Over the past couple days, friends of mine have been posting pictures of their Taylor Swift concert ticket purchases. They waited patiently and eagerly to get them and shelled out the money. This was important to them and worth the price.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what gives entertainment value. Why will people pay high prices for some forms of entertainment but not others? Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why people want to see Taylor Swift perform. However, if there were a new singer playing at a venue downtown, would these same music lovers hesitate to spend any money at all to go see her? Even if she was a friend?
To be fair, I’m not a person who pays high ticket prices. I have a modest income and a family to support. I’m a teacher, indie author, and community theatre performer. What little extra money I have – and it is VERY little – usually goes back into my books or shows or goes toward buying my friends’ books or seeing my friends’ shows. I didn’t even think about getting Taylor Swift tickets. Didn’t cross my mind as an option.
I'm always amused when new self-published authors on the scene do the standard complaint: “People will pay five dollars for a Starbucks coffee but won’t pay ninety-nine cents for my book.” It makes no sense to compare those things. Food/drink verses entertainment? No. You have to pit similar things against each other.
Here’s an example. I have a friend who devours young adult novels. She posts about them frequently on her social media pages. We’re Goodreads friends as well, so I see her reviews. She’s often asking for suggestions for her next read. She buys hardcovers of the newest hit books as soon as they are released.
She has never bought one of my young adult books. She’s never asked about them. She’s never talked to me about them. If she has a Kindle, she could get all five of my YA books for less than the price of one of her big name hardcover novels. Doesn’t matter. I could offer them for free, and she still won’t get them. She doesn’t see small press published books as worthy of her time.
Another friend of mine has spent a fortune on air fare, hotel rooms in Chicago and New York, along with hefty ticket prices to see Hamilton MULTIPLE times. She has season tickets to the Broadway shows that tour into town. The only times she’s ever come to see shows I was in or directed was when I’ve given her free tickets, and even then has turned me down a couple times. To my knowledge, she’s never paid to see a community theater play. She doesn’t see amateur productions as worthy of her time.
Okay, I’m whining a little.
Still, the point is (whether about my work or not) that some people have a definite idea of what has value to them. With regard to entertainment, value is often weighed more against time spent than cost. They will spend good money on something that is guaranteed to be good. There’s no question Taylor’s concert will be great, Hamilton will amaze, and the newest novel by a favorite famous author will be riveting.
People are less likely to spend money, even if the price is dramatically lower, on entertainment that isn't guaranteed to be good. That new singer at the small venue might have a few clunky songs. The community theatre play might be poorly acted or have bad costumes. The book by that indie author might be full of grammatical errors or fail to make sense. So, even if all it costs is a cover charge and a beer, a low ticket price, or a dollar at Amazon, it feels like a risk to spend money and time on something that might not be good.
But what if it is.
It takes people who are perhaps more generous with how they use their time to trust or even seek out entertainment that isn’t a guarantee. Often this starts as a favor. Your friend is singing in a band or acting in a show. She’s asked you to come many times, and you finally have a free night and decide, “what the heck, I’ll go check it out.”
Or someone you work with has written a book. You know it’s not the kind of thing you usually read, or maybe you don’t read much at all. Still, she’s been talking about it for a while, and over your summer vacation you choose it to read it while you suntan at the beach.
And maybe the show is great. And maybe the book is fun. Now you know you can trust this person to entertain you, and their entertainment value goes up. At least a little.
Of course, the opposite may happen. The show isn’t good. The book doesn’t grab you. Unfortunately, this confirms your conviction that local shows (or artists or talent or writers) aren’t good enough for your time or money. This is too bad, because they aren’t all equal. There’s no way to know. It’ll always be a bit of a risk.
There’s a bias that most people have that if you know the person who wrote the play, book, or song, then it probably isn’t very good. We don’t trust it. These normal people that we work with or are friends with couldn't possibly be that talented or they'd be making a living with their art. Right?
I have definitely been to some original plays that were boring or weird. I’ve been in a couple that were bad. However, I’ve also seen some that were absolutely brilliant, and I’ve had the privilege of performing in a couple that were extremely well written.
We're taking a risk when we go see something new. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.
How daring are you with your time and money?
I’ve discovered authors who had their books on sale or free, and now I read every book they put out. I’ve tried other authors this way and was not impressed enough to read more of their work. I know which theaters in town put on plays that knock it out of the park each time. I know which ones are unpredictable. I also know when I’m going just to support a friend regardless of the quality of the show. Because sometimes it’s cool to do that. It gives the entertainment a different kind of value.
It gives your friendship a different kind of value too.
All right, I’ve spent too much time ruminating about this when I should have been writing my novel. I’m curious about your thoughts on the subject. How and where do you prefer to spend your entertainment dollars? What do you value? Is it saving up for big concerts, professional theatre, or the next New York Times bestseller? Is it discovering the unknown gems? Or do you do a little of both?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.