Monetary Value vs. Hippie Value
Okay, the truth is, that title is a little bit tongue-in-cheek and you’ll see why in a minute. On Twitter, I was directed to the following article at Tech Dirt: The Difference Between Price and Value.
I really don’t understand WHY people do this, but nevertheless some people really really like to shift an argument outside the scope of what was even being discussed. When this happens often it’s worded so eloquently that the person being lambasted with it finds themselves nodding in agreement before they can stop to really think about the fact that the other party just took them down a completely unrelated side-road. (Yes, I’ve done it too.)
When people are talking about price and value, they are speaking about MONETARY VALUE. No one is talking about love and sunshine and respect and other value systems. Those things are all nice and good but love and sunshine won’t pay your bills. Money is important. We only say “money isn’t important” to make people without it feel better. But that mantra is not rooted in reality.
Money is very important because we live in a money-based society and that’s the shit you need to pay for stuff: Bills, food, shelter, clothing, charitable contributions, electricity, health care, transportation, etc. The only way you will get away from this is to go live in a commune or out in the wilderness somewhere where you are completely self-sufficient.
Now I realize no one is saying money isn’t important and believe me I’m not trying to shift the argument after I just bitched about that very thing, but what I’m saying is… monetary value shouldn’t be fluffed off. It’s important. Artists should be paid for their work. And with many things digital, it’s very dangerous to give everything away because you then devalue that work in the marketplace.
When I say you devalue that work I’m not saying people find it less worthy or less meaningful, I’m saying when someone isn’t willing to pay money for it, it has no monetary value, and if you train them to expect everything for free, then that is exactly what will happen.
Monetary value is determined by what people are willing to pay. If someone is willing to pay $5 for something, that is its monetary value. If people are willing to pay $50, that is its monetary value. Monetary value differs from person to person. There are some items that some people are willing to pay $5 for while others are willing to pay $50 for it. If you have this situation you’re usually better off targeting the higher-paying customer because they tend to be less whiny. I don’t know why this is, but the less a customer has to pay for something the more likely they are to bitch to you about it. I’ve experienced this phenomenon in other businesses I’ve run. The cheaper your product or services the larger sense of entitlement your customer is likely to have about it.
So when talking about price and value, yes, the two are absolutely imperative to each other. Because price is typically determined by what the market will bear and what people are willing to spend. While I would love to write things that move people and have intrinsic value beyond just money, I wouldn’t be putting it out into the market place if I wasn’t interested in money and monetary value.
If monetary value is too gauche for your work, then don’t sell it. But don’t act like those who won’t give everything away for free are somehow wrong or foolish and don’t understand value.