When the entertainment tax in Spain skyrocketed, attendance at shows fell precipitously. To lure people back, one comedy theater company instituted a program where people would only pay if they laughed. According to an article on Springwise, the seats were outfitted with cameras and facial recognition software.
Every time you laughed, the account associated with your seat is charged 30 euro cents. So that people wouldn’t intentionally restrain themselves as the show progressed, the charge was capped at 80 laughs or 24 Euros.
They also instituted a season ticket where you bought “laughs” rather than performances. Since other theaters around Spain are adopting this system, I wonder if the laughter season tickets are redeemable at any participating venue.
The video accompanying the article suggests a pay per cry for tragedy and a pay per WTF! when attending an avant garde piece.
While those last suggestions are a little tongue in cheek, the system helped the theater raise their income by $28,000 Euros over what was normally taken.
Now certainly this specific system isn’t suitable for all genres of performance. It wouldn’t work for symphony concerts unless you were charging for all the time people weren’t fidgeting, coughing or consulting their cellphones. (Though penalizing people for pulling out their cellphones does have a certain appeal!)
However, the general concept does answer what is often a significant barrier to participation in an unfamiliar experience–“What if I don’t like it?”
I also like the idea that you could purchase “experiences” that might be transferable from venue to venue. That way a state arts council or tourism board could sell experiences redeemable at all the arts organizations around the state.
Then if you lived near a museum, you could go in on one day and visit a couple galleries and only be charged per gallery you entered or by each work you viewed for more than a few minutes. You could come back a week later and visit another gallery. By the time you are finished, you feel you have gotten your money’s worth on your own schedule and didn’t have to pay multiple times for re-entry. (I am specifically thinking of the recent complaints about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s voluntary admission fee.)
All this being said, I am not sure how best to accomplish this operationally. If there is going to be pay for reaction, I think it has to be more streamlined and elegant than attaching iPads to the back of theater seats as seen in the video. Though I do see the value in allowing people to see themselves reacting and share it on social media, I would be concerned about damage or theft.
What might be viable are some sort of disposable medical sensor placed on the face to determine when muscles formed a smile or heart rate changed or when someone stood up and started dancing.
The more I think about this, the smarter I think it is. If you cap out the cost at the price you would have normally charged, if people reach or exceed that cap, there is quantitative data to back up the fact they enjoyed themselves…or that they got a bargain and should have paid more for enjoying themselves as much as they did.