Author Topic: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)  (Read 1165 times)

ffcal

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 856
    • View Profile
Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« on: September 26, 2013, 02:30:49 PM »
Thought this editorial (and the responding comments) in the NY Times about "forced entrepreneurship" in the music business was fascinating.  As one who places promotional activities slightly above a trip to the dentist, I can especially relate to the author's distaste for having to engage in self-promotion.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/the-end-of-quiet-music/?hp&_r=0

Forrest

chris23

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
    • View Profile
    • bandcamp profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 08:07:17 PM »
Quote
What I missed most about having a label wasn’t the monetary investment, but the right to be quiet, the insulation provided from incessant self-promotion. I was a singer, not a saleswoman. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.

Interesting read. It isn't always clear what point she really wanted to make, but the essay was thought provoking nonetheless.

The irony is that she is quite good at self-promotion.

ffcal

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 856
    • View Profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 11:26:40 PM »
Quote
What I missed most about having a label wasn’t the monetary investment, but the right to be quiet, the insulation provided from incessant self-promotion. I was a singer, not a saleswoman. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.

Interesting read. It isn't always clear what point she really wanted to make, but the essay was thought provoking nonetheless.

The irony is that she is quite good at self-promotion.

Hi Chris,

What I get out of it is that she makes a careful separation between creative act and the promotion of it afterwards.  It might blurred sometimes, but being skillful at one doesn't equate to a skill at the other.  I think that the rise of social media has raised the expectation that artists be fully accessible and engaged with their audience most if all of the time.  For those of us not fortunate enough to be doing this full-time, this is not really feasible.  For many of the bedroom musician-types in our genre, touring and live performance may not be a practical solution to replace falling revenue from the gradual decline of paid music.  From my perspective, since a lot of what I do involves layering different instruments and takes, a "live" performance for me isn't such an exciting prospect, as it might easily devolve into a "music-minus-one" sort of thing.

I would give the author more credit--she is clearly not promoting her own music.  Even her calling as a writer is not really the focus of her opinion piece.  I think she is understandably concerned about how the web age's emphasis on self-promotion might leave a lot of quiet but talented musicians in the dust.  I am, too.

Forrest
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 12:11:33 AM by ffcal »

chris23

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
    • View Profile
    • bandcamp profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2013, 07:14:18 AM »
It is a reasonable concern and, as a highly introverted person, I can relate to it. But she started to lose me when she began blaming the digital era for making it more challenging for the "quiet musician" to thrive.

It has always been the case that musicians who were actively self-promoting, mailing out demos, integrating themselves into the "scene," and performing live were more likely, on average, to get noticed, get contracts, and see financial returns on their work compared to so-called quiet musicians.

The digital age doesn't fundamentally change that pattern. If anything, I would argue that the digital era is a godsend for quiet musicians. Artists can now record a high-quality album in their living rooms, release it on Bandcamp or other platforms, and have instant world-wide access at little cost. And, although an artist can choose to self-promote that album via social media and other outlets, there is certainly no contractual obligations that require the quiet musician to do so. Simply put, the contemporary environment is much better suited than the old one for enabling the quiet musician to focus exclusively on his or her art.

Can a quiet musician make a living off his or her music? I think that's a separate issue and I won't expand on it here except to note that there is little reason to believe that being a musician has ever been a lucrative occupation. There are, of course, many salient examples of wealthy musicians and artists. But they represent the tip of a large, deep iceberg that now exists and has always existed in unprofitable waters.

In short, although I fully understand why an artist might be frustrated over the idea that building a fan base may require more than simply recording a great album, I think Simone's claim that the digital era and social media are responsible for "forced entrepreneurship" is misguided. Being a successful artist has always required some degree of entrepreneurship. But, at least in the current environment, one can actually record a record and distribute it worldwide with little investment and no contractual complications. No one is "forcing" artists to do anything. And that, in my view, is the beauty of the digital environment that she holds accountable for her woes. 

APK

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
    • View Profile
    • DataObscura
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2013, 08:35:29 AM »
I enjoyed the article and many of the comments that followed.
But I think I'm in general agree with Chris' conclusions:

In short, although I fully understand why an artist might be frustrated over the idea that building a fan base may require more than simply recording a great album, I think Simone's claim that the digital era and social media are responsible for "forced entrepreneurship" is misguided. Being a successful artist has always required some degree of entrepreneurship. But, at least in the current environment, one can actually record a record and distribute it worldwide with little investment and no contractual complications. No one is "forcing" artists to do anything. And that, in my view, is the beauty of the digital environment that she holds accountable for her woes.

For many decades you had to do lots of self-promotion just to get a record released with a label. You had to show that you had something worthwhile musically (and on the stage) and had serious commitment. Now we can release albums easily enough ourselves, and thousands of people are ... probably every week. But apart from their family and friends lending an ear most of these drop into obscurity, whether good or bad. Promotion is an essential part of releasing if you expect to be heard farther afield. But of course, this is not just true in the world of music, it's true for most new businesses. You can be a great car mechanic or have written a great app, but if word does not get out you will not be reaping many rewards for your expertise.

This is one of the purposes labels still serve today. If you do fine work but you do no self-promotion (I won't mention Robert Davies) (oops) you are still in a stable of related musicians and that can bring listeners your way, plus the label generally does some promotion each time there is a new release.

APK
www.dataobscura.com
www.dataobscura.com/apk
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans

ffcal

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 856
    • View Profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2013, 08:48:17 AM »
Chris and Anthony,

I think the danger with assuming that promotion is easier in the net age ignores the market realities that necessitate being heard over the static.  The flipside of marginalizing the old model is that you have fewer traditional labels willing or able to curate and a lot of subpar music being rushed to market before it is ready.  This has going on for some time since the dawn of Napster and the likes of Rapidshare, torrents and Megaupload over the years making music "free" have only made this problem worse.  I think it is also problematic to ignore the economic implications of this.  I think the current model discourages a lot of serious musicians who see barely any compensation for their work in favor of weekend hobbyists.  I think a case could be made that artists would generally release higher quality music if they had more "skin" in the game that they would stand to lose if their latest masterpiece stiffed.

Of course, I had to do a lot of "promotion" in the old days of distribution that included sending out promos and getting the attention of distributors, but I don't like the new version of self-promotion much better.

Forrest
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 09:31:07 AM by ffcal »

petekelly

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 568
    • View Profile
    • LuminaSounds
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2013, 01:23:43 PM »
Thanks for posting this Forrest,
Good points all round, I feel it comes down to a personal choice for the artist. I see the need for promotion but I want to spend the minimum time on it. For example, I keep getting newsletters from The Orchard and CDbaby telling me that I can 'monetize' my Youtube channel or I can create my Spotify artist profile or the like and I just don't know if it's worth the effort. It's a fine line indeed.

I do think that too much self-promotion is counter-productive in this little world of ambient music and that the things that established bands or indie artists do, isn't necessarily relevant to the ambient world either.
   

chris23

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
    • View Profile
    • bandcamp profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2013, 03:44:43 PM »
I do think that too much self-promotion is counter-productive in this little world of ambient music and that the things that established bands or indie artists do, isn't necessarily relevant to the ambient world either.

That's a good point. The potential audience is relatively small to start with and it is accustomed to taking a more active role in searching for music. Sometimes simply having the music "out there," mailing out a few codes/discs to reviewers, and being part of an on-line community is all the self-promotion that is needed to get some exposure.

Speaking of the digital era and promotion: I'm currently listening to some of Andrew Lahiff's releases. They are FREAKING AMAZING. I'm not sure if this guy does any self-promotion, but, thanks to the Internet and word of mouth, I was able to discover his excellent work.
 

Julio Di Benedetto

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
  • Life is a privilege, not a right!
    • View Profile
    • Digtalvoices
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 04:32:35 PM »
Excellent post Forrest.....

Artist general are terrible business people....there are exception Im sure.....so the notion of artist as self promoter seems just as strange to me.... like oil and water.  Everything about the creative process be it music, painting, writing etc...is so opposite to what happens after the completion of the work. The artist has spent months/years working on a piece and then to give that work its fair due has  to spend months promoting it.  From being wonderfully lost in that unique space of creation to then have to put on a suit and tie, completely change perspective and commodify the work of art as though it never came from the artist.  It involves too many personality for one person to do it well.  Certainly theres not much choice today as the NYT article illustrates. 

Artist can be so indifferent to the works they create. They are often plagued with doubt and uncertainties.....regardless if the work is brilliant it will never see the light of day unless nurtured.  Not a candidate I would recommend for any PR department.  No personal experience in the legal field but I for one would not represent myself in a court of law.

I love the compositional musical journey. I love doing the artwork, photography & design.  I love communicating with mastering engineers, cd plant and web designers but then the love stops.  Within the old school big label model if I was lucky enough to have been a part of it Im sure I would have done none of the above except write the music.  That was this is.

The music label is still vital and necessary.  Down "here" labels are often run by musicians who are passionate about the music they curate.  That passion is such a driving force that its easy...I would imagine...to work hard to make the music you love succeed.  The music label offers home to the artist, a safe haven where the artist can focus on their gift and not be troubled by the details of getting their creations to market.  This sort of leads me to think about the opening part of the Simone NYT piece as it relates to the russian people she talked to and how they preferred the old factories ways as opposed to the new entrepreneurial map.  They did their part.  We should do the part we do best.

Has technology and the social network enable us to become super human.  I can do everyone else's job.

I have to ask myself....does the cream still rise to the top, or is it just the amount of noise I make when I Twitter.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 04:53:59 PM by Julio Di Benedetto »

ffcal

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 856
    • View Profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2013, 08:34:34 AM »
Artist can be so indifferent to the works they create. They are often plagued with doubt and uncertainties.....regardless if the work is brilliant it will never see the light of day unless nurtured.  Not a candidate I would recommend for any PR department.  No personal experience in the legal field but I for one would not represent myself in a court of law.

Julio, I think you've really hit the nail on the head.  I think there is a period of doubt and scrutiny and maybe even insecurity that should be part and parcel of any act of creation.  Particularly in the ambient genre, it is difficult to tell whether a piece is truly done or can or should be refined further.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, it is rare that piece comes out fully and perfectly formed out of the womb.  This sensibility can be at odds with the promotion/marketing side that an artist is expected to pursue, which is to convince the prospective listener that your latest work is the greatest thing since sliced bread and of course better than anything else you've done before.  There is also the issue of whether the artist has enough distance from his own work or enough perspective to objectively assess it for others.  I'd rather leave that heavy lifting for reviewers or listeners, who are likely to see things I am not in a position to see because I am too close to the work.

I also think we as listeners need to constantly revisit the question of whether "more" is better when it comes to the glut of music now available and the bloated size of digital libraries, but best to save that for another day.

Forrest
« Last Edit: September 28, 2013, 08:38:25 AM by ffcal »

Julio Di Benedetto

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
  • Life is a privilege, not a right!
    • View Profile
    • Digtalvoices
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2013, 06:27:04 AM »
Julio, I think you've really hit the nail on the head.  I think there is a period of doubt and scrutiny and maybe even insecurity that should be part and parcel of any act of creation.  Particularly in the ambient genre, it is difficult to tell whether a piece is truly done or can or should be refined further.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, it is rare that piece comes out fully and perfectly formed out of the womb.  This sensibility can be at odds with the promotion/marketing side that an artist is expected to pursue, which is to convince the prospective listener that your latest work is the greatest thing since sliced bread and of course better than anything else you've done before.  There is also the issue of whether the artist has enough distance from his own work or enough perspective to objectively assess it for others.  I'd rather leave that heavy lifting for reviewers or listeners, who are likely to see things I am not in a position to see because I am too close to the work.

I also think we as listeners need to constantly revisit the question of whether "more" is better when it comes to the glut of music now available and the bloated size of digital libraries, but best to save that for another day.

Forrest

Well put Forrest.....i think the issue is the idea of the "forced entrepreneurship ", specifically the "forced" part.  Perhaps no one is really being forced but if you want to be heard you really are. Going  back to the NYT article and the Russian factory selling knock off western jeans.  By the very nature of being forced they sell what ever has the potential to bring in revenue.  There is no quality, craftsmanship or pride involve, just money and in their case the need to survive.  Not sure that these are issues for the ambient community....most I believe earn a live wage doing other thing.  However the music created must enter some sort of marketplace if the intention is for that music to be sold, not just listened to.  It is here that the artist is faced with a choice.  One is the road to a possible audience using ways and means that the artist has no training and skill in or the other road that leads to the "quiet artist" and possible obscurity.

The "glut " of music you speak of Forrest I feel is a direct spin off of this.....there are no more checks and balances so to speak.  Firstly it does not cost a lot to produce the music technically and create a format for distribution be it physical or digital.  The outlets for this music are easy to set up.  Whats to stop anyone.  The old model was the complete opposite.  Few got access and one can only hope the best is what came through really was the best, but thats history now. 

The current music label even within the ambient genre can offer, and I feel it does is the nurturing quality that was so important in the old system.  When artists were "developed".  The music label has standards to be met and to be part of it, to call it a home, those standards should be met  The "heres my latest music...sell it" should not fly just because.  The label hopefully will insure that it is ready for release and if not send it back for more fine tuning.  This does not exist in a forced entrepreneurial environment where I am my own advisor.

The flip side is that there is great music being made that could have only existed within the current trend of the social network and delivery through itunes, amazon and bandcamp.   One has to take the good with the bad when all is said and done.


darren bergstein

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2013, 03:26:14 PM »
Been gathering my thoughts after reading the original editorial. Have wanted to chime in, but...am uncertain. There's so much to say, reflect upon, and consider regarding the crux of the article I'm not sure where to begin...
DARREN BERGSTEIN
> Periphery & Anodize / tactile visual audio / www.otperiphery.com / www.anodizesound.com
> Groupthink / wayward electroacoustic murmurings / www.groupthinksounds.com
> e: eimag@verizon.net

Julio Di Benedetto

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
  • Life is a privilege, not a right!
    • View Profile
    • Digtalvoices
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2013, 05:44:33 PM »
Hi Darren....looking forward to your response.  The way we receive can be in ways as important to what we receive.

Forrest's post touches on many issues that are important to us all.

eyes cast down

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 5
  • Music ... in Service of the Transcendant
    • View Profile
    • eyes cast down - Ambient/Atmospheric
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2013, 07:22:37 AM »
Awesome piece, really sums it up. I found the same thing. I did a lot of networking in Chicago through all of 2012, and it got me so little it really wasn't worth the time. Social media doesn't amount to much more than chatter. And I'm definitely not a marketing type. I'm actually on the lookout for a student to work as an intern for a year so I can most of the promo stuff to them. There's not enough time to work on the music, let alone promote it.
Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

petekelly

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 568
    • View Profile
    • LuminaSounds
Re: Editorial on "forced entrepreneurship" in music (NY Times)
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2013, 01:38:26 PM »
Quote
Social media doesn't amount to much more than chatter.

Greg, I think that's a fair point.