Eli Horowitz muses about the costs and benefits of entertainments:
At the risk of validating a crudely cash-nexus-y view of things, I think cost-benefit analysis has plenty of promise for placing value on forms of entertainment. A film, recording, book, game (etc.) that stands up to repeated viewings, listenings, readings, playings (etc.) is tantamount to a valuable one, and even live, one-time-only experiences -- a play, a concert, a live TV spectacle -- stand out by replaying in the memory, as though happening over and over.* $45 for a console video game per 30 hours of play time = $1.5/hrThese are only on the first run through, of course. With live concerts and movies there is only the one run through, but with the others you could re-experience them as many times as you want. Does that, then, make those the worse investments? The other thing that sort of jumps out in the list is that video games are, relatively speaking, incredibly cheap - does that make them the least valuable as art?
* $20 for a hardback novel per 5 hours of reading = $4/hr
* $30 for a decent concert ticket per 1.5 hours at the concert itself = $20/hr
* $15 for a CD per 1 hour of music = $15/hr
An alternative interpretation (and unsurprisingly my preferred interpretation) is that the cost-benefit analysis just isn't very useful for making fine-grained distinctions. But it sure is interesting, because I suspect that many of us sort of lump all purchasable art forms together without thinking about it very much. I don't really have any strong conclusions about this, I just think it's worth mulling over for a minute or two.
Van Halen's 1984 included such oft-played songs as "Panama," "Jump," "I'll Wait," and "Hot for Teacher," but "Girl Gone Bad" is etched just as strongly in my memory, for better or worse. (Answer, for what it's worth: surely worse.) Whatever might be said of 1984, there can be no doubt that I got my money's worth out of it, as it almost certainly stands as the recording I've heard the most times of any. Soon after discovering this "music" thing everyone was always gibbering about, and after cobbling together enough cash to buy it (and concluding I wouldn't be able to shoplift it), I bought it and proceeded to listen to it more or less non-stop between, oh, early 1985 and early 1988. Other recordings came and went in the same period, of course, but this seminal work of 1980s cock-rock never left the short list, and no, I am not proud to say so.
All that said, the value I place in these terms is sheerly subjective, as I hope the instance of 1984 establishes: one can get a recording down to vanishingly small fractions of a penny per listen, and enjoy it all the while, but it doesn't follow that critics of the future will similarly prize it. I would only say that the popular appeal of a work of art can only be a noteworthy data point for judicious critics: it suggests that something is attracting eyes, ears, and minds of human beings, but the something could turn out to be nothing more than a glitzy advertising campaign or the self-propelling madness of crowds.