With things finally winding down for christmas in the Finger in the Pie HQ I’ve started mulling over those big ideas that have been floating around in our heads for a while – but we just haven’t been able to find the right time, partners or circumstances to role out. So for your benefit – and in the hope that some one might want to help make them a reality – here are the big ideas currently rocking our world:
The 0.1% Ticket
Our average ticket price is £14. The average (median) UK wage is £14k. So our tickets cost 0.1% of the average UK wage. We’d love to introduce a graduated ticket price based on a persons income. They would be asked their salary at the check out and then charged 0.1% of it as the ticket price. Now obviously some people will lie. Thats fine. But it’s unlikely how ever much they lied they’d end up paying less than they currently are – while some people might be inclined to tell the truth if they earned a lot more than the £14k average thus bringing in more revenue than we do now from the people who can afford it. And as importantly it would make tickets affordable to those at the bottom end of the spectrum: If you earned £4k a year – you’d pay just £4 for a ticket. Essentially it’s a ‘pay what you can afford’ scheme – but with a bit of a nudge to what people should consider affordable.
The Fair Trade Ticket
This is another idea we’ve been knocking around for quite some time. We got as far as approaching the fair trade association to ask how we could apply to use the label – which they flat refused as it’s only used for foreign suppliers because presumably they don’t think any workers in the UK are exploited (a hem). The idea is that people on the fringe could choose to buy a more expensive ‘fair trade’ ticket – with the guarantee that the additional cost of the ticket would be paid to the creatives who made the show. The theory behind the fair trade ticket is both financial and rhetorical – first off we did the maths and for a fringe show with average sized capacity, length of run, cast, rehearsal period etc etc in order to pay everyone just minimum wage for their time would need an average ticket price of £30. So firstly the fair trade ticket will bring in a bit more money. Probably not enough to cover everyone’s wages to a level we’d be happy with – but more than they do currently. Which can’t be a bad thing. But secondly and almost more importantly – it makes a rhetorical point and highlights how much people should be spending to go and see theatre if it was being made responsibly.
This is both the largest and most ambitious of the ideas. It came out of a conference we ran back in 2007 with Middlesex University looking at how to deal with the cuts in arts funding. There is nothing new about micro currencies. The most famous in London is probably the Brixton Pound. The concept is to create a currency that sticks to a local community – rather than being siphoned off in fees and profits of big banks and businesses.
The principle in theatre is simple – the theatre lives off a huge unregulated network of favours. People working for each other for free with the expectation of reciprocity. And as far is it goes that works quite well. The problem is that you can only call in your favours with people you know and that’s all they’re good for.
So we’re suggesting creating a theatre currency to quantify and regulate that exchange. Maybe I do you a favour and earn £30 of theatre currency for my time which I could spend hiring someone else for an hour, or use to go and see a show with a completely unrelated company involved in the scheme. That company could then use the £30 of theatre currency to pay someone who otherwise wouldn’t have been paid. To be clear we not and never would suggest replacing work that is currently carried out for real money – with theatre currency. That would be the worst of all possible outcomes. What we’re suggesting is taking the work which is currently being done for no money and the vague hope of intangible benefits in the future and offering payment in the form of a theatre currency with actual tangible benefits that can be spent.
The scheme would also work to clear up one of the biggest problems in the theatre industry around ticket sales – most tickets are sold to other people in the industry. So we’re getting paid by theatres in order to go to theatres – but each time we buy a ticket we’re charged a booking fee (which is money leaving the industry) the venue are charged banking fees (which is money leaving the industry) etc etc. Each time the money – which in theory is just circulating between artist and theatre, changes hands – part of it evaporates in external fees to the total amount of money in the theatre industry decreases. By buying tickets with theatre currency – which can only be used in the theatre – we make sure we’re not haemorrhaging any money out of the industry. This means it would work much like other micro currencies such as the Brixton Pound.
In order for the scheme to work we’d need a large network of initial companies and theatres to be involved. We’d need a central website to act as the ‘bank’ and provide everyone with an account where they could keep their currency – and finally we’d need a strong code of conduct and board to enforce it to make sure that theatre currency would be paid along side actual currency and in no circumstances ever replace it.