Here’s what we just did: we changed the way people consume arts/entertainment experiences. In one fell swoop we took the commerce part out and what we ended up with was nothing short of sublime. 700 people in a room and not one of them paid a dime to be there. OK< so there were a few people who bought each other tickets and 2 people who successfully cheated. We let them - to experiment with the system and ridicule them later. Imagine you are shopping for shoes or food or now even a girlfriend or boyfriend online. You peruse the wares, compare prices and possibly make a purchase. Shopping. We all do it. It’s how we get stuff. We compare products and services with our budget and we decide how to allocate resources. These include money, time, mental bandwidth and a number of other resources that we control. This is how it works. With our clothes, our electronics, our vacations, our vehicles and our entertainment. To a certai n degree, this is also true of how we decide to consume art.
Doesn’t that statement sound kinda icky? “Consume art.”
So we did an experiment that was hard, confusing, confounding and totally worth it. We designed an interactive collaborative art event that attracted almost 300 co-conspirators and we put it on the market for people to consume. A show, like many others. But we wouldn’t let anyone buy a ticket for themselves. And we kept the content a secret. And we booked it for 2 consecutive weekends, and didn’t tell anyone about the second weekend. Total radio silence. A show that no one knew ANYTHING about. $50 ticket. No information. Not the location or who was in it or what the content was. Nothing. The first weekend on Friday night was the “friends and family” night. The guest list, basically. With a cast of 300, it was easy to fill the place with 500 guests. They came for free, but on a list that the artists gave us. The Saturday of the first weekend every one of the 700 people who came was gifted their ticket from someone who loves them who participated in a Kickstarter campaign with the tickets the "rewards". People who got tickets in this way were made to fill out a simple survey, allocating the ticket they bought to the end user. The end user was then given a different survey to fill out. We made videos with clues as to what the show was about, but only sent them to the end users. We made them go on a scavenger hunt to find the location. We did a costuming event for them. The stuff leading up to the show was more work then the show itself (which was an 8 day build with dozens and dozens of people). The Friday show we just got names and put them on a list.
The Friday night people got a show for free. No investment. They didn’t pay for it and didn’t really value it. Not a gift.
The Saturday show was a gift that was selected for them as the special person in the givers’ life.
The difference between the 2 shows was like night and day. Totally different show. I’m not putting anyone down or whatever. It’s just the Saturday night was magical. And I know why. We all do. We knew it when we all co-wrote this show. It’s the gift part. Not a person in the room paid to be there. They weren’t consuming the experience. Bathed in gratitude and not “comparing” the experience to others they have bought before coupled with having no idea what to expect they were delighted, amazed, giddy, inquisitive and they marveled at the content, the collaborative nature of it and the mysterious package it was wrapped up in. They loved it. It was completely outside of commerce.
When they walked out of the event, there were ticketing booths between them and their cars, with members of the show asking if they wished to buy tickets for others for the second weekend of shows. Many were delighted to. Lines were long, internet was slow, people were unprepared (as we knew they would be)… but it worked. It wasn’t perfect and it didn’t sell all the tickets, but we sold a lot. And that is beautiful. And somehow, even though we were asking them to buy $50 tickets, it still felt like it was outside of commerce.
We're not really selling them tickets-were offering people the opportunity to construct/facilitate/be complicit in someone else's aha moment.. We're sharing the magical lived experience of art-reaching the divine. We are engineering disperfection. Screaming lies that tell truths. We are doing a show and asking people help shoulder the costs to facilitate the experience.
Then the next day was the superbowl. So they would have a nice juxtaposition…
What now? Now, the Fallen Cosmos gift graphic is here for you to marvel at!
Behold, this is what gifting looks like:
http://sfiop.org/infographical/index.html (it's interactive, you can zoom in or move it around...)
Each line is a ticket/experience. Each dot is either a person who received a ticked by purchasing it or having it gifted to them.
light blue= first Friday
dark blue= first Saturday
magenta= second Friday
Gifting makes great constellations, don’t you think?
The graphic was made by supra-genius tech guy Dustin Selman. The lines are slightly curved, as you can see. It’s possible that if a person bought a person a ticket, and they passed it on the line “could” be a circle. You’ll see we get close. Very close.
You’ll also see that there are some super-nova looking things. That’s the event organizers giving tickets away to people in exchange for donations of sound gear or lights or food for the crew or what have you.
This graphic is nowhere near done. There are 2 nights left of this show and I see some circles in our future!!! I have no idea how to quantify all this. We NEED to sell every ticket to break even on this ambitious show. The risks here are enormous. We wanted to sell all the tickets to the second weekend shows to the people from the first weekend. The Saturday people did great. Tons of them bought tickets. The Friday people, not so much… I wonder why!?!?!?
We are standing firm. We are only selling tickets to people who went to the experience. They have access to a URL that will allow them to buy a ticket FOR YOU!!! For the people who bought their tickets, maybe? Because you’re amazing? Because this is a great idea? Just to see what happens and how far we can take this? It’s up to you guys now…
As of yet the super secret URL to buy tickets hasn’t leaked out (we know by the spreadsheets). You will know if it has leaked out because of the colors on the gift graphic. If a magenta or purple person is the start of the gifting, then the URL leaked to them. Totally fascinating.
The thing is a hit. The idea is solid. The work has been done, it’s all set up and ready to roll out.
Lets see if it works…
PS: Here are a few reviews from this past weekend:
“People. Go. You need to experience this. I had low expectations going in, half expecting a chicken-roll. But I was blown away. Fucking magical. Completely twisted. This kind of shit is why we live in the bay area. It's like they took the night market, improved the sucky parts, and took it up several levels. Seriously, do not miss. You will not regret . “
“It was just fantastic. We're really grateful and honored for the invites. It was like 10% county fair, 5% Maker Faire, 10% scavenger hunt, 20% Cirque Du Soleil, 10% immersive theatre, 5% flashmob, 10% practical joke, 15% masquerade ball, 15% Crash Worship show.
I have no photos from the inside, because after showing up and having our names checked against the guest list, they handed us each an empty 8x5 envelope and instructed us that the way to make an entrance pass was to turn off my phone, drop it in, and seal the envelope. We didn't have to check the envelopes or submit them to inspection, so people totally could've cheated, but we literally didn't see a single person doing that the entire night -- not a single cell phone amongst a thousand people, for four hours -- so the gentle-nudge-and-honor-system measure was extraordinarily effective.
This morning, I read some of the old posts about Chicken John's inspiration. A big part of it was to get away from the transactional nature of most arts & entertainment, where you shop around, make a selection, pay your money, and have the same experience as every other person there. The buy-as-a-gift nature of the tickets had an interesting effect: you get a particular kind of audience when everyone there was selected by someone who thought, "Which of my friends would get the most out of a weird art show?" Also, the show was designed to have way more going on than a single person could possibly have time to see. That was nice -- I usually treat things like this as a checklist (e.g., Disneyworld as a kid) and that was impossible here, which allowed my obsessive completionism to have a night off. Also, most exhibits were somewhat obscured from the outside, so you didn't even know what was going to happen until you got insid e. There were clues, though: "You Are What You Eat" or "Meet Your Shadow".
It added up to an Alice-in-Wonderland experience, where you wandered from one surprise to the next.
There were 5- to 15-person lines outside some of the attractions, but they went fast and the staff put a ton of effort into making the wait as unboring as possible; hordes of cast members were roaming all over, mostly with interactive props. And of course the people-watching was stellar. Again, not a single person waiting in line was checking their phone.
There's actually going to be an encore performance next Friday/Saturday. We wish any of you were available, so we could share the experience!”
“Congratulations. Such a good idea. Fucking delightful. The art school kid in me wept in happiness to XX XXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX(censored for content) . Xxo Swoon“
“I couldn't understand what the nasty lady was saying, but I didn't need to. I had no idea that there were XXXXXXXXX of that XXXXXXXX. I'm devouring them now on Wikipedia and it's all just blowing my mind. Thank you for setting me on this path. And for the best show I've seen in 20 years.”
We’ve got a few dozen more…
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