Ticket Trends & News

Pay What You Can to Increase Revenue

Think outside the box (office) with Pay What You Can

Help your patrons feel empowered and trusted while creating a bigger community and increased revenue with Pay What You Can. 

What is Pay What You Can?

Pay What You Can (PWYC) also known as Pay What You/I Want simply offers a way for people to pay an amount based on their perceived value of a product or service. 

But how do we decide what something is worth? A simple answer lies in the notion that people are willing to pay more for a glass of water in the Sahara Desert than in the Scottish Highlands. It is the same glass of water, but the context makes the perceived value different. In the end, people will pay what they feel something is worth based on their surroundings and circumstances.

Pay What You Can: Can it work with my business?

If people were purely logical, then we would choose to pay $0 for everything. But, let’s be honest, logic didn’t make your last online purchase. People buy things such as performing arts tickets, not out of logic but because they are driven by emotion. To businesses with small profit margins, it seems crazy to let the public determine the price of your product when perceived worth can be so arbitrary. However, PWYC has succeeded in other industries with slim profit margins such as restaurants and the music business. Give your patrons the opportunity to make an empowered, exciting purchase decision by trying PWYC. 

Challenging the notion of fixed pricing with PWYC

Amazon did not become a billion-dollar business by letting you Pay What You Want for a new blender. Still, there have been notable PWYC successes. One of the first PWYC triumphs was the rock band Radiohead’s 2007 digital release of its album In Rainbows. The innovative band came up with an out-of-the-box price for their new album: PWYC. On the band’s website, the album was free and accompanied by a digital tip jar in which listeners could pay what they thought the new music was worth.

 The music industry thought the band was crazy, but for Radiohead, it was an overwhelming success. It became less of a bragging right for fans to say that they got the album for free than it was to say they paid $100. People were excited to pay more money than the going industry rate. 

PWYC: A Win-Win Option for the Performing Arts

Why not try an innovative pricing strategy for your organization? 

Yes, there is risk that audiences will choose to pay less than listed prices. However, many companies find that patrons frequently pay MORE than listed price with PWYC. If you want an example of a thriving PWYC success story in the performing arts, check out the UK’s Stockton Arts Centre

Getting started with PWYC:

When starting this new venture, it is important to tell people that PWYC is a purchasing option but also This can be done via email or letter to existing patrons, or you can create simple flyers with QR Codes connecting to your explanations and pricing. Place these in your venues and in locations such as public places, universities, and restaurants to broaden your reach. 

PWYC: Start small with minimal risk

  • Use PWYC for preview performances that would normally be low-cost or free.
  • Provide audiences with a PWYC option for select performances during a show’s run.
  • Offer a few PWYC seats per night, like the Hamilton ticket lottery, by holding back a few seats and creating excitement about the show.
  • Choose a lower-cost production to try implementing PWYC for the show’s entire run.
  • Contact ThunderTix for further guidance and assistance: our years of innovative thinking and experience will help you make PWYC work best for you and your community.

Keep your performing arts community the thriving, creative environment you helped establish by continuing to innovate using strategies such as Pay What You Can. This is a solution that could really pay off.


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