Money + Heart

30 Oct

I wrote this a few months ago…wondering about the success of my Kickstarter and of social media in general. It’s hard to ask people to buy your stuff, maybe especially when you’re an artist. Then there’s the weird idealistic/totally self-limiting persona of the “starving artist.” Like you can’t make a living and be relevant and “of the people.” I don’t buy it. And where is this music industry going? The commodity is not vinyl or CD or even mp3 anymore. It’s streams, Youtube views. Things that don’t immediately transfer to money. Something higher must be the commodity. What do artists offer? What do consumers get from artists, what is it worth?

“Now is not the time to ask when I’ll get a real career.” I have been asked by well-meaning people I grew up with when I might “settle” and get a “JOB job.” Also, when I graduated with my History degree, someone asked me if I would like fries with that, so I guess I have always been on the perceived track of “Huh?”

Truth is there are lots of ways to make money in music, and I have found a couple. I pay rent. I don’t ask my mom for money (all the time, hi Mom). I have found some and I see countless others. Music, art, and entertainment are massive economies in this country. There need not be starvation. Are they JOBS? Yes. You gotta clock in and probably work harder than a lot of other job types, and even then it’s not guaranteed. You have to schmooze. You have to have 10,000 hours in at whatever you want to do. You have to be professional. You have to be steadfast in your vision (and know what your vision is). It’s a lot. But it’s not unfruitful, and lots of working musicians and music business folk pay their rent and buy their lattes every day.

What is the fans’ role in all of this? A little recognition that a Spotify stream does not totally make up the difference in the decline of the physical album is step one, but really…the fans’ role is to pick those artists that live and breathe something beyond a download. It’s not charity, it should never be charity. The music should be great. If it touches your life on a daily basis, join the community. Help the artist’s community get bigger. Go to shows. Share links. All that stuff.

I am used to making my living with about 4 jobs. People joke, but I see the uncertainty of corporate jobs and lack of longterm, fulltime work in a lot of industries, and I am grateful I know how to make it piece together. Maybe in the future people will be asking musicians for advice on how to work in the new economy…I don’t see that as being very far-fetched at this juncture.

Anyway, food for thought. Hug a musician today, just not while they’re playing.

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