On Play, Performance, and Profit

I told you some of these would be about money, since I’ve been writing about personal finance for the past seven years — and, arguably, I wouldn’t be making the money I do on my creative work without the personal finance background. (Or, at least, not as much money.)

About a month ago, I got an advance reader’s copy of Grant Sabatier’s Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need, which released to the public this Tuesday. I reviewed it on The Billfold this week from a personal finance perspective; I’m going to review it on this-here blog tomorrow from a creative perspective.

Because I have been thinking about this book a lot.

But before we get into that, I want to ask a question about the link between play, performance, and profit.

I have not yet written the promised blog post on why I believe there is a difference between play and performance, or how I came up with this particular theory, but I have given you my personal definition of play vs. performance, so let’s recap:

Play is a gift you give yourself.

Performance is a gift you give an audience.

I have been to many performances that were, in fact, play — the people onstage were doing it to satisfy the internal urge to create but not the external urge to connect.*

Sometimes the people onstage charged money for us to watch them play, and in some cases I was a little disgruntled once I realized what I was watching.

Sometimes it was a situation where the audience wanted to pay money to watch great artists play — to see the creative process in process. I’ve gladly purchased those kinds of tickets.

I’ve also purchased tickets, bought books, paid to visit galleries, etc. to see performances, by which I mean completed work designed to guide an audience through an experience that engenders an emotional response. (Yes, I’m counting books and other forms of static art as performances.)

Sometimes these performances were given away for free.

More often, money changed hands. Willingly. Eagerly. Not out of obligation (like the $45 the dance studio makes you pay to attend your kid’s ballet recital) or even out of friendship. The audience paid money because they wanted the experience.

Which leads me to the question: is a performance effective if people are not willing to pay for it?

On the one hand, of course not. We don’t need to give people money in exchange for experiences; we’ve just agreed, culturally, that it’s the thing you do.

On the other hand: since it is a cultural thing, if people are not willing to give you money to experience your thing, then…

ON THE THIRD HAND THERE ARE A LOT OF PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, INCLUDING MANY EXCELLENT ONES, AND NOT ALL OF THEM ARE MARKETED EFFECTIVELY.

On the fourth hand I wrote “profit” in the title because of the alliteration, and there’s a huge difference between making money and making a profit, and I’m going to address that when I review Financial Freedom tomorrow, but let’s just keep in mind that good art can make money but still not be profitable because it cost more to make the art than the audience paid to experience it.

We’ll stop here, mostly because I’m out of time.

More tomorrow. ❤️

*This is one of the reasons there’s that perennial joke about nobody wanting to watch their friends do improv. (BUT WE DO IT ANYWAY BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU. Also because improv is six-sevenths of the way towards improve.)

Advertisements