Archive for the The struggles of musicians Category

Gerald Prokop, in his new blog, has a few bones to pick with how Minneapolis/Minnesota treats its artists (even as we pat ourselves on our collective back for our self-perceived enlightenment).

He writes (in one post):

Minneapolis can’t support artists. Take the number of venues or galleries and compare it to the number of musicians or painters and you have a problem. And some of those people are cooler than you. Some have “friends in the scene.” Some have money in their family or other weird sources of income. Plenty of them are younger than you and willing to take greater risks. Add my own personal struggle with myself, and it gets hard to compete.

And in another post he writes:

I have mixed feelings about the art “scene” here, if you can call it that. I used to really believe in it. Afunctionul was all about investing in our place, and the local scene and how we could build it through those “unestablished” venues to create a healthy, diverse culture. But that was over four years ago. Since then, I tried my best at creating and marketing my visual art. I constantly felt like the “scene” was going on without me. Being an artist here is more about choosing your friends then creating your work. It’s more about having a style and fitting in somewhere socially. I closed my studio because I ran out of juice. I was broke and I wasn’t being myself. I would go to every gallery opening because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

It’s partly my fault for being socially awkward. But I dread the day when misfits don’t have the privilege of a career in the arts because overachievers have changed the standards.

It’s quite possible that the reasons I failed here as a visual artist would have caused me to fail anywhere. Regardless, I wish people would just shut up about how great it is here.

Minneapolitans like to create insulated communities, or cliques. And from that viewpoint, you can convince yourself that it’s anything you want it to be. And with our corporate paychecks, we can finance our fantasies.

For those who are interested, here’s a bit more bio about the work that Gerald Prokop has done since the early 2000s. He sounds like a doer, and it’s a shame he hasn’t found a community of support. I’m going to keep reading his blog to see how his career develops…

While the Chronicle of Artistic Failure in America focuses, by design, on issues related to the visual arts, I am not completely unaware of what is going on in other artistic genres and creative fields. I have followed, for instance, with great interest the decline in the music business that’s occurred over the past six to eight years.

On a very simple level, the problems in the art market mirror those in the music business. That is, while the numbers of artists practicing in both fields grows–in this age of “everyone’s an artist”–the audience for art and music is actually shrinking. Or, as the above Rolling Stone article puts it:

In 2000, U.S. consumers bought 785.1 million albums; last year, they bought 588.2 million (a figure that includes both CDs and downloaded albums), according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2000, the ten top-selling albums in the U.S. sold a combined 60 million copies; in 2006, the top ten sold just 25 million. Digital sales are growing — fans bought 582 million digital singles last year, up sixty-five percent from 2005, and purchased $600 million worth of ringtones — but the new revenue sources aren’t making up for the shortfall.

This past month has seen the much-ballyhooed Radiohead direct-to-audience, without-a-label album release. Even before that, though, at the end of September the Freakonomics blog of the NYT conducted a “Quorum” discussion on the issue of the “future of the music industry.” It’s a pretty interesting discussion conducted by five smart commentators on the music business. My favorite commenter, Peter Rojas (founder of RCRD LBL, a free online-only music label), said some stuff that seemed, considering some of my recent posts, appropriate to quote:

… it was digital reproduction combined with the a ridiculously cheap distribution channel (the Internet) that really mucked it up for the major labels. The emergence of Napster (the original one) was the wake-up call, but the record industry would be in trouble now even if no one had invented peer-to-peer file sharing…

I don’t pretend to know what the industry will look like in ten years, but the funny thing about all of this is that music itself is healthier than ever. The Internet, combined with low-cost (or even no-cost) digital tools, has led to an explosion of creativity, with millions of amateurs making music for every conceivable genre, sub-genre, and microgenre, and then sharing their creations online. Andrew Keen might look down on these results, and no doubt 99.9 percent of the music being created today is terrible; but that’s besides the point. Even that one-tenth of one percent means that there is more great music being created than any of us will have time to listen to — and that’s not even taking into account all of the “professional” music that still manages to get made…

The majors thrived in an era of artificial scarcity when they were able to control the production and distribution of music. Today, we have an infinite number of choices available to us, and when content is infinitely abundant, the only scarce commodities are convenience, taste, and trust.