Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brave New World?

This article by Martha Goodavage is interesting reading, but the comments are even more interesting to read. I take issue with this article in many ways, but I also take issue with what the market-based world of music hawking has become, because I grew up in a musical world that was far less crowded. I also grew up in a musical world where competence was the surest way to musical success.

There are many of us who, for the sake of sanity, keep our technology ceiling low, adding new components when they become truly useful and truly necessary. There is limited space in my head, and I want to keep much of it free for productive practicing, effective teaching, and for writing music. I am very resistant to the use of "social networking" as "professional networking." I like my friends to be people I talk to, exchange e-mail messages with, and play music with. I don't imagine I will ever tweet, but I do enjoy using the latest version of Finale, and I totally enjoy being able to use the internet to write, edit, and share music.

Goodavage does have some worthwhile guidelines, but people over the age of 25 (her target audience) need to take many of them with a grain of salt. I have learned a great deal from making string quartet arrangements of country songs, rock songs, and indie-type pop songs. Like most musicians, much of my play for pay consists of playing music that I would not choose to play under any other circumstances, but I do my best, and I'm happy for the opportunity to work.

Knowing how to market your "product" is a real plus. Most musicians I know have difficulty "marketing" what they do, because everything in music is so personal and so subjective. I don't know about you, but I have a great deal of trouble thinking of the music I write as "product." People with money can hire publicity people to market their "product" for them, but I don't know that many musicians who have that kind of money.

Choosing not to compete with the marketed masses is my personal and practical choice. If you like what I do, you know where to find me.


Grant said...

Hi, Elaine. I just came across this article too, and I rather liked it. I appreciate your perspective too.

Do you think your ability to say, "If you like what I do, you know where to find me," is based largely on the fact that you're already established? Would you counsel a recent graduate to take the same approach?

On another note, I find the marketing component to be so critical because so much of what we do as musicians is subjective and personal. Because it's so hard to say which performer/composer is "better," audiences need to choose on a different basis. One is personal connection, and that can be well provided through marketing in the new media, etc.

It's a scary/exciting time!

Thanks for posting your thoughts on this. I'm including the original article in my "best of the web" series this week, so I'll include a link to your commentary as a part of that too!


Grant Charles Chaput

David Guion said...

While I appreciate your distaste for music as a commodity, I can't help thinking that if I had heard and absorbed ideas on how to market myself when I graduated in '71, or even some time before I got my doctorate in '85, I could have had a much more successful career than I have had. As it is, I'm turning myself into an Internet writer, and in order to become successful I need to become good at, um, marketing myself.

Elaine Fine said...

The whole "successful career" thing is a construct. I don't consider myself to be "established," and I find it flattering that you think I am, Grant! If you knew how little money I make in relation to the time I spend working, you would laugh (or cry). I have yet, in my 30-year adult career, to even reach a salary above (or even at some years) the poverty level, but I live in a very affordable place (with few perks aside from a relatively small amount of traffic), and I have a husband with a dependable job.

I do have a unique ability to recognize talent--genius even, and I have been perplexed by how many people don't appreciate many of the composers and performing musicians I find exceptional. There is just too much noise, surround by too much glitz.

You know where to find me because you are reading my blog. That's about it.

David, they went and changed the rules since we were in school. Almost anything anyone would have told us no longer applies.

Grant said...

I love to compliment, Elaine! Though, to be honest, I was assuming. :-)

For me being established isn't about a financial threshold; it's about being able to make a career of what we love doing. Maybe that means lower income and a lower "standard of living" in some (many?!?) circumstances. (I think in music it likely means an improved "quality of life" though.)

Related to that, I agree that a "successful career" is a construct.

(Pssst...I just linked to this on my site here.)


Grant Charles Chaput

Bill in Dallas said...

"Like most musicians, much of my play for pay consists of playing music that I would not choose to play under any other circumstances, but I do my best, and I'm happy for the opportunity to work"

As one for whom music is an avocation, this re-enforces my long term feeling that Music is a wonderful hobby and a difficult profession.

Bill in Dallas