Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

What is the Experience Economy?

If we are to believe a recent study by the company Eventbrite, there may be an emerging paradigm shift in terms of our relationship to stuff. Eventbrite, a ticket selling and event promotion site and service, is pretty invested in knowing how people prioritize experiences. Their study, conducted by Harris, looked squarely at Millennials, a population that make up a quarter of the US population and have $1.3 trillion of annual purchasing power. What they found was that Millennials place great importance on experiences. Here’s specifically what the study had to say about the Millennial’s relation to experiences:

  • 78% would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying a desirable thing, and 55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.
  • 82% attended or participated in a variety of live experiences in the past year, ranging from parties, concerts, festivals, performing arts and races and themed sports—and more so than other older generations (70%).
  • 72% say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year, pointing to a move away from materialism and a growing demand for real-life experiences.
  • 77% of millennials say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in. 69% believe attending live events and experiences make them more connected to other people, the community, and the world.
  • 69% of Millennials experience FOMO [fear of missing out]. In a world where life experiences are broadcasted across social media, the fear of missing out drives millennials to show up, share and engage.
  • Americans are dedicating more income to experiences: Millennials don’t hold the exclusive: the demand for live experiences is happening across the generational board. Since 1987, the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70%. People want to experience more, and businesses are evolving and entering the market to meet that demand.

These findings support contentions made James Wallman, author of the book “Stuffocation” (who tipped me off to the Eventbrite survey). He sees a growing weariness of stuff as well as an emergent “experientialist” economy (as opposed to our current materialist one)–all of which supported by social media and mobile tech. Perhaps the parents of Millennials wanted to be seen driving down the drag in a GTO, their children want pics of themselves seen at the Taylor Swift show on Facebook or Instagram.

Of course, Eventbrite can’t be considered a neutral source of information. Experience is their chief product and they want to people to buy–the survey supports that end.

But anecdotally, the survey checks out. As more and more of our realities get outsourced to online repositories, the social capital of yore–cars, clothes, etc–loses some of its value. There’s also a stagnant economy, growing consciousness about the impact of stuff on the planet, a newfound definition of ownership, where the ability to use something is more important than possessing it, as well as a general weariness about the merits of having a ton of stuff. All of these factors could tip our collective consciousness toward an experience economy.

What do you think? Could the experience economy make appreciable inroads into the materialist one? Or is the survey market speak–a way for one company to make a buck off their core competency? Let us know what you think in our comments section.

Silhouettes of concert crowd image via Shutterstock

  • Alexander López

    Let me tell you a tale about happiness. Here in Venezuela there is a dictatorship where protesters are being killed by the police, scarcity has people waiting for rationed food during 6 hours under the sun, unemployment has been on the rise non-stop for years, the inflation rate is believed to reach 130% this year, and violent crime killed 24000 persons in 2014.

    Yet we are ranked among the happiest countries of the world:

    In that “Happy Planet” index, poverty-riddled Caribbean countries are among the top. That’s because happiness has more to do with sharing life experiences with your loved ones than owning stuff. Bad economics and lousy government institutions forces people to focus on things that really matter: feed our families and support our friends. And once that is achieved, everything else is a plus.

  • I think it goes hand-in-hand with millenials being digital natives; as they spent vastly more of their time looking at a screen compared to previous generations, it’s not surprising that they crave live experiences when they can afford to (even if they do spend a good amount of that time using social media.)

  • jc46202

    The Experience Economy was written about extensively in a book of the same name as far back as 1999.