On the return to public investments in museums

maybe this time?

Arts Council England has released a new report that seeks to quantify the 'economic impact' of museums. It estimates that to be £1.45 billion. That doesn't matter much - there are no insights to be gained, no policy implications, from the estimate's being £1.45 billion or £2.07 billion or £1.03 billion. Still, ACE thought that funds spent on producing this report were useful for something, useful enough to justify the opportunity costs in reduced funding for artists and arts organizations - maybe there will be a follow-up study that explains … [Read more...]

Superstars have always been with us

not actually Taylor Swift

Paul Krugman takes a look at top earnings amongst musicians, and the 'superstar' effect - the idea that the vast share of consumer spending on music will go to a very small number of performers, since they can reach very large audiences through recordings and broadcasts (see my previous post here). He writes: What makes this an interesting story for music is that what technology gave, it is now taking away: digital, streamed music is hard to monetize, so that artists are forced back on live performance. So you might expect to see some … [Read more...]

Price discrimination, time and money at the theatre

did you pay, or come early?

Mixed Blood Theatre of Minneapolis has an interesting pricing model, which they call 'radical hospitality': Radical Hospitality erases economic barriers in pursuit of building a truly inclusive, global audience. Whether a patron is a long-time Mixed Blood attendee, a new immigrant living in Mixed Blood’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a person with low income or disabilities, a college student, or someone who has never been to theater, he or she will be welcomed, free of charge—with radical hospitality. How does it work? There are two ways to … [Read more...]

Minimum wages in the cultural sector: the case of Borderlands Books

here's how my wage is set to go up

Borderlands Books, of San Francisco, will be closing its doors. Brick-and-mortar bookstores face a tough market situation, and those that are paying San Francisco-level rents even more so. But according to the owners, the straw that broke this camel's back was the mandated increase in the minimum wage. From Borderlands blog: In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in … [Read more...]

Pay-what-you-decide at the theatre

The Stage News reports on a trial run of pay-what-you-decide pricing at the regional theatre in Stockton, UK: The Pay What You Decide system is now in effect for all theatre productions at the arts centre for six months, following a trial on a one-man show at the venue. Too Much, Too Young, starring Jack Bennett in January, took nearly 50% more than the theatre expected, with almost one third of the audience new to theatre performances at the ARC. Although the theatre would usually charge £10 for a show such as Too Much, Too Young, … [Read more...]

Who bears the burden of auction house fees, buyers or sellers?

beast of burden

Blog neighbour Lee Rosenbaum writes today about increases in premiums Sotheby's auction house, speculating that Christie's will soon follow suit. She writes: Here are Sotheby’s new charges (with old ones in parentheses), effective Feb. 1: Buyers will be charged 25% of first $200,000 (previously $100,000) of the hammer price; 20% of amount above $200,000 to $3 million (previously above $100,000 to $2 million); 12% of excess over $3 million (previously $2 million). Let’s look at a specific example of how this will work: If your winning bid … [Read more...]

The benefits of price discrimination

good seats bad seats

An interesting piece in The Guardian today on the design and pricing of seating in theatres, that the efforts to make all seats 'good' seats has made it more difficult for those on a budget to attend performances. Iain Mackintosh writes: We need to unravel the connection between seat prices and auditorium design. In the first theatre building boom, at the end of the 18th century, hundreds of playhouses were built with a top-to-bottom price ratio of eight to one. In the second, at the end of the 19th century, many more were built, including the … [Read more...]

New research from the NEA

what are the data telling us?

New research on arts participation and economics has been released by the National Endowment for the Arts. I won't try to summarize everything there, just a few comments: Two of the reports are on participation: one asks about who participates in what, the other asks people about why they participated. The data will be interesting for researchers willing to dig: what relationships are buried in those survey numbers beyond what is on the surface? I see each of these reports as a spark to future studies. For example, although the … [Read more...]

Enjoying the benefits of old money

nice orchestra you have there

I don't disagree with the assessment by Alec MacGillis at Slate that that rust-belt cities offer fine high culture opportunities at low prices: riches from the turn of the last century provided capital (physical, human, institutional) that created great organizations, that can, at least for the time being, survive on endowment funds and relatively low amounts of 'earned income'. But my reaction is somewhat similar to the one I had reading Christopher Knight's recent piece arguing that museums ought to be 'free' - i.e. that the heavy costs of … [Read more...]

Explainer: How do costs affect ticket prices?

When are those darn prices going to come down?

Suppose the costs of putting on a show fall - this could be from falling rental rates for performance spaces, technological changes that reduce costs of lighting or sound, or falling labor costs (perhaps through policy changes that lower the cost of providing health insurance to employees). How will this affect ticket prices? In the short run, not at all. In the long run, ticket prices will fall. Let me define 'short run' as the time period over which the production schedule for the company is set: the performance dates for the rest of the … [Read more...]