The eternal dilemma of accessibility versus sustainability in the theatre industry: A study of pay-what-you-want models' viability as a permanent principle
(2016) The eternal dilemma of accessibility versus sustainability in the theatre industry: A study of pay-what-you-want models' viability as a permanent principle, no. 60.
If pay-what-you-want (PWYW) has started to generate interest in the researchers' community in the last few years for its accessibility dimension in conflict with its potential profitability, it can be noticed that this disputed policy has been overlooked at different levels: (1) PWYW suffers from a lack of field analysis since literature has mainly produced theoretical quantitative experiments about it (2) The arts sector has not been identified as an area that needed further research development regarding PWYW sustainability (3) PWYW has been rarely considered with regards to its long-run perspectives. Therefore, in order to determine if PWYW and its main variation, pay-what-you-decide (PWYD) can be considered as a viable business model, this paper examines the case of three theatres that have all implemented PWYW as a permanent policy (the Holbeck Underground Ballroom, UK; Available Light Theatre and Forum Theatre, US) under a qualitative and exploratory mixed methods approach. An overview of the PWYW theatres studied and their financial results is first provided, before the examination of the different issues that presently limit PWYW mechanisms in the theatre industry. It is finally concluded that PWYW is not at the moment financially viable in the arts sector, but that it could be if communication and perception barriers were removed and if PWYW, beyond its risky aspect, could be modelled on other innovative marketing systems, such as crowdfunding.