New Ways to Pay?

Again from our friends at is a Wired article about how Internet content may not be free for much longer. (But just above it was this blog entry about how classical music fans were overjoyed that downloads of Beethoven from the BBC exceeded that of U2–except the Beethoven was free so it is unfair to compare. People like free stuff.)

The Wired article points out that television was free when it started, but now that the delivery medium has evolved, we pay for it, as basis for claiming at at some point we will regularly pay for internet content as well.

Much of the article is devoted to discussing the pitfalls of transitioning from free to pay-for-content. The worst being alienating all those who currently patronize your site and sending them to your competitor.

The very end of the article mentions that blogs will probably always be free. This might be dangerous for some websites if they cede an opinion shaping position totally over to blogs.

This was interesting and all, but the reason I chose it for today’s entry is because it got me thinking that perhaps there were other ways to structure access to performances, museums and the like.

In fact, IDG is a living example of this. The company operates 300 websites and employs about 200 online strategies — free content, cheap content, expensive content, content that requires an onerous registration process, and content that requires little more than an e-mail address and ZIP code. In some cases, a website may have three-quarters free content and a quarter requiring registration or a subscription. Or, it could offer a subscription for $150 a year but give it away if the reader fills out a detailed registration form.

Obviously applying these ideas for arts organizations where people are present physically is different from the internet where their presence is virtual and easier to limit.

Honestly, the only application I have been able to come up with that is directly associated with the structures the article mentions is for museums. You can peruse this gallery with limited Mucha prints for free, but if you want to see a more detailed exhibit, you have to pay. Unless theatres dance and concert halls let people in for the first half for free and then made them pay to come back in after intermission, I can’t see it working exactly the same for live performances.

Though perhaps the perception of some value for free while the suckers paid to go back in would provide an inducement for people to attend where a totally free or totally paid event might not. I will have to think upon this whole subject some more and post about it later.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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