What are the odds you’ve been thinking hard about event pricing? With all that is happening in the industry right now, we’re guessing they’re high. Because virtual events are now the norm. And figuring out how much you should charge your attendees is a challenge. With an in-person experience, it was easier. You had previous examples to draw from, and the numbers were a little more clear. But now that the paradigm has shifted, the questions about event pricing changed too.
And we previously covered some ways you can learn to figure out how to price your virtual event. But today, we wanted to bring you yet another interesting option. Imagine a world where your attendees pay what they want for the experience. A world where they attend and only after do they decide how much the experience was worth. Sounds strange, right? But in reality, it can be a game.changer for you! So, in order to explain everything a little bit better, we welcome Kahlil Ashanti of weshowup. He’ll tell you and our amazing host, Will Curran, all about this event pricing model. Join us right now and learn how you can adopt it!
Click here for the full audio transcription.
Event Pricing & weshowup: A Backstory
Kahlil tells us a little about the backstory behind weshowup. “It actually came from my time in the U.S. Air Force because I was a part of a group called Tops in Blue. And since 1953, it was tasked to perform for our troops in harm’s way and thank them for their service. Remind them what they’re fighting for”, he recalls. “And we were required to shake the hand of every soldier who came to see us perform. Looking back, that’s where this app, this whole business really started. Because back then, you had to talk to your audience. There was no social media. You actually had to talk to people”.
“When I wrote Basic Training, it was just something I would do to thank people. I wasn’t trying to sell anything. I was just saying, “A dollar is not easy to come by. You chose to spend this time with me. The least I can do is work my butt off on stage and thank you as you leave. That’s the least I can do.”
“And people started being honest with me. They were like, “Kahlil, I didn’t think I was going to like that. But it was amazing and I would have paid more for it.” And one person after another, all over the world, as I’m shaking hands with people, they say, “I would have paid more for that.” That planted this seed in my head of, “Well, why can’t they pay more for that? Is it possible that the perceived value of my show was highest at the end? And can I be the only person in the world who feels this way?”
An Idea Is Born
Thus, Kahlil’s model of event pricing was born. “I was like, what if I could just focus on performing and giving the best show possible for these kind people? And so, I did pass the hat and I made more money that way than had when I charged $20 a person. But the problem was, I had email addresses over here, and I had a ton of cash over here. And I had no way of thanking people who put $100 bills in or even $1 bills in. I was like, “How is there no way for me to connect the two?” And of all the companies out there, I could not find anyone that allowed you to make a reservation for an event as an audience member, enjoy the event, and then pay when the value of the experience is highest, which is afterward. So, I built it”, he explains.
So, in a nutshell, weshowup is “the digital pay-what-you-want solution for events. It doesn’t have to be theater. It doesn’t have to be in-person. And it also works online, and it allows audiences to discover you in a way that de-risks the fact that they’ve never heard of you before. And it allows them to pay when the value of your talent is highest, which is afterward”.
Event Pricing: Explaining The Pay-What-You-Want Model
weshowup is not your typical event pricing model, and it’s not the same as tipping. “With performance and events and live experiences, or even online experiences, where you have a talented person sharing their talent, what they’re looking for is discovery. So, with our model, they’re not asking you for full price upfront. They’re saying, “Hey, look, Will, I know you’ve never heard of me. I’m glad you found me, but pay a couple of dollars to come and check me out. And let me prove that I’m worth the money that you work so hard to earn”, Kahlil explains.
“And then afterward, when you’re feeling like, “Man, she was incredible,” you get a text or an email that says, not 1 or $2, but it’s whatever the artist decides to ask you for. You get three choices and an empty text box. And the text says, “Hey, Will, thanks for coming to see Basic Training by Kahlil Ashanti. How much would you like to contribute?” $25, $15, $10, empty text box. And that’s it. And then the other model we have that’s been really successful, especially with live streaming is, “Hey, Will, it’s free to make a reservation. We only charge you if you don’t show up.”
Monetizing Virtual Events
In Kahlil’s experience, attendees tend to pay 30% more than what he asked for initially. And Will is curious to know how event profs can start monetizing virtual events. “We didn’t want to build a ticketing company. We built an audience company, and live-streaming is just one more way we’re seeing that the audience is the hero of the story. And the way that weshowup works with live events is it takes it one step further. Because you can use YouTube Live, Jitsi, Vimeo, Zoom, whatever streaming service you’re using. We allow you to wrap a commerce and attendance conversation around that. So, instead of streaming for free and creating zero value for you as an entrepreneur or as a performer, you get no data when you stream for free”, says Kahlil.
How This Event Pricing Model Does It
“So we set it up in a turnkey way for you to accept reservations for your stream. Send them an email that says, “Hey, Will, thanks for making a reservation for my live stream. Here’s the link. We’ll email you the password closer to the gig.” And now, this person has made a reservation. They’ve entered their credit card number. They’ve paid $7 and 50 cents or a dollar or free for your stream. But now you know who they are, and now they’re going to enjoy your live stream. And then our system, the way that our code works is that it’s timed to the end of your stream to send them a text. A thank you note or whatever you’d like that says, “Hey, how much did you think it was worth?” So, that’s been the really exciting and fun part about the live stream economy is that we are the only solution that does that, and the results have been pretty incredible”, he adds.
How To Get Into The Mindset
Kahlil has some tips for those who want to use this event pricing model. “Stop calling it a donation. You’re not a nonprofit. You don’t need donations. And you’re working hard as artists. So, communication is very, very important for artists dealing with their audiences. And it’s a skill set that now is a perfect time to build. So, that’s the first one”.
“The second one is, stop doing it for free. Because you’re setting a precedent in the minds of the audience that allows them to devalue everything that you stand for. And that’s hard to change. Once somebody sees something for free, you’re not going to get them to pay for it. And it’s very difficult for artists to get around, especially when you’re starting out. You really have to take a stand. And one of the things that I implore artists to do and create, is to understand who your audience. If people aren’t willing to pay for you, they’re not your audience. That is a way to build the belonging that scales in a way that makes your audience the hero of the story and allows you to be something that they would miss if you were not there”, he adds.
Further Into The Transition
There are a couple more things to think about if you’re looking to transition to this event pricing model. “Eventually, people are going to go back to live events. Because they’re not dead. They’ll just never be the same. And so, weshowup, in the model that we stand for with inclusive, diverse, and equitable access to all events is the fact that even as people go back to live events, there may still be some live streaming. But what we do know is that there’s going to be a whole lot of empty seats. And there’s going to be a lot of different venues still struggling”, says Kahlil.
“So, using weshowup is a great way now to just start thinking about ways to engage your audience. And build that trust and that brand identity in a way that doesn’t alienate a lot of folks out there who have lost their jobs, don’t have the dough that they had, and might not even have the discretionary time or income to come and see gigs at your venues. So, I feel like this time and this model is very relevant. But also provides that long-tail view so that it goes beyond the live streaming craze we’re in right now”.
The Technology Behind weshowup’s Event Pricing
“So, our thing is about inclusive and diverse and equitable. Which means that you own your audience data. So, you get to decide when that email is sent to Will, who has made a reservation. You can edit the emails. So, we really made it agile”, adds Khalil.
“One of the things that get overlooked is listening to the user, talking to the users. The whole idea is that it was validated learning. We launched something ugly as soon as humanly possible. And then everything that we’ve implemented with the tech and the type of experience that we have is because of user feedback. And us constantly talking to the customers and asking for criticism and listening for consistency”.
Set Your Own Value Model: The Future
“I think the economics of perceived value will continue to be top of mind for marketers and creative souls, as we try to engage audiences in an economy that is rapidly changing. I feel like where all of this is going, is putting the audience in the driver’s seat. We are in the midst of a cultural creative renaissance with more content to consume than ever before”.
“Audiences continue to want to have a say in how they value experiences. They have more information at their fingertips to make choices. Advertising will always be here, but it’s withering in ways that I don’t think we could foresee. And I think the future of weshowup is that it actually becomes really, this talent discovery engine powered by the economics of perceived value. Not only for theater or music but for any time people gather and want to take part and arrive as strangers and leave as friends. It’s an opportunity for artists and audiences to connect in whatever way they want, and in a way that doesn’t make people feel bad for not having enough money or the socioeconomic background to belong. And I think that belonging is going to be a key factor in our future”, Kahlil concludes.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s very special edition of the Event Tech Podcast! Hopefully, you’re now one step closer to finding out the best event pricing model for you. And if you’re still not sure about other aspects of your virtual event, we got your back!
Download our free virtual event planning checklist today and learn what you have to do every step of the way to create an unforgettable experience for tour attendees. And if you’re looking for the best virtual event production company out there, chat with us! The Endless team is here to help.
Make sure you join us again next week for another episode. In case you’re interested in extra virtual event content, click here to learn more while you wait for another episode of the Event Tech Podcast!