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Counter. photo by Craig Allen

by • 5 Jan, 2011 • Thoughts about museumsComments (4)3210

Are people willing to pay for art and culture online?

Online is often associated with free. Music, movies, images, almost all information has become free (only maybe not legally.) Spotify, a discussion on Erwin Blom’s blog about successful subscription models and a post about business models that rocked 2010 made me wonder: Are people willing to pay for art and culture online? (And, given that they are, under what conditions?)

Looking at the ten successful business models in the Slideshare above, I see three common characteristics:

  1. People pay if it makes them part of something larger, e.g. Quirky*
  2. People pay to have an advantage over others (who pay less/nothing), e.g. In-App sales
  3. People pay for services that make products (look) cheaper, e.g. Airbnb.com

This sort of summarizes my motivations to pay for Spotify:

  1. It feels good to be on Spotify, especially now that I can share playlists etc. on Facebook. If Spotify sent me stickers, I’d put them on stuff to show off my membership.
  2. The free Spotify is OK, but my number one reason to pay for premium is so I can put the music on my mobile and stream music on the train. Big advantage!
  3. Only 10 euros a month for all the music in the world (minus Arcade Fire). That’s just as much as one record from the iStore every month.

I have to admit, though, I never thought that much about why I pay for Spotify. I just do. Although we associate online with free, many of us (and especially the older generations) are OK with paying for stuff that is valuable for us. If we can make art and culture valuable for people online (using the strengths and opportunities of the medium) people will be willing to pay for that service.

One service I think about is desktop wallpaper calendars of HD artworks. Don’t know how big the scene is, but considering the number of comments on Smashing Magazine’s monthly overview, there must be some people willing to pay for it. For 9.99 a year unlimited access to wallpapers (also for iPad and iPhone) with a fresh selection every month. Museums work together to provide enough choice.

Are you willing to pay for art and culture online? What are your conditions?

* The Louvre has successfully used this to buy The Three Graces.

Header photo by Craig Allen on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND)

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  • Nick

    First of all thanks for sharing our presentation.

    This Louvre example is a very interesting case. I should take a closer look a the cultural sector for interesting business concepts. In our workshop I sometimes use the example of a Pay-what-you-want experiment at a Belgian museum but this wasn’t really a success. If you’ve got more ideas I would love to hear them.

    > I’ll add your feed to my list ;)

  • Thanks for making the presentation! A very thorough and useful overview of something many of us (in the cultural sector) are struggling with: business models.

    The Dutch institute for digital heritage has made a publication on business model innovation for digital heritage last year (PDF) based on the work of Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, but it doesn’t really give best-practices or inspirational case studies.

    Crowdfunding is becoming ever more popular. The Louvre is one of the best examples I’ve seen of this, but there are others (especially with smaller institutions). I’ll be on the lookout for other examples I think are worth sharing!

    Thanks again!

  • I guess this is one model:
    http://pressandpolicy.bl.uk/Press-Releases/British-Library-Launches-First-Smartphone-App-483.aspx

    BUT will they recoup their development costs? I guess it also depends on what kind of deal they have with Toura.

  • Jorge

    Absolutely nothing, to access culture, even ad-free for Public Domain culture.

    There are many business possible that not controls or restrict access, from advertising, printing and mailing, downloads of very high quality or with x-ray or other methods of scan…

    Good access to culture means more use and publicity of culture, making it available and desired for the general public.