There’s a hole in the bucket

I have an article over at NewMusicBox today on Baumol’s cost-disease and what it means for the economics of live performance and recording. My lovely wife pointed out something to ponder while you read: if you’re one of those who thinks that the steady wane of school arts programs is big trouble for the future of jazz and classical music, keep in mind that the education sector is also unusually affected by the cost-disease.

(How to play with your money.)


  1. Dear Matthew,I love your blog and am glad to find you are out there doing what you do best. Droit de seigneur really cracked me up, the delivery quintessential Guerrieri, and I could hear your voice while reading it. In fact I can hear your voice a lot. I should see a doctor about that. How do I email you? I enjoyed the sound clip of Blind Willie. Tell me what Wikipedia will not about that tune!As always,Alex Freeman

  2. Here’s a question: how is it that spectator sport isn’t perceived to be suffering in the same way as the performing arts, given that it must be subject to the disease too? Has the public been more willing to increase or sustain the proportion of its income that goes to sport? Or is it just that people don’t worry about the decline of third-division soccer clubs as much as they do the fate of regional orchestras and repertory theatre companies?

  3. Leo: Good question. I think the same issues apply, but so far, TV money has put off the day when the issue is forced. (You could make a case that, similarly, recording money temporarily staved off the disease in classical music in the 60s and 70s.)Ticket prices <>have<> gone up substantially, at least for baseball, which is what I care about. I wouldn’t be surprised if the National Hockey League (which has seen its television presence dwindle post-lockout) becomes a cautionary tale re: Baumol and Bowen in sport within the next decade or so.In a lot of ways it’s the same question as to why live pop music doesn’t seem to be in trouble. The cost-disease still applies, but pop acts just haven’t reached the point where the rising ticket prices start to noticeably eat into attendance. If you belive Baumol and Bowen, though, it’ll happen eventually. If sports and pop music <>can<> actually keep raising prices indefinitely without reaching a crisis point, that wouldn’t invalidate the economics, but it would shift the argument to one of why classical music can’t enjoy the same financial dedication from its fans, which is much more of a cultural/societal question.

  4. Hi, I came here to reply after reading your article which was linked from Instapundit. I think I can see the only possible answer: live performance will eventually become exclusively amateur. Technology supports this drift by lowering all the other costs. It would be reasonable to expect that 21st century players could put together an orchestral performance on a shoestring – they just wouldn’t be able to convince anyone to pay. Ergo, a culture of fame-led (rather than money-led) amateur performance will emerge.

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