Thursday, February 6

Romantic Idealism

I'm definitely an idealist. I always have been. I believe in true love and happiness and honestly believe that everything in life - the stuff that happens to me - is a gift from God designed to help me find eternal happiness. 

In some cases my idealism has put me at odds with the sense of most people. Take my lack of full-time job as an example. I feel like it's better to not have a full-time job unless it meets all of my major needs in an employer (lots of different projects and the ability to use different skills being a major facet). So instead I have three part-time jobs, none of them regular or scheduled, all of which sometimes require insane amounts of work... or none at all... and all of them for different parts of me. I can fill essential oils and teach people about them, and push myself in the finances of Nature's Fusions, and it gives me something in common with my brothers. I write for Bonneville and love to create things that can impact the world and share the gospel. And I get to go to a residential treatment center and be a role model and counselor for kids who don't really have people who have taken care of them. It's perfect for me, in an unscheduled-I-don't-know-if-I'll-have-work-tomorrow kind of way that should make me uneasy according to normal standards. But I'm good.

I'm also an idealist when it comes to money. I wish... When I first learned about the law of consecration in Sunday School, I found myself praying that it would be re-instated because it sounded so... perfect. Utopian. Happy. Less stressful than how things work today. Everyone does their best, gives their all, asks for what they need...

I'm pretty sure there is more to it. But my 7-year-old self is still alive and well, and I have just as much difficulty selling (instead of giving) essential oils to family members and friends as I did accepting babysitting money as a teenager. I made some parents really concerned when I wouldn't take their money. Enough that they talked with mine. I remember my dad sitting me down and telling me I had to accept people's money when I worked for them. He totally didn't understand. Or when I volunteered for months for a position, which then became paid... and almost quit my job the first week because I didn't feel I was worth the paycheck.

Yeah. So maybe it's a self-worth issue mixed in with idyllic romanticism. Whatever. I know I'm worthwhile now at least. Sometimes. ;)

So it's extending to my a cappella group. We sing only really positive songs, we perform every week... and now I'm going the next step. Our concert on April 10, instead of being a flat $12 or $20 for admission, is going to be name your own price. That way people can choose to pay what they think the concert will be worth... what feel comfortable giving... and what they can afford.

The Covey Center doesn't have a way to do name-your-own-price online, so people have to call in or visit the box office in Provo. Tickets went on sale yesterday... and name your own price went live today. I was just excited that they were willing to make it work. :)

I talked with an economics professor today to ask for advice on making it work and, for the first fifteen minutes of our conversation, he tried to convince me to change my mind. Just lower the price, or sell the tickets at $12, or introduce price discrimination by selling some seats at higher/lower prices, or do this or that. It was still good to talk with him; if nothing else, it gave me a pulse from someone who works with numbers everyday, and pushed me to want to believe more in society than he did. His biggest concern was that here, in Provo, Mormons always want a deal or a coupon... and with name your own price, what would keep me from losing everything on the concert?

As I said, I'm an idealist... and I only have my own experience to draw from. I know that even though I love deals more than most other people, when someone appeals to my sense of trust - when they trust me or entrust me with something - I honestly admire them. There's a restaurant (or was, it's been a while) in downtown Salt Lake that was name your own price. I took my little brothers on a trip to Salt Lake just to go to that restaurant once while they were in town from Chicago. They wouldn't eat anything, so I didn't take much. When I finished my plate, the cashier suggested I pay $5 for my meal. I paid $30 and was awesomely happy. I left the place grinning from ear to ear because I felt like I was a part of something beautiful... something helping the world be a better place. Paying $5 for a $5 meal, or a $10 meal, wouldn't have given me that.

I just realized that this post might sound awfully self-serving. Especially since I'm telling you about Grace's concert.

Um.

Wow. That sort of took the wind out of my sails... and made me want to both erase it all and just assume that it will all work because people are good and no one is really self-serving and people realize that.

I am definitely an idealist. I don't even give other thoughts a chance. Or feel bad about tossing them. Lol.

And I assume that people are like me. I'm in love with life, and while I might want an amazing deal when I can get it, I only want deals so that I can turn around and support the causes that I really care about.

So, back to news, Grace's concert is going to also be a benefit concert as well. If you name your own price, 20% of your ticket price will go to giving back to the community. 20% because at least I'm down-to-earth enough to remember I have to cover theater costs. I'm not sure exactly where or how it'll be given back yet (since what we can do will depend on how much we bring in) but it'll happen.

Cool, huh? That's the kind of thing that I enjoy being a part of, just because I love feeling empowered. 

The promo code is "Amazing Grace."

...and in my contract with the theater I agreed to include the following (useful) information every time I talked about the performance:

In-person: 425 W Center St, Provo
Open M-Th: 10am-6pm, F: 10am-2pm

Tickets also on sale online (not name your own price): https://secure.coveycenter.org/webtix/showdates.php?s_id=778

The Covey Center for the Arts is owned and operated by the city of Provo.

Online and phone orders are charged a $3 convenience surcharge per transaction (not per ticket).

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember, one of the key functions of money is to provide information about needs and wants. Even in a world where everyone is filled with pure love and charity we still need some way to prioritize tasks and products. There just isn't enough time to do everything for everyone, as nice as that would be.

That's where prices come on. When you put a price on something you're just saying “This took X amount of personal effort to achieve. Should I keep doing this or would it be better to spend my time on something else?”

When people pay that price it's a clear message saying “We think it was worth the effort. Please keep doing it.”

When people don't pay that price it's an equally clear message saying “Your end product is not worth the time and effort you put into it. Please try something else.”

And when someone is willing to pay you more for task/product A than they will for task/product B it's a message saying “Please please please focus on A because we personally think it's a lot more useful/desirable than B”.

Plus prices let people negotiate scarcity. You only have so many seats to sell and ideally you want the people who most enjoy your music to get them. Putting a modest price on each seat forces people to stop and ask themselves “Do I really want that seat or should I let someone else have it?”

So the problem with “name your own price” isn't a lack of human goodness, it's a lack of information. It doesn't tell your customers how much effort you put into your performance or how much money you need to break even. You might get a bunch of people feeling really proud that they chose to pay $7 instead of $3 without ever realizing that they still underpaid you for your time and didn't cover your expenses. It also doesn't help prioritize music lovers over bored people looking for a cheap way to waste time. You might get someone who values music at $50 a ticket stuck at home because a bunch of apathetic teenagers picked up all the tickets at $3 a piece and then spent the whole performance texting.

So I suppose I would suggest at least putting a minimum price on the tickets. Not because people can't be trusted to do the right thing but because people need information in order to make wise decisions.

Mormon Guy said...

Thanks, Anon.

I see the logic in your thoughts, and I appreciate your willingness to share them with me. I've had the same thoughts fighting on one side of my head since I got the idea to do name your own price.

From a rational perspective, setting a minimum does ensure that people who aren't willing to pay it won't pay less. And teenagers do lack the processing power to see the results from their actions. But at least in the research I've read, setting price minimums in a NYOP also discourages people from paying more; there hasn't been a lot in this area, but most find that when a minimum is given, almost all people pay the minimum as they expect it is an honest and fair price. Then organizers have to put the minimum high enough to recoup costs, and it ends up being a better model to simply set a normal price for tickets and then offer a few to people who can't afford them through deals.

Another method that has some anecdotal support is giving a "suggested price" - and that's the method that I feel most comfortable with inside my idealistic mind. Online there's a retail price for tickets to both our concert and workshop. I know it may not be real, but I envision someone who absolutely loves music but doesn't have the money to pay $100, or even $12, to show his love. I know there have been times in my life when I was totally broke and couldn't accurately show my needs through money. I want that person to be able to come to the concert... more than I want to break even.

In the end, my goal for the concert isn't just raising money. It's first filling all the seats, and, once that is done, raising money for the group. We're small, and don't have a lot of fans yet. We only have 200 likes on Facebook. I think that filling 1340 seats (670 across 2 performances) is a huge undertaking. Yes, there are only 1340 seats. But if everyone who reads this post comes, (including the people from Indonesia, the Ukraine, and China), we'd still need more people to fill the theater. Hopefully name your own price is novel enough in Provo that I can get publicity about Grace out to the community and sell out.

Maybe for our next concert, if I know that demand will outpace supply, I'll find a way to ensure that people who want tickets most get them. I could develop something to add on to the name your own price mentality as a pre-screen to ensure that people are really passionate about music. That would actually be a cool experiment... But for this one, I'm happy with simply having a full house and not losing all my money. :)

Barbara Robarts said...

How do we find your group's page on Facebook? Searching for "Grace" is overwhelming.

btw - I recently 'discovered' your blog and I enjoy/am inspired by/admire you and your posts very much.

Mormon Guy said...

Grace A Cappella - Facebook.com/graceacappella