I’d ignore him too
I got more mail about this story in the Washington Post than any other non-blog topic ever. I saw it when it first came out, but didn’t blog it because I thought the lesson was pretty obvious to my readers. [World-class violinist plays for hours in a subway station, almost no one stops to listen]. The experiment just proved what we already know about context, permission and worldview. If your worldview is that music in the subway isn’t worth your time, you’re not going to notice when the music is better than usual (or when a famous violinist is playing). It doesn’t match the story you tell yourself, so you ignore it. Without permission to get through to you, the marketer/violinist is invisible.
But why all the mail? (And the Post got plenty too). Answer: I think it’s because people realized that if they had been there, they would have done the same thing. And it bothers us.
It bothers us that we’re so overwhelmed by the din of our lives that we’ve created a worldview that requires us to ignore the outside world, most of the time, even when we suffer because of it. It made me feel a little smaller, knowing that something so beautiful was ignored because the marketers among us have created so much noise and so little trust.
I don’t think the answer is to yell louder. Instead, I think we have an opportunity to create beauty and genius and insight and offer it in ways that train people to maybe, just maybe, loosen up those worldviews and begin the trust.