How Much Would You Pay For A Selfie With Me?

Some concepts have been banging around in my head for a little while that haven’t quite firmed up yet. I am hoping writing it down and getting some feedback from others might help to start develop it.

I have begun to think that as time goes on, the most valuable commodity a public figure/artist, etc might have is their time, not their performance or merchandise.

In a talk Seth Godin gave at Carnegie Hall, he mentioned that when he goes to book signings, fewer people are buying books (around 28 minute mark).

Instead, they want a selfie with him. Since getting a selfie eats up so much time, he has tried to hire a professional photographer who can supply the images to people, but they insist on taking a picture with their own phone. He says the picture itself is worth nothing, it is the ability to reflect on the experience and share it with friends from your own handheld device that has value.

Obviously, one must provide some sort of notable experience or product that inspires people to want to take that selfie with you in the first place. It could very well be that increasingly the most valuable element will be that opportunity to meet the person and take a selfie. The challenge may be how a person manages that to their benefit whether it be monetarily or preservation of their sanity.

There was an article on Vice about how meet and greets as currently conducted suck for everyone. Fans frequently pay hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to meet with someone, but they only get a second with them. Many fans try to squeeze in more time through various tactics, among them trying to grab a selfie when it isn’t allowed. For their own part, the artist is under pressure to participate in interactions with hundreds of fans in a small period of time. In general, all parties can end up dissatisfied.

My first thought is that these artists or their management are trying to make as much money as fast as they can. There has already been some minor backlash so I wonder how much longer this might be sustainable. As the Vice article says, the more famous one gets, the more of you the fans feel they are entitled.

Is there a better way to handle this knowing that the personal interaction and selfie may be viewed as the most valuable part of the experience? Instead of $350 tickets to a performance, does it make sense to charge $150 to everyone and $750 to a meet and greet that only admits a limited number of people but guarantees you longer interaction time?

The problem with that is 1- scalpers will probably still be able to ratchet the tickets up to $1000 on the secondary market unless a solution is found and 2- A high meet and greet price limits access to wealthier people. ($750 is already about a median price of what people are paying for meet and greets so an extended meet and greet pass could easily start at $1500+.)

Many public figures/artists are philosophically opposed to putting up different types of barriers to fan interactions with them. Whether it be limiting numbers, time period or charging for access.

Ultimately, for a lot of public figures I think it may bear examining what part of the experience is most valuable to people and adjusting the experience accordingly.

Unfortunately, while I do get recognized at conferences and other gatherings as the genius blogger I am, few people have been asking for a selfie with me so perhaps I am just coming at this from a place of selfie-envy.

Anyone out there have any predictions on what the nature of public figure-fan interactions will look like in the future? Ideas on how to manage it with things like policies and emerging technologies?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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