The Music Community Needs You
First of all, I applaud the actions of Justine and Nick to put this publication together and, through discussion, begin to determine the “State Of The Profession”. My perspective will be one coming from the view of a working, traveling professional musician. Aside from teaching I have two internationally touring bands of my own as well as performing and touring with other groups as a sideperson.
Before approaching the discussion of music education I would like to pose three other questions that I believe influences music education – what is the State Of The Music Recording Industry, what is the State Of The Working Musician, and what is the State Of Music?
The State of the Music Recording Industry
The music recording industry, as defined by gross receipts, is about half as strong as what it was 10 years ago (keep in mind this number does not include CDs or DVDs sold by indie artists directly to the public in person but does cover in-store purchases, downloads and any CDs, DVDs, videos, cassettes, vinyl or ringtones sold over the net) . However, there is another story being told.
Instead of being run by Columbia, Warner Bros., Atlantic, PolyGram or Capitol, it’s now facilitated by content providers such as iTunes, CDBaby, or Amazon. Artists, many of whom are on indie labels or releasing their own music, have far more control over their own music and can exert far more influence over their success than ever before. This is a double-edged sword. As Artist Development as a function of being on a major label has virtually disappeared (even for those who are signed to major labels), it is, more than ever, up to the artist to make the proper decisions to develop themselves and find the funding to do so. This means the artist needs to be as concerned about their involvement in the commercial success of each release (and each tour) as they are about the quality of their music. This often means that artists cannot focus entirely on their music but, given the trade-off, most artists will gladly accept the additional PR and managerial duties to have the additional control over their music and it’s direction.
Artists are now finding their funding through developing and cultivating their fan base. In addition to doing live shows and growing an email fan list they are communicating on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and any number of other social media sites. There are a number of new internet sites helping artists raise money through reaching people directly (now known as ‘crowdfunding’) such as ArtistShare.com, Kickstarter.com, PledgeMusic.com, or RocketHub.org. With the increased independence of the artist comes a major increase in the number of CDs that are released (about 100,000 CDs per year or 1,923 per week ). And, to no surprise, there are less gold and platinum-selling records each year now that people have a wider variety of listening options . The trend is here is a leveling of the playing field , with far more CDs and less mega-stars. There is more opportunity for everyone but less attention for those at the top.
The State of the Working Musician
Currently, there is more of a need for creators and less of a need for executors. The need for local live music, whether it is for a Broadway show, chamber or orchestral performance, wedding, restaurant or any other engagement, is way down. This even applies to studio musicians doing recordings. However, those who are willing to teach something to the community or create something new to serve the needs of the people seem to be doing very well. Almost all of the successful living jazz musicians today have a significant full- or part-time teaching position. Composers are now doing great scores for video games as well as documentaries or cable TV. One good friend of mine, guitarist Adam Rafferty, has had his greatest success selling self-produced guitar instructional DVDs of his popular tune arrangements that he plays on his CDs and concerts. Music Therapy is now a far more recognized profession than it was 20 years ago. I know many successful music entrepreneurs who have created music-related “how-to” educational websites.
With the plethora of new recordings also comes the need for moderately-priced studios, producers, and recording engineers who understand music well. Many musicians have started their own small recording studios or become part-time producers and arrangers. Many of the new recordings being released require an experienced ear guiding a newer artist or band more so than a group of studio musicians playing written parts or inventing parts on the spot as many of these parts are now programmed. Being a producer or engineer today requires a knowledge of the music as well as the technology.
The State of Music
There is more music being listened to than ever before, mostly in a digitized format, from mp3 to ringtones to videogame music. People love music but it has become less of a live event. Live music is still big in Europe and Japan but in the U.S. it is almost a novelty. Non-musician novices create music using GarageBand or other programs on their laptop. Most weddings feature a DJ instead of a live band. American Idol, Glee and other music-related TV shows idolize singers and fashion but rarely ever feature musicians or any level of artist development even for those on the show. Many fans know that their favorite singer can’t really sing and they seem to be fine with that.
I briefly worked as a pop producer in 2005 and realized that many of the latest top releases were made without using any live musicians in the studio or very few. Most of the music was created by drum machines, sequencers, synth programming, loops, and with Auto-Tuned vocals. The live shows of these top selling artists often feature dancers, multiple costume changes for a frequently lip-syncing vocalist, plus lighting and effects. You might catch the band in the background, but it’s possible that they are playing along to a track and not actually making music from their instruments.
I think people are still attracted to the idea of music, but the musician has become an almost missing or invisible part of the process. It seems to be far more about looks, dance, and controversial topics. However, the “how-tos” of music seem to be enormously popular. For example, Rock Band is one of the biggest selling video games and it shows people the basics of how to play an instrument and gets them engaged in forming bands and playing together via the net . Guitar Center seems to be constantly expanding and making more money every year, selling instruments and music related gear . Music websites that teach lessons are among the best success stories for music-related websites I’ve heard in the music industry.
Where does this put the music educator?
I see music as retaining its social function, in terms of still being something that holds a society or culture together, but it’s being celebrated very differently than in the past. People still hold the music they listen to as an important part of their personal identity and social network. More people have access to making music, but there are less mega-stars and less of a focus on music-making itself. It’s become more about the social function of connecting with people, not just between fans but between the bands or artists themselves and the fans. The working musician has to re-think what are the best use of their talents and how does that serve the community that they live in now that the community’s needs have changed. I find the focus on the visual aspect of music to be depressing, especially as it relates to the artist (I think it was greatly accelerated by the launch of MTV in 1981 where as The Buggles’ prophetic tune goes “Video Killed The Radio Star”, not ironically the very first music video shown on MTV ). The shift towards music being primarily a visual event has definitely hurt the more accomplished musicians, arrangers and composers, but it has not stopped the public’s continuing curiosity about music or their wanting to be involved.
It is a shame that music has been taken out (or been reduced to a far smaller position) in most public school systems; this has contributed dramatically to the public perception of music. It’s easy to understand why a less musically-educated general public would not demand higher standards from the popular artists of the day, the industry, or their own enjoyment of music as an art form. It is important to note, though, that the social function of music has not changed. I think the challenge to music educators is not just to explain the history and mechanics of music but why music is there in the first place as an individual and community-building experience.
In conclusion, instead of addressing the State Of The Profession, I issue a challenge to the profession. We need to take note of this change in our society and use a teaching model that addresses these shifts. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of teachers as “nation builders”. What are we doing to be nation builders? Music has the ability to uplift the minds and spirits of those who listen to it. What are we doing to direct students toward this cause? How quickly can we get students involved in music as an uplifting individual and community experience?
Sometimes we love music so much that we get caught up in performing or teaching it and forget its purpose. We can get deep into the details and forget its relevance along the way. Many corporations and artists have intentionally put out “lowest common denominator” music for short-term increased profits, but what are we doing to intentionally ensure a “highest common denominator” bar and music for our students and communities to experience? Our major purpose in teaching and the underlying goal of everything we do to teach music should be to direct the student toward the “highest common denominator” experience and to understand and support music’s role in their local community. By doing so we will be fulfilling our role as nation builders and truly educating not just through knowledge but through growing the personal experience of the student.
Positive movement in this direction that I’ve seen lately includes the new program started by the Jazz Journalists Association to promote reporting on jazz events and concepts called eyeJazz (www.eyejazz.tv). NPR started a program doing live broadcasting from the Village Vanguard with a chatroom featuring a Q & A session with the performing artist (www.npr.org/villagecanguard). Smalls, a jazz club in the West Village of NYC, has live streaming of most of their shows off their website (www.smallsjazzclub.com). This is in addition to the already well-established programs hosted by the Lincoln Center (new.lincolncenter.org/live), Jazz @ Lincoln Center (www.jalc.org), Carnegie Hall (www.carnegiehall.org), NPR (www.npr.org/music), The Kennedy Center (www.kennedy-center.org), The Thelonius Monk Institute (www.jazzinamerica.org), the GRAMMY Foundation (www.grammy.org/grammy-foundation) and several others. There are, of course, many other programs in local communities (e.g. www.louisarmstronghouse.org) and it’s key to look for them and ensure that local engagement is an essential part of music education as well.
Please keep in contact with me as I would like more stories and examples of community music engagement to continue. I can be reached through my website at www.paulbeaudry.com. I would like to feature an example or several examples of local community music engagement on my website at times and your story could be one of them. This is an on-going discussion and something that we have the power to influence. Again I applaud Justine and Nick for putting together the debut Leading Notes Publication. Let’s keep it going!
 www.riaa.com 1999-2008 Music Consumer Profile
 www.billboard.biz “Analysis: Important Sales Trends You Need To Know” Glenn Peoples, June 2, 2010
 Thomas William Hutchison, Amy Macy, Paul Allen. Record Label Marketing, 2nd Edition. Focal Press, 2009, pg. 61
 New York Times, “Is It Virtual, Or Is It Rock? A Border-Tweaking Experience” Seth Schiesel, Oct. 29, 2010
 Hoye, Jacob. MTV Uncensored. Pocket Books, 2001.
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