A difficult time for many in terms of finances

We already know that many people are experiencing greater pressure on their finances as a result of rising inflation rates and the cost-of-living crisis. A report by the UK’s House of Commons tells us that consumer prices were 11.1% higher in October 2022 than they had been a year before. Additionally, gas prices saw a 129% increase between October 2021 and October 2022.

As a result, many are cutting back on spending. A report by YouGov reveals that 32% of Britons said they felt forced to cut back on eating out, 29% on day trips and 17% on going to the movies. 21% were even cutting back on staple essential food items.

Because of this, many arts and cultural organizations are already thinking about what part they could play in easing the financial pressures felt by many. Some already had well-established dynamic pricing schemes which are now more helpful than ever. Proving particularly effective is the implementation of pay-what-you-wish schemes. Such initiatives allow audiences to continue visiting the cultural organizations they love for a price which feels affordable to them.

Woolly Mammoth’s pioneering Pay What You Wish scheme

Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC have long been supporters of widening access to performing arts and want to ensure theatre remains open and accessible to every member of their community. They pioneered Pay-What-You-Will (PWYW) pricing in 1987 and continue their commitment to removing financial barriers to this day.

The theatre assigns 28 PWYW tickets for every single performance throughout the year. Additionally, the first two performances of each show are entirely PWYW. Audience Members can purchase up to two tickets per person for a price of their choosing (although the minimum is $5 per ticket).

New release cinema at affordable prices with Barbican

Barbican’s dedication to offering accessible prices across their various art forms and aspects of their offer is clear. Barbican decided that price should not be a barrier to a great cinema experience. Every Friday they hold a Pay What You Can screening of a new release film where those wishing to book a ticket are simply asked to pick a price they can pay, between £3 and £15. Adding a range of prices provides guidance for audience members and might prove particularly useful for those in the conscientious Affirmation segment who may worry about what the ‘acceptable’ price range might be.

Barbican also recently introduced Pay What You Can ticket prices for their current exhibition Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics. Similar to Barbican’s cinema offer, those wishing to buy PWYC tickets are given a range of prices between £3 and £18 and are asked to choose the value closest to what they are able to pay.

Special exhibitions for all at National Gallery

The National Gallery’s response to the cost-of-living crisis was to introduce Pay What You Wish pricing for their current exhibition, Lucien Freud: New Perspectives. On Fridays, from 17:30 to 21:00, tickets can be purchased for any specified price (minimum £1).

The National Gallery understands that while the main galleries and many temporary exhibitions are free, the cost of surcharged exhibitions can make it difficult to visit. They therefore decided to widen access, allowing anyone who wanted to visit the Freud centenary to do so.


Perhaps now more than ever it’s important that cultural organizations explore the ways in which they can maintain or increase access to the arts during this difficult period. Dynamic pricing is one strategy organizations can explore, but at the core of any access strategy should be a genuine desire to welcome new audiences.