Art = entertainment

David J. Balan posted this on Overcoming Bias:
Say a band puts out a debut album which is deemed by critics to have a great deal of artistic merit, and which a small number of hard-core fans love. For their second album, the band puts out some crap that appeals to the lowest common denominator and makes a ton of money, but which retains its artistic pretensions (the latter point is important; the argument below doesn't work if the band isn't pretending that the second album is art too). Fans of the first album accuse the band of "going commercial" or "selling out." In effect, they claim (and at least affect to believe) that they are not merely disappointed that they didn't get their preferred album, but rather that the band has done something that is in some meaningful sense a betrayal. Does this position have any merit, or is it just sour grapes from a bunch of snobs whose preferences lost out in the marketplace fair and square?
A commenter replies:
This is a great post.
Eliezer - money has nothing to do with it. The original fans gave the band much more than money.

Ugh... "much more than money".

Just what is that, and how does it pay for my daily bread and my beachfront condo?

The word "art" used to have meaning back when it meant "stuff skillfully produced to elicit a strong sensory effect". Back in those days, your goal was to produce a picture that could be mistaken for a real scene, and that achievement was called art.

Then came cameras, and that put an end to that.

Nowadays, what used to be called art is called entertainment. Because we are in an age where most people have leisure time to enjoy the entertainment/art, entertainment/art is big business. The kind of entertainment/art being produced is the one that's most economic to produce, and what's most economic to produce is what most people like. Because most people are dumb schticks, most entertainment/art is dumb and does not completely satisfy a sophisticated person's senses.

Because the sophisticated person is not satisfied, he starts insulting entertainment as being different from art. But entertainment and art are one and the same; what the snobby guy considers art, is the same thing as what he considers entertainment, except aimed at people with more complex tastes.

What is going on here with "fan betrayal", then, is essentially a group of fans finding an artist who produces something to their taste. Being starved of satisfaction for their hungry complex tastes, they hug the artist like an infatuated person in love. The artist likes it, but the number of these fans is few, and his desires are bigger. So for his next album, he produces art intended for a wider audience. The new art has a wider appeal, but it is not any more to the taste of the few fans with complex tastes. They thought their appetite would at last be satisfied, but alas, they are betrayed! And they are made to go hungry again, a long time to pass until the next time someone will take mercy and produce some entertainment that will actually satisfy their tastes.

The "betrayal" that these people feel is the same thing as the "betrayal" of someone with whom you went out on a date, and after a pleasant night or two they inform you that they simply do not see a future for the two of you together. That's not betrayal. It is disappointment.

No one should be required to produce entertainment especially for you, just because you got sophisticated taste.


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