Entrepreneur or artist? Or both?

The End of Quiet Music … not necessarily quiet like a Chopin nocturne, but quiet as in not shouted about from the rooftops. We know of Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer, and other musicians who have built nice careers through becoming expert self-promoters in the music biz of today. I have nothing bad to say about them and how they got where they are. But at the same time, as this NYT blog post says, there are musicians who are hurt because they can’t or don’t self-promote at every opportunity, 24/7. In truth, entrepreneurialship is a practice with skills on its own, and like other practices is something some people are good at and some aren’t. And it’s essential to say that time spent sending out mailers, updating websites, checking fan statistics, and all the other stuff involved in promotion cuts into the time that could be spent practicing one’s art.

One positive thing that could be said about “the old music industry” is, at least there were people at record companies to do a lot of the nuts and bolts work of marketing and promotion and sales. Glenn Frey was probably not crunching market penetration statistics, and Don Henley was not folding letters to put into promo kits of The Eagles’ second album. Instead they were writing the third album and going on tour.

The comments to the NYT blog post expand the view, including not just creative artists but people in many other fields who are affected by this new demand to be entrepreneurial. In America at large, the call to be entrepreneurial is a loud drumbeat. You’re foolish if you’re not doing things to promote your “personal brand” in as many different settings as possible. One can see this by looking at companies where the people who “get things done” (i.e. project managers, vice presidents) are more highly valued than the people who “actually do things.”

Sure, selling oneself is vital to getting a job. It’s just that most of us thought we would do that once and then get to work the job for a while once we got it (assuming the job isn’t actually a sales or marketing job), as opposed to having to go selling again tomorrow. Again, I’m not saying that embracing the entrepreneurial artist approach is wrong in any way. It’s just not the sort of thing everyone has been longing to do, that’s all, and as a result some voices are unheard because they want to create art instead of jumping up and down saying “LOOK AT MEEE!”

About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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2 Responses to Entrepreneur or artist? Or both?

  1. I agree. I have been seeing some struggling local artists who fight for exposure so much that it actually turns me off to their music.

    • songdogmi says:

      Yeah. There’s a way to do it gracefully, but not everyone knows how to do that. It’s like, when a clown works a party, you’re not supposed to see the clown eat (unless that’s part of the act somehow). When I go to see music performed, I don’t want it to be too painfully obvious that the performers are MARKETING!.

      And local artists don’t need to push other locals around. Your success doesn’t mean my failure, so it doesn’t have to be dog-eat-dog.

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