Can Chess Ever Be a Relevant Commercial Enterprise or will it remain a Patronage for the Rich and Idle?
Johann Sebastian Bach was a Grandmaster of music, a composer, during his life his music was not commercially viable, he was at the mercy of patrons and Kings, Queens in the wealthy royal courts of Europe. If you look at the landscape of music now with billions being made from his music in re-recordings by Music Artists, who essential copying his music and playing it note for note.
Chess in the 21st century is a bit like music in the 17th Century, nobody considers Chess a viable commercial activity. There are highly talented and motivated professionals who work really hard to hone and nurture their talent and skills to a high degree of specialism. However, all this talent is held ransom to the whims of a few rich and idle people who patronize Chess and keep it viable for those professionals to eek out a meager career.
I posted about my view that Chess could be commercial if "we were industrious enough and prepared to innovate and create value." A very respected chess fan, commentator, and Professor of Economics saw my comments and called me out on it. He said Chess had no intrinsic Economic value. Yes some companies have managed to create a business from Chess but this is the exception and not the rule. Chess costs nothing to play, costs nothing to watch, can be perfectly reconstructed from the moves. We also know that Chess moves are not subject to copyright. The only value is in the goods and services that offered such as premium online chess playing platforms, annotations, commentary, coaching, chess literature and chess art. However even these things are compromised by the creative commons social media revolution, where content and features are free, but advertisers upsell other goods and services to a "captive audience".
The equation is simple Supply and Demand.
So Chess.com survive because enough people are either see real value in the premium services they offer or not aware of other service providers who offer a superior service or the same for free. They are constantly having to innovate to survive as the march of the creative commons encroaches each time. Lichess is Chess.com's biggest competitor and has decided to offer their excellent chess server free of charge. Lichess employs people but unlike Chess.com do not seek to make a profit. Many believe Lichess has a superior product to Chess.com. It, therefore, will be a matter of time before Lichess gain significant market share and Chess.com is left like the Internet Chess Club (ICC) as an expensive, indulgent mistake which is visited more out of nostalgia than necessity.
The question is for Chess to be truly commercial is Chess a necessity to someone. If it is then there will be a market that can be tapped, as there will be a demand for Chess which would then need a Supply. Free chess servers are one thing but other services such as chess equipment and chess coaching will not easily be given away free and can be marketable. Chess software and chess literature long feared to be destroyed by the disgusting theft of copyright so prevalent today have experienced a renaissance as sales of ChessBase software and Book publishers like Quality Chess, Everyman Chess, and Amazon chess ebooks soar.
Chess can be commercial if we keep believing it is worthwhile, if we stop then believing this then it becomes an idle pastime like in past times.