‘There is no way to make a living in it’

‘There is no way to make a living in it’ When I have told older folks in the past that I want to be a musician, make records, perform music and in basic human principle, do what I love doing, I was often thrown back the response ‘but there is no way to make a living in it.’ Now, I have recently seen others inflict that idea on younger people and want to take my own personal space here just to politely give a few examples of musicians who are making a living, and more so than that, being fulfilled in themselves as well as fulfilling others.

Guthrie Govan

Guthrie Govan – regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world, dropped out of a literature degree at Oxford and worked in Mcdonald’s for several years before becoming the venerable musician he is today.

hugh-laurie

‘Actor, musician, writer. Because the world needs more of those.’ Hugh Laurie’s twitter bio.

imogen-heap-gloves

Imogen Heap – Has had her ups and downs in her music career but her persistence and sense of innovation makes her one of electronic music’s most loved artists

laura2

Old head on young shoulders – Laura Marling’s ambition is untempered.

James-Rhodes

And last but certainly not least – james Rhode’s who constantly works towards supporting music education and raising awareness of it’s importance

So why do people say this? 

Because making a living from an artistic vocation isn’t easy: in fact, according to Renee Magritte, it’s a mystery, I’ve read into art a lot trying to find logic in it where there is more often than not, no logic to be found. There is an imminent amount of risk involved, along with uncertainty of any stability or sustainability. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no way to make a living from it. This statement is usually made incontrovertibly out of personal doubts and fear as opposed to reasoning. The way to make a living from music or art requires talent, a hell of a lot persistence, hard work, luck, good attitude, intelligence, uncompromising arrogance and sacrifices to an extent…it is bleedin’ hard and it is certainly not for just anyone; but Mr Laurie is right, it is artists, actors, musicians producers are the people that gives the world it’s colour and reminds us of the beauty that this world is capable of offering to us.

So what should be said instead?

Instead of saying ‘there is no way to make a living’ out of music to aspiring young people, devaluing their love of what they do and forcing them to do another subject or vocation that would potentially offer stability in the coldest comforts and maybe misery and regret, approach  the subject with a perception that isn’t binary. Say that it is possible, but it’s a way of life that you will do because you HAVE to do it as opposed to just wanting to do it. It is about being realistic whilst also being encouraging and supportive.

Advertisements

Your Turn Challenge day 3 – The Spotify vs. Musical Artist conundrum

Day 3 – Write about something that you think should be improved

What truly defines the value of something? What really are the principle things that should be considered when anyone is paid a certain amount for what they do or a product is sold for a certain amount for what it is?

That is a pretty complicated question isn’t it? Things like that are incredibly nuanced but for most industries, it is a manageable question, from the price of coffee or designer clothing to the housing market and financial sector (without disregarding the obligatory bureaucracy)

Music on the other hand has in recent years taken that whole concept to another level and I have lost count about the amount of times that I have debated the issue or re-evaluated where I stand on the whole subject. Especially when the digital technology industry is moving so fast.

Over the last year, I have invested a lot of time into experimenting and mulling over ways in which I release and format my music. I use three main ways to distribute my music. My label undertakes one way and I deal with other two (I am very lucky to have a situation where everything is transparent and I have the option of distributing myself). The first way is through Bandcamp where I engage directly with my audience and the second is through a licensing company called Tunecore, which release my music to Itunes, Spotify and any other company willing to spare me a penny when my music gets played.

I was very reluctant to put up my music on Spotify and said streaming companies initially but eventually decided it was the best option to promote and advertise my first full-length release. I have countless spreadsheets of analytical data but if there were one thing I wish I could retrieve, it would be who out of the people listened to my music on Spotify, decided to buy a physical copy of my album. I would feel that then, I actually have some determination of how effective streaming companies are as a platform for discovery.

This is where the problem lies; streaming is a very grey area in terms of how music artists are paid. Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke are two figureheads to have spoken out about it and preceded to strip their catalogue from the service. Without, dwelling too far into the subject though, there is one fundamental improvement that needs to be made from both the streaming company and the artist: and that is attitude.

The attitude of streaming companies

It has been publicly stated that an artist is paid $0.007 per stream of a song. Over one year, I earned just under $20 for 3000 streams. What do you think of that payment? I’ll be frank, it comes across as approved piracy to me.

Spotify recently hit back at the criticism of Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift by stating that it has collectively paid out 500 million to artists in the last year. However, their argument disregards one major thing, and that is the fact that major labels tie in with this with deals that are not necessarily relative to the $0.007 per stream and a lot of the payouts would be to past catalogues, suggesting that there is a massive gap between those who get paid sufficiently and independent artists who don’t. I did do some research on Spotify’s explanation on how it pays artists, and only ended up feeling a bit more perplexed about the whole thing.

http://www.spotifyartists.com/spotify-explained/

Whilst I am still confused enough to be unable hold an opinion that streaming companies are The Devil, I do question its sense of middle ground, and that’s where attitude needs to improve. Streaming companies need to make paying artists fairly and sufficiently a priority as they continue to grow.

In full perspective, it is still early days for streaming, and whether artists like it or not, it is rapidly on the rise, so we have to accept the reality.

The attitude of artists

Having said that about Spotify, I think a lot of the resentment and bitterness from some artists is misplaced and the attitude needs from us can be improved to some extent. Ultimately, as the artist, you have control over how you choose to format your music, you also have control over how you engage with your audience and communicate with them and add a sense of value to the art you display. Just because you release music, does not necessarily mean you have to stream it. The most important thing for any musician to remember when they are out there in the world trying to make music for a living is that music owes you nothing. One of the best artists in recent years to have embraced the new age of music is Imogen Heap. This wonderful woman has enlightened me with a big streak of positivity and I recommend any aspiring musician drowning in cynicism to read her story for a change in perspective.

There can be a simpler answer to the question initially asked.

What truly defines the value of something? You do.