Perceptions and Value: When a World Class Violin Prodigy played a $3.5 mn violin at a Metro Station

Perceptions and Value: When a World Class Violin Prodigy played a $3.5 mn violin at a Metro Station November 29, 2011

If you put something on sale for cheap, is it perceived to be of low value, irrespective of its inherent quality? What do you think?

For example, if a world class musician – one of the best in the world plays on the street, can he draw attention to him? The kinds that earn $1000 a min for their performance. Music Prodigy! When such a musician plays on one of the finest instrument in the world. Price tag $3.5 mn. Do you think it will get him some crowd? Drawn merely by his talent?

Well, such an experiment happened. Joshua Bell, a violin prodigy played on an 18th century instrument of Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. Just to be fair to Bell, he is no ordinary looker either. He is tall and handsome and a heart throb of many. He plays animatedly and can play compositions very few would even attempt.

When he played violin at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station in Washington DC. He came dressed in jeans, long sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap and positioned himself with the open violin case (yes, of a $3.5 mn violin) and threw in little change for people to get attracted.. and started playing.

The reaction was to say the least, hardly worth anything. Maybe a dollar.

What this experiment shows is that even if you are world’s best, if you aren’t packaged well, then even a $1000 a minute can get earn just over $32 in a 45 mins performance!! That is the sad state of our mind in the modern times. The advertising industry has dulled our senses to a point where the only way we judge and recognize value is when we pay dearly for it. Otherwise, we can pass it by without a glimpse!

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