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Las Vegas does specialize in providing an experience where the rules in most other states/provinces are suspended or heavily modified. Gambling is one (less so now than previously),alcohol is still a point of different and prostitution is legal in Nevada though not in Las Vegas city limits nor in Clark County.

There is the fascinating observation that casinos don't really compete on the gambling itself, blackjack is blackjack (it does happen but the effect is less than expected). They compete on the 'comps' or out-of-casino experience. Do I want an Italian-American themed buffet or a classic French one? In other words they compete on the personality behind the casino.

Closer to home, my United Church congregation in rural Central Ontario runs several dinners and events based on the concept of "free-will offering" and it always covers costs and nets us a return. When the Annual Congregational Meeting comes around the standing arrangement is that the Church Council provides dessert, there is a free-will offering for the main course which is always sufficiently decent to attract a crowd and a quorum. In the United Church's Presbyterian/Congregationalist polity quorum and consultation matter.

I was in Montréal last week, on a heavy schedule of meetings, so not much commenting but an interesting experience.
Guy-Concordia University Metro station: a busker at the official busker site ( I don't know about other subway systems but Montréal has designated places in each station for buskers). He had set up his gear plus a cardboard stand with a reprint of newspaper critics:"Best busker in Montréal". He was very good and I paid to listen, Did the publicity increased the number of customers and/or the amount?
On the other hand, an experiment in Washington ( don't recall the exaxct cite) showed that people were unable to distinguis between an ordinary busker and a player from the Washington Synmphiny. Are the buskers that good and are the unlucky one in the tournamant or is thwere a perception bias? Enquiring minds want to know.

Indeed some of the pedicabs in the city in which I live don't charge a fair. Customers pay what they want, and from what I've heard they generally pay well. Though there are no contractual reasons to pay for the ride, there are still social reasons that make payment rational: impressing your date, keeping the driver happy, satisfying personal notions of pride and responsibility. Friendly drivers consequently do much better, and for that reason pedicabbing tends to attract a more gregarious sort of folk than do the municipal cab services.

I've busked on occasion. The success of the venture depends upon the setting. Some cities have a culture of live music, in which case people are accustomed to tip. And unfortunately some do not. Busking at 8am or 5pm on a weekday - a la the Joshua Bell/DC subway experiment - is a horrible idea. People are preoccupied and in a rush. Lunchtime, or the weekend, would go much better. Your audience needs to be at leisure -- but not so much at leisure that they will be upset by your intrusion (ie the beach).

The reward is a sort of idealized transaction. Once you've acquired a crowd, there's no haggling or underhandedness, no dishonesty or mistrust. The social nature of commerce comes out; everyone walks away happier.

Jacques Rene - Here's the youtube video of the subway experiment you're thinking about (sorry, there's an ad first). It's amazing...

This is particularly relevant in the context of media piracy. It happens that people are willing to pay money, and sometimes nontrivial amounts, when the provider offers it under terms that that the consumer considers to be fair. This is why the whole agency pricing book thing is a case of the publishing industry shooting itself in the foot; it makes the whole thing look unfair, and lowers the moral barrier to book piracy.

Another way in which street performers illustrate the laws of economics: I've been told that the more profitable locations for street performers in Londong are controlled by gangs. You try street performing near Picadilly Circus in London and asking for money and without paying - er - "rent" to the appropriate gang, and a couple of heavies will come and move you along.

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