Opinion: questioning the value of free concerts—and the costs of “free”

Posted on: October 21, 2019

“Offering free concerts is one of those things in arts and culture that’s been considered a generally accepted practice for years without much consideration as to why it’s considered that way,” writes Aubrey Bergauer in Tuesday’s (10/15) Medium.com. “Giving it away for free … is not growing audiences, it’s not building tons of new support, and—please hear this—it hurts us when people don’t see how much it costs to produce this art…. We have misconstrued the meaning of ‘access.’ … Access is not just about price; it’s about lowering barriers to entry…. It trains for behavior we don’t want.… We already know that among paying first-time attendees, about 90% never come back again. So why do we make the argument that a free concert could be a gateway to future purchase behavior? … What does free cost? Nothing. What is the value of free? Zilch. But what does it cost to produce an orchestra concert? A LOT OF MONEY…. Just as getting news for free for decades has led the vast majority of the general public to believe that the product should continue to be free … orchestras continuing to offer free concerts is laying this same groundwork.”

Posted October 21, 2019