Apparently, 10% of Chicago music lovers don't have a penny to their names.

I spent half of today volunteering at the annual Old Town Folk & Roots Music Festival, run by one of my favoite local nonprofits, the Old Town School of Folk Music ( The festival draws musical talent from all over the world; there are at least 3 acts performing at any given time, from all over the U.S., Mexico, Zimbabwe, and India, just to name a few. It’s a big, warm, fuzzy gathering in the park; there is a kids’ activity tent, dance workshops, food and crafts booths, and various mellow hippies and music lovers as far as the eye can see. Generally, a good time is had by all.

My volunteer assignment was collecting admission fees and stamping hands at the front gate. The cost is very modest; for 10 hours of constant top-quality music, the requested donation is $5 for adults and $1 for seniors or kids under 12; nobody is turned away for lack of ability to pay. And yet probably 5% of people (more like 10% toward the end of my shift at 6:30, when there were still 4 hours of music left to go) either just walked through the front gate, completely ignoring our reqest to make a donation, or told us they had no money. (I am not including in this figure the additional 5-10% who apologetically gave us less than the usual admission rate). Plus there were those with lousy excuses (“I paid yesterday!” “My friend lives up the block - I’m just going to see him” although that block contains only the park and the public library, “I’m just looking for someone” “I just want a drink of water from the fountain.”)

Yes, I know the economy sucks, but I really doubt that 10-20% of those who attended the festival literally could not spare a single dollar for admission. It would be interesting to see how many of those broke people then bought one or more $4 beers or $5 hamburgers, or $15 CDs from the artists. The festival is run by a nonprofit with no government funding and precious little grant money, and gives out hundreds of music scholarships every year to low-income kids. The vast majority of festival staff, like myself, were volunteers, receiving only a uniform school T-shirt in exchange for several hours of our time. Where the hell do these people think the funds to organize the festival come from? The Festival Fairy? Performers need to be paid and transported, equipment rented, permits purchased…do these freeloaders think they are owed the fruits of others labors for nothing?

You make a thing not compulsory, and some people are not going to do it.

So next time, charge admission.

If they want everyone to pay maybe they shouldn’t call it a donation?

My boyfriend works at a theater and they sometimes do show that are “free” with donations “accepted”. I’ve asked him why they don’t just charge $5 for admission instead of trusting people to be honest, because sometimes they make almost no money I was told that if they required people to pay, that the theater itself (well, the people in charge) would be required to spend even more money they don’t have on…something or other. That wasn’t very helpful, I know, but the vague basic idea is that having a set admission costs them more than just accepting donations.

My guess would be that a festival would work the same way.

Uh, there should be a period between “money” and “I” in the above post.

I really think the school is trying to make the festival accessible to all, and I have no problem with, say, a limited-income family of 4 giving $5 for the whole bunch, or someone who is unemployed entering for free. I just find it hard to believe, though, that such a high percentage of the attendees were really that strapped for cash.

And the obvious lies, people who walked right through without even a glance while talking on their cell phones, etc. were really annoying. If you had $3 for theat Starbucks latte you are holding, you don’t have even $1 for 10 hours of live, professional music?

It’s a tough call. Musicians want to get paid, and want to have a venue, but it’s pretty disheartening to play to an empty house. At least some of those bastard freeloaders filled out the ranks of the audience.

Eva Luna , I’m suddenly very happy that I didn’t end up volunteering at one of the gates - it would’ve driven me nuts, too! All I had to deal with at the Staff Stage was the fact that I’d left my sunscreen with my stuff at the check-in area and then spent my entire shift standing in the sun. :smack:

Honestly, whenever I go somewhere that has a “suggested” donation, I always feel very guilty if I don’t pay that amount. And for heaven’s sake, if they wanted to hear the music without paying, all they had to do was lurk around the edges of the festival. It’s not like the music stops at the boundaries of the park. :rolleyes:


The logic behind this.
[li]Hey, people are getting into this for nothing![/li][li]Therefore it must be worth nothing.[/li][li]Why am I paying $5 for something that’s worth nothing?[/li][li]I’ll pay exactly what it’s worth.[/li][li]Go to step 1.[/li][/list=1]

Totally circular and indefensible, but if you give people a ready-made excuse for not paying do you honestly think people aren’t going to grab it?

I’m actually impressed that you got money off 90% of people. Look on the bright side!

Well, I had the same assignment last year, and we didn’t have this issue nearly as much of the time. In fact, least year people frequently told us to “keep the change” as a donation to the school.

I think partly it’s the economy, but geez, the least people could do is acknowledge the request if they’re going to plead poverty! A modicum of politeness would be nice, rather than pretending we don’t exist because of course your eyeballs apparently don’t function while you’re talking on your cell phone and sipping your $3 latte.

Plenty of other nonprofits function the same way; even the Art Institute has a policy of “$8 suggested donation; pay what you wish, but you must pay something.” I wonder whether they have the same problem?

I thought this thread was going to be about a record club that asked people to tape a penny to their order forms. Anyone remember those?

I’d say 90% honest is doing pretty well, actually.