The question is usually answered automatically when a good pianola is experienced live for the first time. This was also the case for most of the interested people. When the first self-playing pianos were introduced before 1900, there were very different reactions to these new wondrous devices.
In the trade press, the reactions ranged from: "For a musically sensitive person, the idea of a mechanical piano is a real horror". (M. Allhin, 1902) up to, "One only has to insert these rolls, punched with all rhythmic shades, [...] to create the illusion of listening to a great artist. Isn't this wonderful and the realization of former fairy-tale fantasies about which the latter would have made our forefathers smile? " (P. B. in the Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau 1905).
Despite the many tens of thousands of instruments produced by Aeolian, Hupfeld, Welte and other manufacturers, orders could not be fulfilled in the first few years. At times more pianos were manufactured than pianos.
Then as now, the same diverse reasons (to represent separately or to animate?) apply to the purchase of a piano:
- The extended enjoyment of music - to enjoy pieces of piano literature that one cannot produce on the piano oneself
- The special musical enjoyment - to hear the same pieces by different interpreters as well as by the composer himself
- The additional enjoyment of music - to arrange pieces of the piano literature differently by means of piano control
- The reputation - as a good host, to represent music culture and innovation (today rather nostalgic innovation)
- The fascination - for true marvels of mechanics / pneumatics / electrics that can reproduce this music
Which of these has the most weight, as well as additional motivators, will remain an individual decision. An essential advantage today, compared to then, is that many thousands of beautiful music roll titles exist, some of which are no longer to be found in music literature.