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Blog // Sounds
February 4, 2010

Whose Music Industry Is It Anyway?

Jason Parker is a Jazz trumpeter and has a great blog called One Working Musician. Yesterday he posted Grammys: That’s Not MY Music Industry, which in many ways resonated with my feelings about this high profile US awards show. Jason writes, “…they might call that the Music Industry, but that has nothing to do with […]

Jason Parker is a Jazz trumpeter and has a great blog called One Working Musician. Yesterday he posted Grammys: That’s Not MY Music Industry, which in many ways resonated with my feelings about this high profile US awards show. Jason writes,

“…they might call that the Music Industry, but that has nothing to do with what I do as a working musician. I have been a professional musician for 15 years, and it’s been my sole job for 9 of those years. But whatever that was on the TV tonight, that’s not even close to my world.”

It’s a point that bears repeating, over and over. For many, when they think of the music business, or the viability of music as a business or career their mind turns to events like the Grammys and the (very) small number of (highly publicised) celebrities that are showcased there. Amazingly, otherwise thoughtful adults still view the music business through this filter and still let this thinking influence what they say to young kids who are interested in following a musical future.

I’m fortunate to know a number of people my age or older who are serious musicians. These are not dropouts or loafers, but serious hardworking people with all the usual “adult” responsibilities (homes, families, mortgages, businesses, etc). Some have never written anything other than musician on their tax returns, others have held professional roles in music alongside other careers and some, like me, have returned to full-time music after exploring other vocations.

Whilst a few may be loosely connected to the kind of music we see at the Grammys (either as session players, engineers, or arrangers, or the like), that “industry” does not reflect our “industry.” Comparing the Grammys to the music business the rest of us participate in is like comparing McDonalds to your favourite local cafe or diner.

Moreover, it’s worth remembering that the big glossy end of the industry is changing fast. Consider Peter’s thoughts over at Create Digital Music – Sorry, Majors: “Indie” Artists, Labels Clean Up Again at Grammys. Even at this major label oriented event, independent and smaller labels triumphed. Moreover, one of the most lauded artists, Imogen Heap who although signed to major label operates almost totally with a DIY, small label approach to her music-making and marketing.

That bears remembering because the music industry has dramatically changed in ways that favour ordinary working musicians, be performers, session players, arrangers, copyists, educators or trainers. MusicPowerNetwork is a great example of how to learn about these changes.

So, whilst the Grammys represent a part of the music industry it is not the whole story. A lot of people are making a good living from music far away from the borrowed luxury and hype of those kinds of awards shows – remember that next time a friend or child talks to you about their musical dreams.

As the article on the buzz put it (Does Anyone Still Care About The Grammys?)

“…it’s interesting, from a cultural studies / celebrity gossip sort of perspective, but not only is it stale musicially, it’s downright offensive to working musicians everywhere.”

Responses
JakeT 13 years ago

Fwiw, I think the Grammy’s provide a nice target for the “die-die-die” arrows slung at the RIAA and such. When people say ‘good ridance to the music industry’, THAT’S who we’re hoping to see slip away into obscurity.

As Derek Webb tweeted (during the Grammys) re: somebody’s speech about the evils of music piracy, “dear neil, i would pave a new road buddy. don’t speak on my behalf, i’m making a fine living”, as gives away his music on NoiseTrade.

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