Sunday, February 19, 2012

Joshua Bell, inc


THIS post should prove once and for all that I'm not a communist! (Although I am enjoying telling people that I'll send 'em to Siberia.)

There's a story going around on Facebook right now. It's quite an interesting one - it's the tale of famous violinist Joshua Bell playing street music outside a train station in Washington, DC - and nobody noticing.

There are many interpretations of this tale, and the main lesson that folks seem to be getting from it is: We don't stop to listen.

While this is a quality moral to take away from the story, I believe that people are missing another, vital, intriguing component of the story.

The difference between the metro station and Carnegie Hall is one of marketing.

An artist left a comment on the story saying "It's sad that sometimes nobody appreciates art in our lifetime."

This is a defeatist attitude, and I place the blame squarely on that artist, not the audience, for being unappreciated.

Look, Joshua Bell's talent alone didn't stop people. If his can't, nobody's can. OK, snapping back into my Leader Urban role now, I believe people need to be told what to do.

Oh boy, I just saw my whole future campaign for president flash right before my eyes.

But seriously, folks, the world is so chock full of great things, it's hard to sort it out. People need to be shown. Case in point - I use Spotify, a music streaming service, with access to about a gazillion tunes. I typically listen to the same twenty. Weird!

The Joshua Bell as a street musician story resonates especially with me. I've done a bit of busking myself, and man, people really need to be cajoled into stopping. I've seen my more successful colleagues do this by being loud and flashy to catch their eye. (And I was wearing green wrestling shoes with pink laces, and I STILL wasn't loud enough!) There's a whole system of marketing on the street, and an entire psychology into convincing people to part with their money. In other words - marketing.

Justin Bieber fills arenas, and Joshua Bell gets chump change on the corner. Talent and recognition are not necessarily related.

Art is the commodity, and marketing is the distribution. Art without exposure perishes in oblivion, and exposure without something meaningful, valuable, and important to express is vapid, shallow, and dies quickly or lives in disgrace (ie, Las Vegas! Ohhh! BOOM!)

Marketing doesn't have to cheapen our art. If we write a song that will save lives and change the world - the world needs to be told about it. How are you going to move people if they haven't heard your song, read your book, seen your art, or were inspired by your story?

I have faith that people like good stuff. They just need a bit of help finding it.

- Josh

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