So Talent is Believed to be Contagious by Guitarists?

I was scanning my RSS feed when a blog post by Peter at I Heart Guitar blog caught my attention! You may remember that a couple of days ago Eric Clapton raised about $2.2 million for his Crossroads Center Antigua by selling about 150 guitars, and amps at an auction.

$2.2 million… This is totally insane! I mean it’s obviously great for the Crossroads Center but I still don’t understand how the prices can climb so high! And believe you me, though this article from the New York Times shed a new light on that phenomenon – Urge to Own That Clapton Guitar Is Contagious, Scientists Find – It is still unbelievable. This is a great read that I recommend but I’ve never thought that such a level of irrationality was even possible!

We all agree that most of the time we explain these crazy prices by the fact that the buyers consider the items as an investment! Celebrities items do have a value, and this value is expected to increase once the celebrity is gone! That’s pure speculation as we know it!

But according to the survey reported in the New York Times, scientists found that the main factor explaining the high auction prices is the belief in “celebrity contagion”. Basically some people consider that direct contact of Eric Clapton’s fingers on a guitar, and even on the amp knobs could transmit the creative juice, and talent of Eric Clapton… Just like a spreading disease or a bacterial contagion!

I think that as irrational as it is, it still is a rather poetic idea! Guitarists, even the most Cartesians of us, can be so esoteric when it comes to music, and guitar. I mean that’s cool to be irrational, and illogical for creativity. Yet the conclusion of the survey seems weird to me!

They explain that the “celebrity contagion” as well as “imitative magic” do explain the auction crazyness as these factors are responsible for the urge to own the celebrity’s items. And in order to rationalize the compulsive buy, most buyers would argue that this is an investment! I doubt that! We could see it the other way around…

Only people with a shitload of cash can afford such instruments, and let’s face it, they rarely are “practicing musicians”… I mean some celebrities could afford these celebrities guitars, and amps! But most “practicing musicians” couldn’t. Instead these are instruments for the “practicing attorneys” or “practicing doctors” of the running joke on some forums. Of course they can be musicians too… Most of the time they are!

So I’m thinking maybe the real factor is the investment after all. But in order to rationalize the buy in a musical way, they would go for the irrational “celebrity contagion”. It could just be a way for some rich guys to buy themselves some music credibility (we all know it, musicians are broke, right?)! That way they can say that they are aiming for a music goal with these insanely expensive guitar instead of just making an investment.

Such a behavior would all rely on guilt… Not the guilt of having money! I wouldn’t feel guilty being rich if I was! No I mean the guilt of not being a member of the tribe! An you know, despite what we all would say: it is important to feel as a member of tribe!

I know this is almost as irrational as “celebrity contagion” but you remember… I firmly believe that a little bit of irrationality is good for creativity! So I guess I am ir-rationally Cartesian here! Now I think this is one of the most twisted posts on this blog…

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, and views on the topic, I’ll be glad to hear them!

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