- Dec 7, 2005
- Reaction score
- St. Johnsbury, VT USA
Sorry, but I don't understand.I mean, up until the 20th century 99.9% of people that could play an instrument never did so outside of their house, or if they did it was small social gatherings where other people who also played an instrument happened to be, and just about anyone who wasn't dirt poor played some sort of instrument. The idea of each instrumentalist being a unique artist is relatively modern and the "rockstar dream" is even more modern. I'd say that lack of ability to turn it into something that generates profit will create MORE people doing it for art, not less.
I had tons of ancestors who were professional musicians going back to the 17th century. You could play in church or play in the town band or play chamber music for rich people or play at the theater or opera for not-as-rich people, or play piano in a saloon or whatever. I doubt it was ever an easy living, but it existed and lots of people managed. The record industry started in the latter half of the 19th century and that's when acts started going from local to national and touring became a thing. You could still say that 99.9% of people who "play" an instrument don't make money doing it - that hasn't really changed. For sure the instruments changed though, from folk instruments to organs in the 19th century to flutes and violins around the turn into the 20th century to banjos and mandolins during vaudeville to accordion in the 40's and 50's to piano in the 60's and guitars in the 70's and 80's and now, IDK, some app on a phone or something...
So, are you saying that this whole idea of nationally touring acts is new, or are you saying that this idea of being a pro musician is new? The former is pretty much right on, but the latter is way off.
If you're talking just about national tours to make money, it still leaves musicians in a tough spot during this transition of the economy, since there aren't really that many local venues, and the ones that still exist are pretty antagonistic to artists making any money there. You obviously could try to play at the opera or whatever, but no one really goes to those since, IDK, 100 years ago... So musicians are still facing unprecedented economic troubles. Maybe none of this disagrees with what you were getting at, but it seems like it does, IDK.
Reading all these comments I see the following as immediate possibilities (not sure what to do about ~ 5 years down the line):
- Go back to the Mecenas/Patron model that was used by in-demand musicians until the 19th century;
- ... or, just play local shows;
- ... or, wait a couple of years for enough "random acts" to desist from their dreams until a sustainable number of competent bands remain/survive, and the costs of touring comes down accordingly.
Regarding local shows:
I've definitely played over 1000 of them - been doing them since I was about 13 or 14. A band used to get $400-600 back then without even haggling with the venue. Nowadays, most shows in my general region pay $200-300, so half, and that's not even accounting for the fact that that ~$500 in 1994 would be worth >$1000 today, due to inflation. There also used to be 10-12 bars or clubs in each little town/suburb/borough doing live music, where now there are 0-2. And I never heard of smaller clubs or bars making a band agree to an exclusion contract where you can't play in an x mile radius for y days before or after your show - until around 2013 or so, but now I see it maybe 10-20% of the time. It all makes local shows a lot tougher.
And I don't fully blame the venues for this, either. they're doing this stuff because the industry is sucking it's own soul out right now. Audiences are less keen to care about live music, and, even when they see a band they love, they are far more likely now to track and follow the band on video sharing sites and on social media than they are to come out and see your next show.
Regarding: wait a couple of years:
That's a crazy comment. If you were in a band, how do you take this advice? Just go into cryogenic deep freeze for 5 years? Crawl into a hole and eat worms? What? Say you are 26 and at your peak to a kickass music career, doing okay as far as musicians go. You decide that the next 5 years will suck to be a musician, so you get a job loading/or/unloading boxes on a truck for 5 years. Now FF to when you are 31 and things start to turn around (as you predict), and you are too old for anyone to see you as a fresh face, especially compared to the other 26 year olds competing with you, and now you have 5 years of untreated health problems, since you are in the USA and health care here is inaccessible, including back problems from all of those boxes... Now what?
I don't know what the solution is. In fact, I don't think there is one for you or me. In my case, it doesn't really affect me that much. I took my shot at the music industry decades ago, but it used to be my primary source of income and now it's a hobby that I sink tons of money into. Have I gotten that much worse at it? I honestly don't think so. If I suck now, I definitely sucked before, but I was way more successful at it then than now.
Here in VT, we even have some publicly-funded arts organizations that pay musicians to play on the streets in the summer and stuff. It's pretty cool, but this stuff seems to be in a much more precarious financial state now than it was before. Probably the most stable it was was last spring, when covid was declared over, but by mid-summer, they were already showing signs of deterioration again.