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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Endowment Effect: Overvaluing Your Music

Last week I touched on systems of thinking and how that applies to music production. This week i'd like to continue on that theme and talk about something called the endowment effect. This is a type of cognitive bias that everyone has, and basically this means that you will hold things that you either own or create as having more value than things you don't own or create. This is closely tied to loss aversion, but basically the reason I wanted to bring this up is because it has serious implications for the music world as discussed below.

1. The endowment effect means you will be quick to dismiss other's music.

Ever get in that mindset where you compare your music to that of others? It's a pretty negative mindset to begin with, music isn't a sport or a competition, and really all that should matter when you are making music is that you enjoy the process. However part of human nature is to want to seek a benchmark, to keep up with your peers with respect to your craft. It's only natural that you will draw some comparisons. Perhaps part of the reason why you can sometimes get into a negative mindset is because you don't ascribe the same value to other's music that you do to your own. Everytime you complete a track you've usually put a considerable effort into getting that piece of music to your standards. Basically, you're now invested in your track, and it's a reflection of your taste. However you're in no way invested in what your friend, or another local producer has made, so it can be easy to fail to see the value in what they've made. You might catch yourself asking why their track is getting plays or exposure when yours is just as good or better by your estimation.

2. The endowment effect means you will overestimate the value of your own tracks.

The other side of the coin is that when you've spent a considerable amount of time on a track and you complete it to your standards then naturally you'll be happy with the result, and proud of what you've achieved. You know the situation, you're vibing on something you've made and you get caught up in it. In that moment, your latest idea is your best, and it's going to help you get to your goal, maybe signing to a label or whatever. While this kind of feeling is undoubtedly useful for keeping you motivated, in certain situations it can be extremely harmful. Ever see a producer that spams their latest track repeatedly? Sure it's important to let people know about your work, but repeatedly doing so with the same track gets pretty tired, and pretty quick. Same goes for sending a track out to other producers or labels. If you overestimate the value of your work it's going to cloud your judgment when doing this.

So what can you do to avoid these situations? Keep in mind that you will have a tendency to overvalue your own work, while undervaluing other's work. Get an objective opinion on your music and learn to take criticism even if you are invested in it. You can only benefit from using criticism to improve your craft, and by the same token you won't gain anything by getting overly defensive about your work while being too critical of the work of others.

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