the economics of underserved audiences (part 1)

Yesterday, I posted a bit about playing for underserved audiences, or rather, my desire to play for them. As the response to an email I quoted it’s an issue of bringing a certain type of live entertainment to groups that might not otherwise have an opportunity (or that have fewer opportunities) to ever experience an art form that could regularly be seen in the audience member’s native country.

Some of the questions (or retorts) I’ve had to answer in the past when I’ve bothered to make my “mission statement” public have been weighing on my mind for years (if not decades in some cases) and I’ve only recently been able to articulate non-anecdotal and intuitive responses.

So many of the issues can be analyzed and articulated from the standpoint of the economic benefits or harm that is the result of not having the same range of choices available between populations, or rather between different subpopulations within a geo-political region.

As far as arts and entertainment goes, the case is probably not seen as being so important. I’ll address that in the next part, but to underscore just how important and relevant an analysis like this can be just imagine how fewer options for a particular population can be deadly when it comes to the issue of nutrition and/or medicine.

No, this isn’t going to be a diatribe about issues that currently litter the US political landscape regarding economic class(es). Whether or not the poor can afford to “be healthy” given the current political and economic landscape in the US isn’t my concern here (not to say that I’m not concerned about it, of course!).

But what if, because of the way markets are “supposed to work” when left to their own devices (i.e. laissez-faire economics), what would be the case when there is not enough of a demand for a particular product, say medicine or nutritious foods, that is essential for a basic level of good health. Either the fixed costs for bringing that product to the market will be too high in the first place (in 2005 it costs pharmaceuticals $900 million to bring a prescription drug to the market – I doubt that fixed cost has droppe much in 5 years) or the startup and operating costs for a niche market. Ethnic minorities would fall in the niche market (sometimes now referred to as a ‘preference minority’ more recent studies and research).

All things being equal (e.g. regarding income levels) the expense for being an ethnic minority in an completely laissez-faire or free market economy would be greater for those who had the misfortune of not being a member of the ethnic majority through chance of birth. A corollary being that those who had the luck of being a member of the ethnic majority already get a discount on health and nutrition through no hard work and so get to start just a little bit ahead of the curve, so to speak.

This is obviously a very simplistic and very condensed view of some of the more current studies that I’ve been researching the past few years and as I’m sure anyone who is reading this can tell that it is loaded with all kinds of not-so-pleasant implications for anyone that happens to be a member of either of the two major political parties in the US.

For now, I’ll leave this since the ultimate concern with regards to my mission statement is how minority status can affect choices for [especially] live entertainment. And maybe, by making an analogy to the previous examples, what I’m saying is a little more clear.

And if it’s not, then look at it from this viewpoint–imagine that the town or city you are living in has media resources and live venues that only cater to music you don’t particularly care for-or that you might actually hate or despise an it is only a rare opportunity for you to get to hear your favorite song or symphony on the radio or perhaps see an artist you like who happens to be touring through your area. Well, that’s what some of us have to live with all our lives.

I’m sure some folks are thinking that and considering newer media like the internet as being the great equalizer (or at least a way to help “level the playing field”) but I’ll bring up some of the interested secondary consequences of that in a future post as well.

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