Fuse Commentary: A Tasting Menu for Boston Arts — An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Here’s a modest proposal. Let’s invent a Boston arts tasting menu.

The "Jukely" icon

The “Jukely” icon — What Jukely actually consists of is an old school dynamic pricing structure retooled for apps and the existence of the cloud.

By Debra Cash

Jukely is a New York start up that calls itself “Netflix for concerts.” For $25/month, subscribers get access to unlimited concerts in New York.

Digital platforms are where the venture money is. Jukely raised $2.4 million in seed funding, apparently none of which will be shared with artists or presenters. Their tag line We magically match friends with upcoming concerts and help you start a conversation is no magic at all: it’s a big data algorithm that synchs a subscribers music files and “likes” and those of that person’s friends and figures out who you might like to go to the concert with. (A little too intrusive for me, but I’m not a Millennial.) You get a date, or a group of friends together, without actually having to think about who you want to spend time with or have that serendipitous experience of running into a friend in the lobby or at the merch table. Call it frictionless concert going. Jukely has been rolled out in a number of cities, but for now at least, the website doesn’t list Boston among them.

Jukely’s Netflix analogy is misleading. Given streaming services, there is no upper limit to the number of people who can see any given film at any given time. People who watch 30 films a month don’t really cost Netflix any more than those who don’t get their money’s worth and see only a few. Live performances can’t be put on the backlist and brought back into the active queue years later.

What Jukely actually consists of is an old school dynamic pricing structure retooled for apps and the existence of the cloud. It promotes club acts that might otherwise have to paper the house or suffer empty seats during an engagement and is a marketing investment in a band’s future revenue.

This is fine as far as it goes, and combined with an Amazon-style recommendation system (e.g. if you like x band, y will probably appeal too) it also creates a way to create dynamic pricing for groups of concert goers instead of merely targeting individuals or family units. The folks behind Jukely — Bora Celik, Andrew Cornett (who helped build Kickstarter) and Thomas Dunkley (who calls himself legendary) — are no dummies.

Boston may join the Jukely portfolio — I don’t have any inside information on their business plan — but this got me thinking.

One of the key issues in the Boston arts community is why there is so little crossover of audiences among genres. Ravers don’t hit Symphony Hall, but neither do Boston Modern Orchestra Project audiences check out the dance at Green Street. As far as I have been able to observe, they don’t know that it would probably appeal to them.

So here’s a modest proposal. Let’s invent a Boston arts tasting menu.

As I envision it, you get four courses, perhaps with an optional fifth. For one prepaid subscription ($100?) you could attend one performance of any given genre. Over the course of say, three months, you would be able to catch one classical concert, one jazz concert, one dance performance, one theatre event. The system might recommend things for you, or you might be directed to a website sample.

The trick would be that all these performances would be limited to local companies or very small nonprofit presenters (Arts at the Armory in Somerville, the Dance Complex, Hibernian Hall). No Lion King. Presenters of out of town artists could still experiment with their own dynamic pricing — they already do that through special membership offers, and discount tickets are often available through the hardworking folks at ArtsBoston — but this would be about Boston audiences experiencing Boston art makers.

Let’s lower the bar to Boston area audiences experiencing the art of our own community and expanding their palates. If it worked, it would be delicious.

Debra Cash has reported, taught and lectured on dance, performing arts, design and cultural policy for print, broadcast and internet media. She regularly presents pre-concert talks, writes program notes and moderates events sponsored by World Music/CRASHarts and cultural venues throughout New England. A former Boston Globe and WBUR dance critic, she is a two-time winner of the Creative Arts Award for poetry from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and will return to the 2014 Bates Dance Festival as Scholar in Residence.

c 2014 Debra Cash


  1. Evelyn Rosenthal on October 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Nice idea! A cross-genre subscription series. Something to propose to the new Boston arts chief?

  2. Scratch on October 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    There are several plans similar to this already, but none of them have caught on. StageSource’s “Circle of Friends” card comes to mind, as does the (I believe still dormant) proposal John J. King and Darren Evans made a while back for a ‘disloyalty card’ modeled on the program in place in several allied but otherwise unaffiliated coffee shops. There’s also On The List, a subscription based seat-filling service that allows producers to give away tickets to presumably interested parties. While they skew heavily towards stand-up comedy, you do get all sorts of genres represented in their offerings.

  3. Steve on October 20, 2014 at 5:49 am


    I’ve already started something along these lines with http://boston.themuseumcalendar.com — not so much the ticketing aspect but making a variety of venues and events easier to discover. The focus for now is on visual arts but will expand as users create their own curated selections to share. Right now, you can find event listings for a variety of venues around town and additional venues can be suggested for inclusion. More is coming soon. To stay updated on changes, you can send mail to yes@themuseumcalendar. Questions and comments to @steve the same.

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