Knowing The Score

The Washington Post sent Joshua Bell, one of the two or three best violinists in the world, down into the subway with a $3.5 million violin, to play some pieces by Bach in front of his open violin case.

Some 1,097 people passed by.

“In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.”

There are a bunch of marketing lessons in this little stunt, but one of them is: without a location like the Kennedy Center (the packaging) and the price (tickets to see Joshua Bell typically start at $100) hardly anyone can tell the difference between Joshua Bell and any old fiddler in the subway playing for spare change.

Very few people have a sophisticated knowledge of classical music, and only the package and the price tell them if a performer is any good. They cannot tell with their own ears.

For most folks, the law is a mystery and anyone with a law degree is a genius. They can’t tell the difference between you and any other attorney. The only thing they understand is the package and the price — and, once they have met you, whether or not they like you.

Here is the article and accompanying video.