SFEMS Concerts to Become Pay-What-You-Can

In a major effort to increase arts accessibility, SFEMS is implementing a “pay-what-you-can” ticket model for its 2023–24 concert season, becoming by far the largest classical arts organization in the Bay Area to adopt such an approach to ticket pricing.

“We are excited to take this major step forward in eliminating income as a barrier to enjoy world-class live performances,” said executive director Derek Tam.

The 2023–24 concert season—the organization’s 47th—includes seven concert sets across the Bay Area from September through April, as well as the 2024 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition of early music, scheduled for June 2024.

As performing arts organizations continue to grapple with lingering revenue issues from the pandemic, as well as issues of equity in the arts, SFEMS undertook a strategic overhaul to imagine an early music community reflective of the Bay Area’s diversity.

It was clear that lack of income had become a major barrier to enjoyment of live performance, Tam said.

“We are hoping that this new model will help break the perception of the enjoyment of classical and early music as an ‘elite’ entertainment,” Tam said. “Much of this music was intended and created for broad appeal, and we’re hoping to entice people to experience early music in a welcoming and exciting environment.”

To support this experiment, patrons are also being invited to consider “paying-it-forward” by purchasing a subscription.

“SFEMS has long been buoyed by our loyal supporters,” Tam said. “We’re confident that many of our existing subscribers will invest in a building a future where the past and the present can meet and enrich each other—where early music can be enjoyed, here and now, by anyone.”

Pay-what-you-can tickets will be available in late July.

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