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The tale of the mysterious violinist

Probably the most groundbreaking branding experiment of the last two decades took place in 2007, believe it or not, in a Washington DC train Station with 1,097 people in participation

Joshua David Bell is an American violinist and considered to be one of the world’s greatest 

Two days before this experiment, the Grammy-award winning musician had sold out a $2,000+ ticket event at Boston’s Symphony Hall, with a $100 minimum ticket price. 

As one of the finest violinists in the world, people traveled miles away to hear Bell play

But on the morning of January 12, 2007, Bell, dressed in plain clothes and donning a baseball cap to conceal his identity, played as an incognito busker at the train station L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. 

The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera as he performed at the public spot for everyone who passed by.  

He played for 45 minutes, six complicated but achingly-beautiful pieces of true classical music. 

Of 1,097 people who passed by during those minutes, seven stopped to listen to him and one still managed to recognize him

He was playing from his much cherished violin worth $3.5 million which he used for most of his shows and to play on some of the world’s biggest stages 

But instead of receiving the applause he was accustomed to receiving on stage, Bell “earned” $32.17 from passersby who willingly donated to his skill (excluding $20 from the lady who recognized him)

When it was published, the experiment went viral in 2007 and Gene Weingarten, the Washington Post columnist who authored the article received a Pulitzer Prize. 

Apparently, one of the most extraordinary concerts of all time, delivered by one of the world’s greatest violinists earned a whopping $32.17 because it was being delivered at a local train station with no announcement, no name to the face and no proper presentation of skill. 

It’s a huge story, and for most of you reading this, it’ll be a little reminder about life getting away from us.The passersby needed to wake up and smell the roses. 

But to me, watching the video even the moment before writing this piece – gave me goosebumps again. 

My friend, I shared the entire story in a FOREWORD I wrote for my friend Ayeah Avisa’s brand new book called ‘The Man & The Brand’ ( )

For the over 1,100 commuters who walked past, they missed out hearing one of the world’s most talented musicians playing a priceless instrument–but to you and me, it was probably one of most valid experiments to validate the fact that …

People do not necessarily pay for the product, but it matters the presentation and branding around it. 

Remember that two days before this experiment, the same Bell playing the same songs with the same instrument had delivered a performance to people who paid $2,000 each to savor his musical skill. 

When Avisa pitched me to write the foreword of ‘The Man & The Brand’, I asked him to send over the manuscript so I could go over it. With the turn of every page of that manuscript, I found myself getting into an epiphany that I haven’t had in a long time 

It also reminded me of 2017 as a young and non-techy student struggling to survive and pay rents in Buea. 

When I made my first million, I went straight to the nearest mobile money kiosk and asked for a withdrawal of everything that was in my momo account. 

I took that money and scattered all the papers on my bed because I wanted to get the feeling of touching and feeling what I had been working for

It was the first time I had considered BRANDING and SELLING my services in a PROPER WAY and started to charge a few thousands for my platform and social media skills. 

I went crazy that day as I celebrated what was the biggest milestone of my journey and every part of that moment has stuck with me my entire life. 

Later on when I hit the first 5 million and all the times when I made it to 10 and then consistently increased the zeros–while that’s always a happy milestone, none of these moments have surpassed the joy of the first million. 

Today I wanted to come into your space, first to share this intriguing story and also to ask you to go check out  ‘The Man & The Brand’ by my friend Ayeah Avisa.

Some years ago on my journey I came across Avisa. All our time working together, I saw in him the passion to serve and not take no for an answer when we worked on a project. 

The times we got on call, the days we bantered ideas against each other and the moments I saw him execute on all the bits we had been talking about. 

From finding focus, to adopting a solid decision making process, walking in the right creative mindset, If you’re in the process of starting or building a brand and monetizing your skill, Ayeah Avisa has got you covered in this book. 

Grab a copy and happy reading

To your success 

Arrey Bate

Internet Entrepreneur | Author | Journalist

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