I have seen people get in very long lines at trade shows for free things, not even knowing what was being given away. I have seen people fight like wild animals over a few free T-shirts thrown to audience members. I have seen people who have money, eat food that is virtually inedible because it is free.
I have seen street vendors very frustrated with me as I show resistance to a purchase as they keep lowering the price with no effect. They just don't seem to understand - if I really don't want it, cheap will not change my desire.
Free or cheap, particularly for entertainment, is not a big incentive for me. In New York City there are so many cheap and free options for performances, a person who values their time at all has to be selective. However, as I wrote in Free Lunch, values do exist and there is quality to be found in New York City for free or cheap in places like Under St. Marks (see story here). However, I had not yet been to Penny's Open Mic until last night, when I went to a show for the first time.
Penny's Open Mic was started in 2007 by Penny Pollak and collaborators Milazzo and Marsha Brown. Penny is an actress, writer and performer. See more about her here and the venue here.
Every Tuesday night, at 9PM, performers of every ilk show up at this tiny underground theater - musicians, singers, actors, poets, dancers, comedians, monologists. They sign up to perform and their names are dropped in a bucket - 30 are chosen at random to determine who will perform and the order of performing. They are given 7 minutes to showcase before a live audience. Penny acts as emcee and timekeeper. A large number of the audience members are performers themselves, so the atmosphere is one of camaraderie and support.
The talent and level of experience varies, as would be expected. I found last night's performance outstanding. The live band and accompanying guitar are very strong elements. It was clear that many of the acts I saw had been fine tuned over a long period of time. Pieces from Frigid New York were done.
It is critical that venues like this exist for budding/aspiring performers or for the more seasoned to showcase new material. The admission charge is only $3. The focus is on performing, not business. Downstairs at 94 St. Marks Place, on Tuesday nights, the Curse of Trade has not attached to this enterprise and, as both audiences and performers concur, Penny's from Heaven :)