The Economics of Fame
I have a good friend who loves to tell me I’m going to be famous someday. He seems to think the tipping point is just around the corner. I simply smile and say, “You’re too kind” because I know better. While fame is not something I’ve studied formally, I do have a few opinions on why most of us are not likely to become famous, at least from an economic perspective.
Supply and Demand
There are a lot more people willing to be famous than there is demand for famous people. In any market when there is a surplus prices are driven down. The bubble for fame AND fortune burst a long time ago. Now people are willing to accept fame without fortune. I’ll never be famous in part because when I do a cost/benefit analysis I find the risk premium I require is very high. Someone would have a pay me. A lot.
Plus, there is a limited supply of seats on the couches of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, and Jimmy Fallon. I’m pretty sure they don’t read my blog (or yours) so I don’t expect an invitation to promote my work anytime soon.
Competition and Substitutes
Like most markets, the greatest profits (or fame) are available when a new or innovative product is introduced. Once others discover there are profits (or fame) to be had in a certain niche, there is incentive for competitors to enter the market and offer substitutes. Often the substitute is not as good as the original, and in the case of fame the substitute often ends up being a bad caricature of the original. Think “Kate Plus 8″ versus “Octomom”. As for me, I’m just another professor with an opinion and a blog. The World Wide Web is a big place and I’m just little fish in a big sea.
The Market’s Not Rational
In a rational market there are generally correlations between success and product quality. In the market for fame there appears to be no correlation between talent and fame. In fact some people are willing to be famous for lacking talent, William Hung is a great example. There are also no correlations between intelligence and talent or intelligence and income in the fame market. Tina Fey is the exception, but she has a closely controlled monopoly. Most of us are just too darned smart and talented to ever become famous.