THE MUSIC MAN AND THE ECONOMICS OF ADVERTISING. Professor Harold Hill, the Music Man, is, of course, a con man, and an extremely good one (the opening song says: “when the man dances, certinely [sic] boys, what else’The piper pays him!”). He sells musical instruments but without the instruction he promises. Instead he claims his “think method” will work. This wikipedia entry tells what happens at the end of the show. Hill is arrested as the fraud he is, but Marian, his love interest, says that the promise of the band “did come true in the way every kid in town talked and acted that summer”. The boys show up in their uniforms and with their instruments, and the “think method” works to an extent. “Despite the boys’ limited musical ability, the parents in the audience are nonetheless enraptured by the sight of their children playing music.” And Hill goes free to marry his sweetheart.
I can’t help seeing this as a tribute to advertising and salesmanship. I posted here about how my first economics teacher, Meyer Burstein, argued that advertising can change a consumer’s self image. Advertising can make you feel like a cowboy, and the Music Man can make you feel like a musician.