How much is masterpiece music worth performed by an internationally acclaimed virtuoso to an audience of a thousand people?
About $32 according to the Washington Post with their experiment about the influence of context on people's perceptions and priorities...and their ability to "recognize beauty." As part of the experiment, Joshua Bell, one of the world's best violinists, played incognito inside a Washington DC subway station. During his continuous 45-minute performance, Bell played six pieces by Bach, Shubert, etc....some of the most powerful music written for a solo violin. Two days prior, Bell performed at a sold-out concert in Boston, where tickets averaged $100.
But back in DC, 1,097 people went through the subway station. Only seven stopped and listened for awhile. About 27 gave money but continued to walk past the musician. There was no applause at the end, and the total sum collected during the performance was $32.17. Very few people were interested enough to pay it any attention, let alone money or time.
What is value?
Though beauty and its place in our lives are the subject of philosophy and sociology, willingness to pay for or "value" a product or service is the consequence of marketing. Value is dictated by customer preferences (demand) and competing alternatives (supply)--not by the product itself. It is a product of time, place, social context and mental attitudes.