Seth Godin recently posted some thoughts on why someone would pay so much more to see a live musical performance than they would for an album. He gives three main reasons:
-There are people around you, fellow travelers, magnetic energy, shared joy.
-Something might go wrong. The artist is like a tightrope walker, taking big chances and the drama it creates is engrossing.
-You might be surprised. Something new and wonderful might happen and it might jar you awake.
And yet, people in the ‘live’ business–restaurants, people doing presentations, the concierge at the hotel–often work hard to avoid getting anywhere near any of the three.
I would argue that recorded music is like the hospitality workers; managed, controlled and the expectations are reasonable. This is why people pay so much for the experience of a Chef’s Table, or Jose Andres’ Minibar.
But Seth’s drilling down deeper than necessary. What’s valuable about a live performance is that it’s authentic. Sure, there are expectations and goals, but there’s both the danger of uncertainty and the triumph of a performance executed perfectly. It might sound weird to say about a huge venue like Jiffylube Live or RFK Stadium, but there’s a sense of shared exclusivity at most concerts. People come from all around, even across oceans, to see really good concerts. In this time, in this place, we are sharing something that will never be repeated, even if this band tours for a thousand years. It’s the rare combination of authenticity and exclusivity.
This is similar to way you loan your most treasured books only rarely, but recommend them often. (Also, some bands just sound WAY better live.)
Update: I don’t know why the title got messed up like that.