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Get rid of those discounts. Voluntarily pay more for art

Through the local theatre's website, I want to order tickets. I click on the performance of my choice. Select a date. Select the desired number of tickets. Click on "to pay". And there I can choose from at least 3 options to pay less for my tickets. Five euros discount with a CJP or as an over-65. Four euros discount with a city pass. Or as a season ticket holder, every fourth performance free.

When visiting a museum a few weeks later, it is not much different. I have a choice of four different rates based on my age. Or I can go for group discounts. In addition, there are at least 5 different passes that allow me to enter for free. To top it all off, I can decide to buy 1 of 3 different season tickets. Or I can buy a day pass for several museums in the area, again saving money.

The subconscious message is: surely you are being very stupid if you pay full price. Because we give you ample opportunity to save on your visit.

Unfortunately, art institutions in this way ignore the fact that such a long series of reduced prices makes people perceive the highest price as "expensive". This is just how our brain works. In our minds, we compare one amount to another. A deviation upwards we consider expensive and a deviation downwards cheap.

Moreover, you also give your audience an unconscious message. Namely "you should pay as little as possible for art". In a way, this is crazy: as cultural providers, we all want our visitors to see the value of art. But meanwhile, we give them very little opportunity to make that value clear to us when they buy a ticket.

Fortunately, meanwhile, there are some examples of institutions doing things differently. One of them is the Rotterdam Schouwburg. Here, you can recently choose to pay a few euros or even a few tens extra for your visit, entirely voluntarily. Simply, to express your appreciation for the theatre. Or because you are in a generous mood. Or because you also want to experience the patronage feeling for once.

The square cinema in Rotterdam also experimented with such an approach for the first time in 2014. Visitors had the choice of paying an extra 2 euros on top of the regular price to support the organisation of the square cinema.

The strength of this approach lies, on the one hand, in its approachability. You ask for a one-off extra contribution instead of a donation to which you are immediately tied for at least a year. But even more important is the moment of asking. The visitor already has his wallet or debit card in hand, which makes it very easy to say "yes". The why-not-also-feeling you have when you throw a euro in the KIKA collection box on the street.

By giving the public the choice of paying more for their cultural visit in addition to discount options, you create engagement and a means of expressing appreciation. Moreover, you encourage providers to enter into a dialogue with the public about art and value and the choice to spend more or less on it.


I am curious about other experiences of voluntarily paying more for cultural visits and would love to read them in the comment box below.

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