The Value of Art
At the Wood Stove House, we have immersed ourselves in the performing arts over the past few years. We’ve hosted house concerts, helped promote and book public concerts, produced theater events, provided promotional and logistical support for other theater events, and produced several recordings for wonderful regional musicians.
One of the big questions that we grapple with when engaging in any of these projects is the idea of value. What is the value of what we do and how much should we be charging for it?
A Tightrope Walk
There seems to be a balance between undervaluing and over valuing art that can be very illusive when trying to decide a realistic fee. Many performers feel that what they do isn’t really worth much. Perhaps its the fear of failure, or self-doubt. They are willing to perform for free or for the often-offered, but rarely worth it “exposure” gig.
They scoff at the idea of charging a reasonable ticket price because they don’t feel like enough people will “pay that much”. This results in a culture with low expectations with performances that are free or almost. It prevents a scene from growing or becoming better because those who organize, promote and perform shows can’t sustain themselves financially.
Strike the Balance
On the other hand, the arts can be priced too high for the good of the scene. There is a ceiling that the average person can pay to get into a show or buy some music and if a scene reaches that point, then the perception in the culture is that the average person can’t participate. The arts become elitist. That’s another good way to stunt the growth and improvement of a scene.
In order for a performing arts scene to grow and become better, the balance that allows the producers, promoters, and performers feel worth it to pour in their blood, sweat, and tears, needs to be uncovered. As producers, we need to push the boundaries every once in a while and be open to recognize when the public pushes back. As consumers of the arts we need to recognize that there is value to what performing artists do and be willing to contribute reasonably to the cause.