. She added that even regulars tend to revisit performers they know, rather than risk spending money on artists they don’t.

Shelton interprets their concern as: “I’m going to go to something where I know I am going to have a good time.”

The management team at The Joyce, a dance venue that opened in 1982, were apparently inspired to rethink their ticketing model after Shelton learned about two UK theatres that made a similar move of paying after a performance.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Laura Aden Packer, executive director of the Howard Gilman Foundation, a New York-based organisation that prioritises free or low-cost arts access said the idea “caught her attention,” as she had never heard of this practice.

The foundation provided a grant to support three ‘Pay-What-You-Decide’ matinees at the Joyce. The remaining performances will be held on March 18 and April 8.

In addition, the foundation is funding JoycePass, which allows arts professionals and dance students to pay $10 for seats normally ranging from $30 to $75.

The first of the three ‘Pay-What-You-Decide’ matinees at the Joyce saw all 472 seats sell out.

While the amount people decided to pay was not made public, two credit-card clerks found $30 to $60 was the norm, according to the Wall Street Journal. Standard tickets to similar shows usually cost between $10 and $65.

Of the 226 pairs of tickets sold, half of the purchasers weren’t previously in the Joyce’s email system. A typical show can bring in up to 30 per cent new buyers, Shelton noted.

“Let’s say somebody gives us $5, but they come see everything else this season, that maybe they would not have know about,” Shelton said. “That, I’m going to say, is successful. I’m not looking for someone to put $1,000 in the envelope.”

Image: David Joyce