Pay-Per-Listen: Pasadena Master Chorale’s Risky New Pricing Strategy

The Pasadena amateur choir is boldly offering tickets for their season opener for zero dollars.

Los Angeles museums aren’t the only institutions throwing open their doors for free. Local choirs are doing it too.

As economist Milton Friedman said, “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.” That’s a philosophy the Pasadena Master Chorale is trying out. With the opening of its fifth season, the organization, which has been presenting critically acclaimed choral concerts since 2009, will literally put its fate in the hands of the audience. Tickets for the season opener, A Portrait of Benjamin Britten, can be bought for the sum of $0. That’s right, it’s free–if you want it to be.

“You can actually ‘purchase’ a ticket for zero dollars,” says PMC Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein. “Then, after the performance, we will ask audience members to pay what they feel the concert was worth.”

Whether or not the strategy will increase the audience remains to be seen but Bernstein is optimistic: “All of us at PMC are very excited about the idea of giving music to people first and, only then, afterwards asking for payment.”

A Portrait of Benjamin Britten opens on October 12 at Altadena Community Church. It celebrates the 100th birthday of British composer Benjamin Britten and includes works such as Jubilate Dea, choral dances from Britten’s opera Gloriana, and hymns like Festival Te Deum and Rejoice in the Lamb, performed by the choir with the aid of organist James Walker. 

“Purchase” tickets here.