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inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #151 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 21:20
    
   This is a perfect question to sign off on, as it's approaching the
witching hour here--and maybe for the music industry as well.
   The first thing I'd do is completely revamp the record
company/radio relationship. Maybe singles have to go, and with it the
huge "promotion" budgets. Just let radio stations play whatever cuts
they want. Forget about formats; ideally we can get back to the days of
one format that included everything.
    Give artists/bands smaller advances, so there's less to recoup,
but sign a whole lot more of them. Eliminate videos, too expensive and
creatively utterly beside the point. Let MTV and Vh-1 come up with
alternate means of programming or PROGRAM MORE LIVE MUSIC.
    Put the money saved into sending bands out on the road, thereby
creating the need for more smaller and mid-size clubs where they can
play for a fair price. 
    I'm all for things like a music-talk radio station, an unsigned
band network, programs where musicians and/or critics and/or fans get
together to talk shop and swap songs--anything to move music back into
the forefront of the artistic debate, the way it used to be until
movies and now even television suddenly became more important.
    Also, there's got to be a way to make a Napster type Internet
situation work for all concerned. But if I knew how to do that, then I
really would be an industry czar by now.
    Good night...   
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #152 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 21:34
    

Good answers! You've got my vote!

And good night from me as well. But while we slumber, all of you working
musicians here on The Well, just now stumbling home bleary-eyed from
another night of work and debauchery and huddling before the digital
hearth for warmth, should feel free to share your own observations and
war stories of life on the assembly line of inspiration...
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #153 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Wed 12 Mar 03 22:05
    
Bruce - great suggestions!  (I haven't given too much thought to the
label-radion relationship.)  Can you say anything about the label-
artist relationship?  It seems to me this is a pretty flawed pice of
the puzzle. 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #154 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Wed 12 Mar 03 23:08
    
I have to say that I don't the single will ever go away.  It is the
both the bane and the bread of the industry.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #155 of 198: Berliner (captward) Thu 13 Mar 03 03:19
    
Tried to buy one recently? 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #156 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 13 Mar 03 06:14
    
Just for its historical place and the memories associated with them,
the single should probably survive. But there has to be a way to
de-emphasize their effect on an artist's career. In other words, no hit
single, no career.
  Maybe all singles should be available free for downloading. If
videos are essentially $50-100,000 promotional expenses, never to be
recouped, I'm sure singles are a lot less costly. If the singles were
free, you could make up charts out of how many times they were
downloaded, rather than using sales and airplay. Then you wouldn't have
the issue of people buying songs only because they heard them
constantly on the radio, and then radio playing the same songs
constantly because their tests show people want to hear them.
   As far as Artist Development. In general I think it's probably got
a bad rap. No artist wants to take suggestions from a corporate
accountant. But good writers have always had editors (until recently
that is, now that editors don't edit--but that's another story).
   I think if you're putting more money into tour support and less
into promoting singles to radio, artists will be able to develop, with
the help of experts at the label, in a more natural way.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #157 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Thu 13 Mar 03 07:15
    
<Tried to buy one recently?>

nope.  I was referring to singles as released on the radio to promote
an artist/cd; not the revenue from the sales of singles.  I have
strayed so far from the pop world, that I have no idea how well those
sell. 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #158 of 198: JOHN MULKERIN writes... (tnf) Thu 13 Mar 03 09:30
    

This is from John Mulkerin:


Thanks for the excellent discussion!

I think we need a "media trust buster" at a high level of government (like
say the white house). Someone to forcibly break apart the media consolidation
that happened after the Clinton era telecom act. Obviously, getting someone
elected on that platform would be next to impossible given the power of media
to swing elections. It might have to be a stealth candidate who has that
agenda in his/her back pocket, or someone who sees the light after being
elected. The reality of the music business reflects the nation at large: A
moneyed elite and a whole lot of invisible wage slaves, whose needs get ig-
nored by the media.

John Mulkerin
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #159 of 198: David Gans (tnf) Thu 13 Mar 03 09:32
    

> As far as Artist Development. In general I think it's probably got a bad
> rap. No artist wants to take suggestions from a corporate accountant. But
> good writers have always had editors (until recently that is, now that
> editors don't edit--but that's another story).

When your label head is Mo Ostin or Ahmet Ertegun, you know you're being
"edited" by a music person.  Nowadays, it's some focus-group-lovin' suit...
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #160 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Thu 13 Mar 03 10:20
    
<Obviously, getting someone elected on that platform would be next to
impossible given the power of media to swing elections.>

So how do we take back the culture?  Or, at least reclaim those pieces
that are ours?  Reading Bruce's book only confirms this sense that
artists have an uphill battle. 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #161 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Thu 13 Mar 03 11:09
    
I really think a backdoor approach is necessary, and inevitable. 
There will always be those who want to be spoon fed their entertainment
and told what to like.  We may have a hard time understanding that,
but not everyone cares as much about the quality of music they listen
to.  
That being said, I believe that the prevalence of inexpensive
technology is the key.  Any 12 year old with ambition, talent, and half
a brain can make a decent recording in his basement and upload it to a
website.  The next step, of course is getting it heard by the masses,
(which is where the corporate aspect of the music biz is strongest)
which will be easier to accomplish (IMHO) as the years go by.
The corporate music machines will never go away, because there will
always be a demand for the bland soul-less pap that they defecate
through the airwaves and mega-stores.  But we won't go away either. 
That's where my hope lies; the soul of the musician and music-lover.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #162 of 198: David Gans (tnf) Thu 13 Mar 03 11:11
    

But assuming soomeone makes a brilliant and inspired recording at home, how
the hell does he/she get it heard by the masses?  And how do I, as a seeker
of excellent music, figure out which of these zillions of DIY releases is
worth hearing?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #163 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Thu 13 Mar 03 11:15
    
Well, that should be the role of the 'music critic' - but even that
requires redifinition.  Maybe a 'music advocate'. 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #164 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Thu 13 Mar 03 11:49
    
<162>  I don't know.  But I believe that it will happen.  Even if you
want to look at music in it's most cynical form, that of being a
product, there is a market for good music.  If you look back at
history, you will see there have always been those that want to bring a
product to the people.  They find a way.

If you want to be less cynical, I can speculate that a new form of
distribution will emerge.  It has alrady started with the internet.  As
broadband becomes more prevalent, more people will begin to use it for
their entertainment needs.  I also think that we are overlooking the
obvious in terms of things like the Well.  I have been exposed to a
wide variety of music through this site.  I haven't liked all of it,
but i have been exposed to it, which is what counts.

We tend to think of the past as the blueprint to the future, but I
think that we are looking at a new paradigm.  Perhaps the day will come
when nearly all music will be downloaded, where mp3's will outnumber
cds.  And don't forget that it wasn't that long ago when the only music
we had access to was the corner record store, and payola-driven AM
radio.  We already have more choices than we did 20 years ago, even
with the mega music machines.  The change has already begun.  Maybe we
are too close to notice it.  Or maybe the taste has only whetted our
appetite for more.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #165 of 198: David Gans (tnf) Thu 13 Mar 03 12:20
    

I am already benefiting from the Internet: my concert recordings are traded
among a small but growing number of fans, and that helps me to recruit new
ones.  But the music-trading culture tends not to be interested in paying for
music, so the principal benefit to me is in driving ticket sales.  Is there
much point in my investing in a studio recording?  That is the question.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #166 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Thu 13 Mar 03 12:53
    
Obviously I can't say whether or not you should do that, but if you
don't make one, nobody can buy it.

I wasn't referring to the music trading culture, or even the
consumerism we currently know.  I believe that in the not-too-distant
future that instead of buying a cd online or at best buy, you'll just
downoad it for a fee. It will drastically reduce production costs in
the industry, thus leveling the playing field.

I realize that this is already happening, but it will become the norm.
 It's where our kids and grandkids will get their music, and think
nothing of it.  I am merely making these points for the benefit of
those lamenting the current and future state of music.  The future can
look bright or dim, and the fact is that it is both, depending on the
road you take.  Personally I feel that there has never been a more
exciting time to be a musician.  And I think it's going to get better.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #167 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 13 Mar 03 13:48
    
    I have to say that this situation has remained historically true
for as long as there have been artists. Some emerge, for whatever
reason, to capture most of the fame and the money, and the rest do
whatever they do for as long as they can, because they have to do it.
    Of the people who emerge, some are hailed as the greatest of all
time, but most are distinctly mediocre (and yet gain fan clubs anyway).
Of the people who are buried in the landslides of history, undoubtedly
some were as good as the best--and are discovere or revived years
later--and the others no more mediocre than most (except without the
joy of a fanclub).
    It's a timeless strugge, so yes, this is the best of all possible
times, because it's the only time we have. 
  
    
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #168 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Thu 13 Mar 03 14:03
    
>I have to say that this situation has remained historically true
>for as long as there have been artists.

  I don't agree with that assessment.  I've not done reading/research
focussed on this question, but my sense is that the arts (and music)
were more regional prior to the advent of mass media. Certainly some
individuals developed reputations that extended beyond regional
boundaries. 

  I think a healthy by-product of regional sources of the arts &
culture is that one KNEW one's musicians, artists, artisans & story
tellers, and knew them to be human-sized beings - not the superbeings
beings (or super beauties) as the entertainment industry would have you
think.  Their gifts distinguished them certainly, but not beyond
reach.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #169 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Thu 13 Mar 03 14:05
    
To circle back to Bruce's book - that sense of musicans as
human-scaled people is one of the things that comes across page after
page.  
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #170 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 13 Mar 03 14:20
    
And, interestingly, once the fame subsides, the return to the human
level. 
  So, really, we're talking about two different things. The day to day
experience of working in the arts (as a musician). And what happens
when you climb aboard the Fame trip.
  That might be another book in itself.  But I think Brenda Kahn's
interview on the subject is extremely poignant and perceptive.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #171 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Thu 13 Mar 03 15:01
    
The Paul Simon chapter has that funny story about fame.  The one where
the garage attendant has heard that Simon is famous - but he doesn't
know what for.  So it is up to Simon to produce some evidence as to his
fame.  How ironic!  (And I know that story isn't unique.  The author
Ann Lamont tells a similar story with even less satisfying results,
because she is unable to come up with ANY evidence her challenger is
familar with.)
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #172 of 198: From RENEE WESTBROOK (tnf) Thu 13 Mar 03 18:58
    


Renee Westbrook writes:


Bruce,
I am a freelance writer for Guitargirls.com, Vernon
(Living Colour) Reid's BRC BLURB and DirtyBlues.com. I
have also recently interviewed Chrissie Hynde, Lisa
Loeb and Janis Ian.  Like you, I'm a writer who loves
music and I write songs as well. My question to you is
what advice would you give a neophyte rock journalist
like me? I've discovered how difficult it is to get
gigs with any music magazines. It seems to be about
exactly who you know. Well, I don't know anybody so I
don't have any magazine credits just yet, but I'll
continue to write on the web and build my chops
because that's what I should be doing. When I saw your
page at Womanrock.com and noticed that you've written
about some of my favorite female rockers (Cindy
Bullens, Lita Ford), I thought I'd write you and ask
how you did it.

Best Regards,
Renee Westbrook
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #173 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 13 Mar 03 20:01
    
  This is an interesting juxtaposition of questions, sort of
representing the full circle. As famous as Paul Simon is, he started
out just as unknown with no connection as Renee Westbrook, who is now
at least known to some Well readers.
   Obviously, connections are important, but so is talent, and more
than both, an incredible sustained effort no matter how long it takes.
    You also need good luck. But, as has been said many times, you
need to have a hand in creating your own luck.
   I've been writing about music since 1972, but when I got my first
job, I didn't specifically know anybody and I hadn't actually written
any articles or reviews before. What I'd written was a 300 page novel,
an excerpt of which I sent to an editor in answer to an ad in the
newspaper. He wound up losing the excerpt, but hiring me as a staff
writer. A couple of years later I had published articles in several
national magazines, won a writing award, and gotten a book deal.
    I think just by virtue of the fact that you've interviewed some
celebrities already and have writing credits on the web, you should be
able to parlay that into some leads. You just have to have the drive
and be creative.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #174 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Thu 13 Mar 03 20:38
    

>To circle back to Bruce's book - that sense of musicans as
>human-scaled people is one of the things that comes across page after
>page.

Yes! There are, obviously, some hugely famous voices among the witnesses
in the book, but here they are about as fully stripped of any iconic
baggage as you will ever find them. The equal weight given here to the
reflections of rock demigods and struggling journeymen is part of what
makes "Working Musicians" such a worthy spiritual heir to Terkel's
"Working," which similarly showed us the common bonds between tycoons
and typists.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #175 of 198: alla bout image and not music (kurtr) Fri 14 Mar 03 01:07
    
Re the idea of Internet distribution taking over for recorded music -

I think that may happen, but <tnf> raises the two big questions  - 

How will the public hear about me over someone else, and how will I make 
any money back from recordings if there is heavy piracy?

I think companies like mp3.com will be the new distribution arms - and 
just as the traditional distributors would rip off musicians, mp3.com has 
very mixed reviews.  I've read a number of posts by artists who felt the 
deal required by mp3.com was a rotten one - I'm afraid I can't recall the 
details.

I expect paid placement on portals and the like will also happen, 
so that if you are searching for a given style and artist that has paid 
the portal will get preferential listing in a search.

Piracy may not make it worthwhile to invest more than a couple grand in a 
recording, since if you're playing small venues it can be very hard to 
make that investment back, even if you're working steadily.

As for critics becoming more important to selling records -

It might happen.  I sure hope the caliber of criticism goes up, though.  
I had a review in a local paper a couple of years ago that ridiculed me 
for wearing a beret, which the critic felt was the ultimate tired jazz 
cliche.  Based on that he proceeded to trash everything else about the 
show.  Well, he sure had a right to dislike my music, but I don't even own 
a beret and haven't worn one in years.

I thought about responding to the critic, who struck me as trying to build 
a name for himself by colorfully trashing people who didn't fit with his 
musical agenda (the guy was a big free-jazz buff), but realized any 
response I made would just enable him to ridicule me further, so I just 
tried to ignore it.
  

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