Modern culture is almost overwhelmingly digital, whether you're talking about the production or distribution of music, drama, and art. That's led to a tendency away from the traditional forms like the theater, opera, and classical music performances, but now the old guard is taking a few lessons from the digital age as well. The Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England, is organizing a 10-piece performance on September 6th where patrons will be allowed to set their own ticket price after enjoying the performance. The event is called Priceless Classics and marks an intriguing experiment designed to attract a younger, usually skeptical, audience.
Speaking with the BBC, the Hallé's chief John Summers says the #PayWhatYouLike event (yes, the orchestra is also embracing hashtags) will try to break down the usual stereotype of excessive formality: "You can have a drink. You can go to the loo. The whole point is that people don't need to feel constrained by the normal concert etiquette." You also don't need to feel compelled to pay the usual ticket price, which ranges between £10 ($16) and £40 ($62), and can determine your own level of remuneration for the orchestra. This is an approach that Radiohead pioneered with digital distribution of their In Rainbows album, and it has been adopted by the San Diego Symphony this year as well as a number of British theaters.
Provided that the Hallé can indeed reach the new audience it seeks — rather than just being extra nice to its existing patronage — this could be a great compromise between becoming more accessible and still being able to make some money from a performance. It's giving away free tickets, but with a good chance of seeing revenue from the new visitors. People have already shown themselves willing to pay for digital goods like music and game bundles online, and the live performance aspect of the Hallé's Priceless Classics is likely to encourage them to be even more generous when attending the show in person.