Monday, August 20, 2012

The Economics of Jazz Careers

"The world doesn't take kindly to jazz artists, and before long they find their ideals displaced by bitter cynicism. At best, one percent of them will eventually realize their dreams, and only after years of paying dues. These are the Chosen Ones, whose success results from a rare combination of often freakish talent, perseverance, good looks, personality, ambition, geography and an ability to skillfully navigate unpredictably changing public tastes."

"Why so few Chosen Ones? Simple economics: People who want to play jazz actually outnumber those who enjoy or even tolerate it, let alone pay to hear it. Consequently, in the microscopic jazz economy, there isn't nearly enough to go around, though competition for the crumbs is relentless and sometimes brutal. This simple financial reality underlies virtually all of the infighting, backbiting, and doomsaying that define the jazz condition."

"But when the jazz bug bites, it's hard to shake. Of the remaining 99%, the vast majority continues the battle, even in the face of shattered dreams and personal defeat. How do they get by? By compromising their music, their lifestyle, their self-respect, or any combination of the three."

Read more here of "Careers in Jazz" by Bill Anschell


10 Comments:

At 8/21/2012 6:58 AM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

I am sorry, but this was not up to the usual Carpe Diem offering of "markets in everything."

Why do I have to be a management trainee, when I know more than my boss? Why do I have to cold call when I should be in charge of marketing? Why do I have to meet customers when I should have a corner office? I have been a plumber for 30 years and I am not a millionaire, but my supplier is. I bust my hump to corner the petroleum market, and North Dakota opens up out of nowhere.

Jazz is over 100 years old. The markets in jazz should be no surprise to anyone. Moreover, searching for the word "lorry" in my facsimile 1828 Webster's American, I found the word lorimer: someone who makes bridles and bridle hardware. The job still exists, but no one decries "tackroom whores."

A wedding might not be important to you, but it is important to them, and it is a Rite of Passage in all societies. The band's artistry and musicianship is integral to the event and perhaps even foreshadows the course of the marriage. A musician who cannot bless the couple with music should stay home and mope about their own hard luck.

How's the jazz business in North Dakota?

 
At 8/21/2012 7:21 AM, Blogger Cody Rice said...

It's such a shame that there isnt a major jazz market. I personally love listening to jazz.

 
At 8/21/2012 7:50 AM, Blogger sykes.1 said...

The reality is that jazz died in the 1940s. Its corpse stank up the 50s and 60s, but by the 70s. except for a handful of deluded acolytes (Winston Marsalis etal) it was gone.

 
At 8/21/2012 8:00 AM, Blogger John said...

There is a blues song which makes the claim that there are three requirements to have to be a good jazz artist: a broken heart to know the pain, a good travel agent 'cause one needs to keep on moving, and seafood I guess to have soul.

 
At 8/21/2012 8:44 AM, Blogger Scott Drum said...

Bill is one of the hardest working musicians I've ever run into. If you live in the Seattle area, it's hard not to encounter him even if you're not a jazz fan. He has declined the "bad toupee" option, though.

 
At 8/21/2012 9:12 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

How do they get by? By compromising their music, their lifestyle, their self-respect, or any combination of the three.

Well, that's a depressing thought. That's for cheering me up, Dr. Perry :-P

 
At 8/21/2012 10:30 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Life is all about trade-offs!

 
At 8/21/2012 1:04 PM, Blogger Scott Drum said...

Life is not all about trade-offs if you work in Federal government. It's about the personal rewards you get from ignoring trade-offs.

 
At 8/21/2012 3:13 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

There's the case of the jazz musician who loves to play jazz, but struggles to pay the rent.

Then we have the case of a person who trains for a career that he doesn't really like (perhaps it's accounting, lets say) and who manages to stick with it, but isn't very happy, despite being able to pay all his bills.

Hard to say which of the two is worse off.

 
At 8/21/2012 7:07 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

And then there's the case of the jazz musician who trains for a career that he doesn't really like (perhaps it's accounting, lets say) and who manages to stick with it, and is able to not only play jazz, but is also able to pay all his bills. Best of both worlds.

"Hard to say which of the two is worse off."

It's VERY hard to say, as all value is subjective, and as outsiders we can only judge how WE would feel in either of those situations.

I suspect both of the characters in your example would say they are better off than the other guy, because they have both made what they consider to be their best choices.

 

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