What does it mean to be a “professional” musician? I know that there will be a host of interpretations of this question and therefore a wide array of “angles”. But when I ask myself this question, which I do often, the intent is not to question “if I qualify”, I have made my living in the music business for over 30 years now – I qualify. But the angle I am looking at is “what does this mean to my daily life today to be a professional musician.” Over the years I have done a wide variety of things as a musician in order to make a living. Musical Director on cruise ships, theatre pianist, ballet school pianist, jazz pianist, lounge pianist, band pianist, guitarist, banjoist. The list could go on at nausea.
But the point is, what does it look like for me now. To be a professional musician in my life today – and more to the point – how do I feel about it.
The answer is hard to pin down for myself over the past couple of years. Primarily because I began to question many aspects of the music industry after I had a good look at the events that are designed to be the gathering grounds of all the folks “in the know” of the music industry. Of course I saw a lot of things going on.
I became a Regional Representative on FACTOR’s NAB and had a couple of years having a good look at the way things are done. I became involved with various music organizations and have gained many insights along the way on what the “music industry” is – what works – and what things need to be examined………..in my opinion.
As a musician, I began to filter a lot of the “advice” or “direction” that was being dolled out to us by the “experts” in the music industry, because I saw very different results than the ones one would expect from attending these extremely expensive events.
More importantly, I have noted that as soon as I raise the idea that we should have a good hard look at this “model” we’ve been given, the people in government, FACTOR, WCMA, top “advisors” in the music industry, “experts” in the music industry – many have the same basic reaction – “you’re wrong to even questioning the model”.
When I began to ask myself “why do I always get this reaction?” it came to light that all the people who are so resistant to any kind of examination of the model are not musicians. They are, for the most part, non-musicians who are making their living in the music industry.
And we listen to them and try to find ways to agree with them and accept the fact that they know more about the music industry than the musicians do. Musicians are of course, notoriously bad business people – unlike those people and organizations that the Government just bailed out with billions of dollars – the “business experts”.
So here we are, professional musicians, watching all this money being spent on the enormous events that are designed to help us out, help us get ahead, make our way, give us a break and on and on and on. Not only that, they also tell us how to do it “right” and for a bunch more money, will bring in “experts” to tell us exactly how to stand, dress and play while we are at these events.
I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with this model. Do you?
What can we do as professional musicians to change the model, to do what it is designed to do – which is to help musicians?
We are of course, the reason they are there – in theory. We should make sure we have some say in the criteria and other aspects of the model………..shouldn’t we?
The basic problem is that we keep allowing things to happen. Things we can probably have huge influence over with a little effort and thought.
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