Diminishing Marginal Utility and Joe Satriani

When I was in graduate school I taught accounting to undergraduates. Accounting is arcane and so I struggled to find analogies that my students could understand.

For instance, the classic accounting equation is assets = liabilities plus equity. This being the 80’s, I could assume that consumers had some equity in their houses or cars… so I would use a newly purchased car as an example. If you buy a car for $12,000 and put $1000 down and owed $11,000 you could then use the $12,000 = $11,000 + $1,000 model. Now I realize that the more savvy purchasers out there will realize that a car driven off the lot loses a substantial portion of its value almost instantly, so maybe the value is really $10,000 and then the model has a negative equity of ($1,000), but I wouldn’t start the classes out here.

On the same level I really enjoy the second album by guitarist Joe Satriani “Surfing with the Alien“. He had another album out earlier but it was off-the-radar; this album put him on the charts. Joe Satriani is a “guitar hero” who can play the fast and difficult solos but also is able to play slower, more melodic leads that are actually tuneful.

However, Joe Satriani has one problem – all of his stuff basically sounds the same. While there are occasional vocals and certainly there are good songs on his other albums, if you have “Surfing with the Alien”, that is about all the Joe Satriani you want or need.

And what can this be used for? Teaching diminishing marginal utility in an introductory economics class, of course! When I first loaded up my iPod I didn’t have any Joe Satriani and I was unsatisfied with the situation. So I went out and found a copy of the CD, ripped it, and was happy. I think I even paid full price for it.

What is more Joe Satriani worth, after I have “slaked my initial thirst”? Not too much. I was traveling and saw this “Satch” album (OK, now I am an insider or I read his wikipedia bio too closely) and hemmed and hawed before deciding to plunk down the cut-rate price of $5.99 for this CD. I haven’t run through the songs I don’t already know so it is possible that I may be “unsatisified” with this incremental purchase (i.e. I want my $5.99 back) or perhaps it will light a fire and increase my desire for additional guitar virtuosity a la Mr. Satriani. We will see.

Cross posted at LITGM

4 thoughts on “Diminishing Marginal Utility and Joe Satriani”

  1. He got more airplay the farther south, or closer to Austin, one went … there were at least three phenomenal tracks on Ah Via Musicom and a couple of others on his other albums. So my view of his marginal utility is a function of my marginal proximity, in a previous decade, to Sixth Street. He tours occasionally, and the last time I saw him, tickets were only $25, which is a whole lot less than you’ll pay to see the average classic rocker at your local arena these days. Recommended (but I said that already).

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