Image of a black Yondr phone sock.

The Business of Art – The Phone Sock

The phone sock, Yondr, and the artists desire for control come together to destroy one of the fundamental concepts of art.

Dave Chappelle is in the midst of a 13-night run at Thalia Hall in Chicago. The comedian has naturally sold out all shows, and he wants to make sure that only those lucky people with a ticket get to see his best material. To that end, Chappelle has teamed up with San Francisco-based startup Yondr, which makes cloth “socks” for smartphones with a smart lock on them. Cross into the “no phone zone,” and you’ll have to get the sock locked, preventing theater-goers from distracting phone use.


Art is meant to be shared. That’s a given.

Especially the performing arts. I mean, what’s a performance if nobody came? People are there for you to share your art with them.

So the problem here is that artists, such as Dave Chappelle, are using Yondr as a way to control how their art is shared. It’s all about control.

It isn’t an art statement, as it could be.

Using Yondr could be part of a performance, an art statement… it could be one of those childish “experience life before technology changed it!!!” things.

But they are not using Yondr like that.

People are using Yondr as a way to prevent people from further engaging with their art, as a way to control, as a way to prevent behavior they personally find undesirable.

From an art perspective, this is all a childish endeavor that misses the point.


But from a business perspective, life is different.

Controlling your products (your performance) and how they’re distributed (no recordings) hypothetically gives the business the ability to carefully craft a brand and may give the business pricing power. So in simpler terms, you control how people talk about you and demand higher prices.

A hypothetical example…

A performing artist uses Yondr to prevent any recordings of them on stage. No brief parts of their performance will be found on YouTube anymore! Take that patrons of the arts!

So, this gives them the ability to sell the recording at $20. They’re thinking “people will want the performance and there’s no other way to get it but through us”.

Wow, it sounds almost like the 90’s and early 2000’s all over again right!? Control the art and then overcharge for the album in the media section of Target!

This is the old way of operating a business in the art world. One you’ll still find in some places… like the entire rest of the business world.


The point is this is a classic example of a faulty understanding of the business of art.

The business of art does not play by either the rules of the business world OR the rules of the art world.

Yondr is a mistake, control is a mistake, and well… life is too complex for any one answer. Including mine.


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The Business of Art – The Phone Sock and the Issue of User Engagement by Jordan Wunderlich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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