Why invest in Culture?

The answer seems obvious: an educated and cultured society understands, respects and coexists better.  We might even say that culture is the path to a healthy, well-adjusted and happy society. If we take a closer look at music, the benefits shoot up. Not only does music stimulate the brain, isolate stress and strengthen one’s health, but it also helps to work at a full capacity, sleep better and be optimistic, working as an emotional medicine. Should these advantages not be enough to convince someone about the importance of investing in culture, lets take a look at the economic benefits.


Based on the French notion of the Parable of the Tuileries, there are three economic principles we should know about and understand.

The first is the concept of Positive Externalities, meaning a benefit that results from an activity and that affects an otherwise uninvolved party who did not choose to incur that benefit. There are activities which basically affect others in a positive way, so the benefit to the individual or firm is less than the benefit to society. An example would be France’s cultural image and how it is perceived by the world. This causes a call-effect of investment from other parts of the world, as well as tourists who are attracted and keep consuming more. Although things in Spain are changing due to economic cutbacks, the amount of music festivals Spain has to offer can still be taken as an example of positive externality.

The second principle is the multiplier effect of culture-based investment. Investing in music obviously benefits musicians, technicians, venues, record labels and many other players in the music business. However, if we take a step further we’ll notice how other industries are also taking advantage of these investments.  Just imagine a Friday night: You take a cab to go to a concert, but first dinner at your favourite restaurant. You arrive and buy the concert ticket but before entering the venue you have a beer or two. When the concert’s over, you’re so excited you buy the band’s t-shirt and album, have the last drink at another bar and take another cab home. Next morning you wake up, run to the drugstore and buy some Ibuprofen. Music has just generated benefits for different sectors which at first, had nothing to do with the music industry.


Last but not least, there is an inspiring and unique principle known as  Diminishing Marginal Utility. What does this actually mean? Lets start by explaining each term. Utility is what consumers obtain –value– when consuming products or services, and by marginal we understand the gain from the last unit. Marginal Utility is therefore what the consumer gains when consuming the last unit. A Diminishing Marginal Utility should now start making sense.  The first unit of consumption of a good or service yields more utility, more satisfaction than the second and subsequent units, with a continuing reduction for greater amounts. Consumers normally get a positive utility when they purchase and consume a good or service, although this satisfying feeling decreases each time as the consumer becomes bored of the product.


You’ll probably understand it better with a real life example. Imagine if you eat paella –or something you really like– every single day: on the first day your level of satisfaction would be really high, and so would the second and third. Now imagine how you would feel ten days later, ten days eating just paella. You would probably still like the good (paella) whereas the level of satisfaction decreased. You wouldn’t enjoy it as much, would you? Now think about a whole year eating paella… The level of satisfaction might even become negative!


Nowadays, this theory can be applied to almost every product. Remember, almost! All forms of culture, and specially music, have the magic quality of generating the opposite effect.  The more you listen to music you like, the greater the pleasure, generating a desire to consume other types of music and leading to a never-ending cycle. We’ll be more passionate about music each time, broadening our music preferences.

Debussy’s Clair de Lune has been playing in my parents house since I can remember. Probably, the first time I heard it I didn’t pay much attention, or none at all! But after listening to it several times and seeing my mum perform it, I really started appreciating its value. Now, each time I listen to it I get goose bumps. In other words, Clair de Lune provides me with more satisfaction each time I consume it.

Maybe now we understand why the main affected by cultural cuts is, in fact, society.

Just in case you still don’t understand why investing in culture is important, take a look at this video about the Parable of the Tuileries.

Parable of the Tuileries

By the way, tell me about your song, the one which will move you more each time you listen to it!

Virgin: Join in the Disruption – A crumbled attempt at formulating a new business plan and providing an entertaining key word for a blog post title…


“Join in the disruption

Take part in the debate


I found this post in our Berklee Master’s Class 2013 Facebook Group and after finding a general lack of inspiration on a particular topic, I thought this popular set of issues would be interesting to discuss.  Bring on the discourse.

(Yes, Virgin Marketing/R&D team, this is the part where you thank me for completing the survey you so eloquently put together.)

Are you a music fan? Are you a musician? Do you work in the industry?

Well, I’m here aren’t I? Therefore, there must be some sort of degree or level or resonance I have to this grouping of questions or perhaps I’m just trying to kill time while I polish of this Starbucks venti drip coffee (note, comparable large coffee cup sizes are extremely difficult to find in Valencia, and I do miss home. So this experience is killing two birds with one stone – I dislike using colloquialisms, but in this case the caffeine buzz is wearing off and I’m frantically looking at my word count).

Also, to satisfy the needs of those who are looking for immediate gratification, I’ve included my responses in a more ‘traditional survey form’

Key : (Y)es / (N)o
Are you a music fan? (Y)
Are you a musician? (Y)
Do you work in the industry? (Question Unclear  -- In which industry 
are you referring? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you mean 
the Entertainment Industry, because people haven't worked in the 
Music Industry in sometime [if ever]) – (N)o, but maybe one day.

Do you stream? Do you buy? Do you bypass the official routes and download for free?

I enjoy accessibility. I stream music, I purchase music and believe it or not, you do not have to bypass ‘”the official routes” to obtain music for free.  It’s actually a great tool for exposure and building conversation. See applications like NoiseTrade, Souncloud and Topspin.

**Please Note: If you too also plan on answering this survey or any other of this kind, it would probably prove beneficial not to make an admission of guilt to a corporate entity who will probably seek legal action against you – boo for entrapment and yay for Catherine Zeta Jones.

and again for some of you…

Do you stream? (Y)
Do you buy? (Y)
Do you bypass the official routes and download for free? (N)

Do you think music fans have a responsibility to support the artists whose music they consume by paying a fair price to listen to their output?

Whether you believe it or not, chances are at some point you are supporting an artist (e.g. live music, merchandizing, sharing and starting conversation). Although the recording sector is down, live music is up. The money has moved, but it’s still there. It’s similar to the transition from the Blockbuster to the Television screen. If you’re really asking this question, then you probably didn’t sign your artist to a 360 deal, although this is highly unlikely). So perhaps a more relevant question is: Do you support the record company who owns the artist’s copyright?

Do you think music fans have a responsibility to support the artists 
whose music they consume by paying a fair price to listen to their 
output?  (N) The only responsibility you have is to pay your 
taxes and that's only assuming you don't get caught otherwise.

Do you think music streaming services are damaging the music industry?

If you believe so, you’re foolish. You probably also went to the seventh Eagles’ “Farewell Tour.” Nothing against the Eagles, but you might also believe that records are making a comeback. Sure vinyl sales are up, but it’s not saying much if they’re coming from the basement (not to be confused with a literal basement, although I guess they come from there too). There was also a brief rise in yo-yo sales in the late nineties (I know, I had one, along with a small box of Slammers and Pokemon cards) but where are they now?

See, Nostalgia …

Music Streaming is Accessibility. Accessibility is Mobility and the Heat will probably win the Larry O’Brian trophy again this year.

The days of measuring an artist’s success over SoundScan is over.  Applications like Spotify and Youtube are all about social discovery. It’s the traditional non-GAAP sources that are more accurate measures of “success” rather than units sold. It’s how you provide additional value and monetize this success that will make you truly successful.

Do you think music streaming services are damaging the music 

If you’ve made it this far, cheers! Thanks for your time and consideration.

‘Undress for the Opera’

ENO Undress

I recently posted a video of Terry Gilliam explaining the inspiration for a new initiative at the English National Opera.  They call it ‘Undress for the Opera’, and it is an attempt to not only attract a younger audience, but also seduce them once trapped in the Coliseum.  Mr. Gilliam says that he considered the opera to be “art for the rich, the successful and almost dead” when he was young.  He goes on to explain the hopes of ENO to change the perception of the culture by inviting new guests to turn up in anything they fancy, to enjoy cocktails, and to (in his words) “wear headphones” if you don’t like the music.  Mixed messages, much?  Anyway, I still like the idea.  As you know, I stay up at night fretting over what will happen when all the money from the old people stops getting pumped into opera, classical music and ballet.  It is imperative that these disciplines stay invigorated and its heart is pumped full of new blood.  As Baronness Genista McIntosh said in 1997 when she was chief Executive to the Royal Opera House, “We don’t need more audience, so much as a different audience”.  That was, and is, the ongoing struggle.  ENO’s current Artistic Director John Berry states that 30% of their audience is currently under 44 years old and that they aim to raise that to 40% in the next year.   Aggressive.  But does the ENO have the right angle with ‘Undress’?  Mr. Berry exclaimed, “Come in shorts, armour, jeans, pumps, anything!”  Similarly, Damon Albarn, Blur frontman and spokesperson for the project says, “wear jeans and trainers”.    Is there a level of desperation being conveyed from these statements, or should I just relax?  Maybe it is time to rethink all notions of appropriateness and decorum; maybe it’s ok to go to court in a hoodie, or to church in mandals…. (Jesus wore them, right?)


But I digress.  There are many appealing elements to the program: tickets are only £25, they are some of the best seats in the house, and will include pre-performance lecture, downloadable synopsis, and a meet and greet with the cast post-performance.  A new Philip Glass work is included along with the standard fare of Don Giovanni and La Traviata. ENO is known for beautiful, cutting edge productions; they will undoubtedly be exciting and innovative. Last season, a new take on Faust attracted quite the interest, with 40% of tickets being sold to newcomers.  That alone is extraordinary, and very promising.  As Albarn said, “We are carrying into this century ideas that belonged to a previous generation and really it’s just a case of clarifying what the state of play is now and it’s quite clearly different and the more that word is spread the easier it will be to translate and bring in new ideas”.  ENO claims to be the “Future of Opera”; this season will incorporate 3D media into a show, completely new staging and works.  The success of initiatives such as ‘Undress for the Opera’ could be what we need to keep a thriving community. And that community, like the art itself, will evolve.  Such evolution could lead to a burgeoning, integrative world of possibilities.  So, maybe in the future we’ll wear yoga pants to Aida and drink aviations at intermission.  It could have ended up much worse.