The question of “What is bad in music?” was recently posed to me and my mind began to race. But it did not race to answers such as crazy new technology or 8-track tapes or even god-awful teen-pop music (although for the record – heartless teen pop does make me want to puke). No, instead my mind immediately raced to the business side of music and particularly the difficulty in sustaining a fair income. I can honestly tell you from years of experience that if you are a musician or singer/songwriter and don’t have to focus or put too much energy into the business side of music, then you are fortunate and it must be a luxury I’m sure. To be able to write and perform exclusively must be great. That is not my current reality. As a teenager I found my passion in music and songwriting. In my twenties, I played in numerous bands and it was all for one and one for all. In my thirties, I realized that if I wanted to continue down the path of my passion, then I would have to buckle down and learn the art of longevity in this business. Now, I wouldn’t know what else to do with my life, and music is solidly my career.
However, it is extremely frustrating to acknowledge that the average music listener and consumer can get virtually as much music as they want for free or next to nothing and worse still, when an artist does make a sale via the internet or online record store, very little of that money goes to the artist directly. I recently heard somewhere that the price of most everything has increased through the years as the economy dictates, and so it should be, but not the price of purchasing music. It’s a fine line because you want your music “out there” in hopes of potential buyers, but you also can’t just give it away if you want to generate income for your hard work and dedication. This can go for live shows as well. You want to get in front of people and perform your songs, but if you do that for free or a very low price then you hurt yourself and the other performing artists working to support themselves. I have yet to see a bank teller, or arborist, or chef, or doctor, or truck driver, or politician, etc. agree to work for tips or an unreasonable rate of pay. I encourage and implore you to purchase music directly from the artist when possible.
Quick and true story and then I will be done: about a dozen years or so ago, I played in a band called Onus B. Johnson. We were based in Flagstaff, AZ and did pretty well in the southwest. We had a decent following in the area and even made it to the famed Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition final round playing on the main stage in front of thousands of people. Needless to say, the band eventually broke up and we were all OK with that. We recorded two albums (Johnson Family Jewels in 1999 and Box of Moonlight in 2001) and sold out of them pretty quickly. I recently was directed to amazon.com and told to type Onus B. Johnson in the search area. I did so, and guess what came up? A used copy of Johnson Family Jewels on sale for $47.01 and a used copy of Box of Moonlight on sale for $99.00. I cannot get a response from the sellers. The point is that as much as I want people to hear my music and in turn purchase my music, it is extremely difficult in this day and age to get fair compensation as a hard working artist in my opinion and experience. This to me is what is bad in music. Yes, I do this because I love it, and I am fortunate that I decided to make the choice to follow my passion. However, if you are reading this, I again encourage and urge you to support the artist by purchasing the music or seeing a live show. If you already do this, then my humble gratitude and I tip my hat to you. -Dave Desmelik
photo by Brent Walker brentjwalker.com
Many thanks to Dave for contributing once again to Lingua Musica. Find out more about him and his music at www.davedesmelik.com. Stay tuned for more articles in the series and feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be featured, or simply reply with a comment below! We look forward to continuing the conversation with you about the music that is our universal language. -Joe