April 18, 2007

Context Rules: Washington Post & Joshua Bell

By now everyone knows of a little experiment in context, perception and priorities that The Washington Post conducted along with concert violinist Joshua Bell. (Article/Video)

Joshua Bell, a word-class violinist who commands about $1,000 per minute, played incognito as a street performer at a DC metro station during morning rush hour. The Washington Post wanted to find out if beauty transcends in this context.

It’s AM rush-hour, people, what’s the point?

Predictable results:

  • 1,097 commuters rushing to work ignored the artist
  • 7 people stopped briefly
  • 27 people gave money on the run, a total of $32 and change
  • 1 recognized the artist

A+ for word-of-mouth buzz
Nice stunt. Everyone is talking about it.

Play nice with your patrons
The unsuspecting rush hour commuters in this experiment are probably hard working people on a way to make a living. Perhaps they buy and read The Washington Post, and perhaps they pay $100 a ticket to enjoy the talents of Joshua Bell in the appropriate context.

Unless I am behind on the latest news, it would be very nice for The Washington Post to thank the unsuspecting experiment participants of that DC metro station by arranging a free Joshua Bell concert at the Kennedy Center.

Wow, more buzz!

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