In my free time, I like to play guitar. I use YouTube to look up covers of the songs I like so that by the time I’m playing it for someone, I might say, “This is me, doing a cover of some girl in Pennsylvania, who was doing a cover of Elvis Costello.”
The other day, I found a video where the singer doesn’t actually speak English. He has no idea (as far as I can tell) what he is singing. He likes how the song sounds, he likes the chords, he likes the music, and he can mimic the vocals.
Should this change my appreciation of his work because I know that the singer has no idea what the song means?
The other day, Mariah Carey had a meltdown on national TV in New York City. She was to sing on New Year’s Eve, but the recording failed. She wasn’t really going to sing; she was going to lip synch to her recorded voice. Does it change the experience for you to know that Mariah doesn’t actually, you know, sing?
I once asked a well-known comedian if he was impressed that Bill Cosby was still doing new material (this was before Bill got into legal trouble). He shot me a look of disbelief and told me that Bill Cosby has people write jokes for him. Does it change your experience to know that?
How about the late night talk show hosts? Does it change your experience to know that John Oliver has writers, that he reads other people’s jokes? Does it change the experience for you?
How much fakery are you willing to accept, and how much of the sausage-making process do you really want to know?
I had a neighbor who was a vegan. I never had the heart to tell her I inadvertently put bacon fat in a dish I once served her. Did she need to know? How much is too much? Why? (My guilt was lessened when she went back on meat a year or so later, but still.)
Does the owner of a FORD F-150 Raptor pick-up truck need to know that they play artificial engine sounds in the cabin of his truck so his truck sounds more, ahem, manly? It’s true. You know who else does it? Porsche. That gorgeous German growl from the engine was created in a computer.
Authenticity is at the heart of the Experience Economy. People are looking for real people who are doing real things that matter, and they desire quality and craftsmanship, which is really hard to find in our instant, artificial world.
You can find all kinds of really good really fast, but it’s getting harder and harder to find real.
Of course, it’s easy to market a great story, to create a smoke screen and get away with it for a while. But usually at the worst possible moment, the marketplace catches on and changes its mind. The fakery no longer holds anyone’s attention, and delight turns to scorn. I have no idea how to predict when this will happen. How much risk are you willing to take?