Word Stock Market: Service

The Word Stock Market is an occasional feature on SellingOut.com, where I will tell you whether to buy, sell or hold a certain word based on whether that word has a strong future or has seen better days. For example, if you’d bought the word “hybrid” 10 years ago (when it meant a cross between a horse and a donkey, not an eco-friendly car), you’d be rich today. On the other hand, if you’d bought “digital camera,” you’d be broke.

Today’s Word Stock is Service.

Is a live entertainment event a product? In a way, yes. There’s a thing that gets created, and a person buys access to it. Unlike, say, dry cleaning, it’s not something that’s being done by someone else instead of you or that you might do for yourself except that you can’t.

We call those “services,” and our economy is made of both products and services.

So which is live entertainment? Like a service, someone does it for you, and like many services, you have to go somewhere to get it. Unlike clear service industries like airlines or hotels, though, you don’t need it. It doesn’t really replace anything that you might do or provide for yourself.

It’s an unusual kind of in-between thing that has characteristics of both a product and a service.

Traditionally, most purveyors of live entertainment have strongly preferred to think of it as a product: You make it and then sell it to as many people as you can. They come, they get the product, they leave. If they have a problem, of course, you take care of it (OK, not everyone got that far, but most do).

Here’s where we are today, though. More and more of the value of live entertainment comes from the service part. We’re unwilling and uninterested in compartmentalizing the thing “on the stage” or “on the field” from the entire experience, including how we feel we’re being treated. It’s why Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, put in better seats in his theaters. It’s why Monumental Sports makes sure that not only every season ticket holder, but every season ticket holder sharer has a direct line of contact to a person in their organization. It’s why cafeteria-grade food isn’t good enough at Randy Weiner’s Queen of the Night.

Thinking of live entertainment as a product has a big advantage: There’s less to think about. It allows a lot of room to ignore the human beings paying to be there and just focus on the show itself. But when you’re a human being, you come with certain design flaws, such as the fact that when you’re sitting in a too-narrow seat with a nail sticking up through the cushion, you have a hard time focusing on the subtle brilliance of the dialogue or cheering for your team. You’ve also got an unfortunate and persistent resistance to being treated rudely for not following some picayune rule, like where not to line up.

Given those “flaws,” focusing on the show itself is roughly equivalent to not worrying about a terrible smell because dinner looks so good. It’s not only impossible; it really doesn’t make any sense.

RATING: STRONG BUY. If you’re not onto this already, you’re a little late. But you’re never too late! If you don’t understand this or don’t believe it yet, well, I hope it’ll click for you soon because the marketplace of patrons will just punish you more and more on this in years to come.

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