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Monday
Jun032013

Talent VS. Taste. The Ugly Truth.

Let’s look at this idea a little closer. I wanted to discuss this certain ugly truth, which plagues the music industry, and great musicians everywhere. The music industry is flawed, and unfortunately not very fair. Best to know the truth and move on accordingly.

 

As you look around the industry this is highly apparent. I’m talking about he highest paid musicians vs. the level of musical talent. The popular attractive pop star vs. the refined musician. For example, Britney Spears vs. Diana Krawl. Lil Jon vs. Christian Scott. Unfortunately salary is not dictated by the level of talent in our capitalist structure, but the most in demand style of music.

 

Major labels, companies, and corporations pay millions of dollars every year to manufacture “said artist”, or “band”, because they have a certain look, and a certain sound. Appeal is as strong, or even stronger than the artistry of the music today. Appeal, marketing, and corporate backing will push a certain group to the front of the line. This is what has happened to the mass consciousness of today. It is a tenant of our musical age. First and foremost obvious example: Pop vs. Jazz.

 

It’s called pop music because it’s popular. More people on average listen to pop than jazz. It is played more on the radio, and it sells out arenas. Jazz musicians tend to have more “technical chops” than pop musicians, yet won’t do as well (strictly monetarily speaking) on a Jazz tour. The venues are smaller and not as many tickets are sold. That doesn’t speak ill about the integrity of the music. It doesn’t mean Jazz musicians don’t do well at making a living either. It simply states that Jazz isn’t as popular in our culture as pop. So, it’s all up to the musician in terms of what they want to earn. The question it proposes to you is… “Should you just stick to one style of music? Or, should you diversify yourself? We are in a recession. If you play more styles, you may be more valuable to more people, and therefore your opportunity for gigs will go up. But that’s just the start. Will you even be willing or passionate enough to diversify yourself?

 

“Whatever the food of the day is, it’s gonna be good”. Meaning, any style of music. I’ve always wanted to be that type of drummer. You engulf yourself in the music, you bury yourself in the music, you become the music. Don’t put yourself in the box. You’re a musician. Play whatever you want to play. Plus, you keep your pockets nice and full.. If the rock ain’t calling today, the Jazz may call tomorrow. Then if you do the Jazz, and the Jazz ain’t calling tomorrow, you go to the funk..”

                                                                                                            -Chris Coleman

 

This isn’t saying you won’t be successful at some other genre because it’s not pop, or country, or hip hop. Simply stated, it’s important to be aware of the field before you jump in headfirst. Things like what you plan to earn, what you can earn, etc.. How you’re going to spend your time practicing for something (because you may realize in 5 years you don’t want to do it… for x number of reasons). It’s about being honest with yourself, deriving a plan, and managing it everyday.

 

I don’t consider (as I’m sure lots of other people don’t either) the idea that success means making lots of money. For many, success is about simply succeeding in your personal goals. This could simply mean completing an album. It could simply mean making a comfortable living from music related activities. Or, it could be as ostentatious as playing on TV, or in arenas! It could be many, many things. So there you have it. To each his own. Take it for what it is.

 

Talent vs. taste. It’s an ugly truth, but we have to accept it.

 

Matthew Jones is a professional drummer and percussionist. He has a bachelor’s degree in music performance from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music. He travels around the world playing professionally as well is an accomplished author. His e-book (The Gigging Drummer Survival Tips) has grown popular in the drumming community.

 

See more on him at:

www.matt-jones.org

E-bbook: http://matt-jones.org/mattjones.org/E-Book.html

Reader Comments (8)

This is very true. I'm discovering in a way there's "musicians" and there's artists who happen to be musicians. One can try and make it with their own band/original music or one can be a straight up musician. Usually the latter needs to be professionally trained and studied in many genres. The "Pop" artist can just be more one-sided and attempt to "make it" whereas the musician will find many smaller things with which to have a career. Living the life of a sideman basically. I've made the crossover from trying to be in a band/an artist making it to gun for hire. However what I've found is being the gun for hire is way less satisfying. Instead of practicing, playing, and enjoying and feeling the passion of it because the way the music makes you feel, it now feels like a job. A job that pays really poorly and is not super satisfying. Just beware what you get in to.

June 3 | Unregistered CommenterNate Guitar

This is an awesome article! I started as a pop and pop/rock artist but recently found that I need to write and record in many other genres for other opportunities. In the past I was advised many times that I needed to pick one genre and stick with it. So I wasn't sure if crossing over was wise but after reading this article I'm now convinced that I'm making the right move. Thanks for sharing!!

June 4 | Unregistered Commenterscott

In my eyes have to be able to play other styles of music but also enjoy and appreciate them, you'll be better of for it

June 5 | Unregistered Commentermandy

A major label president got me on the right track, so I am passing on his sage knowledge here.

The record industry does not sell talented musicians, never did, never will. They sell entertainment.

So as you develop your act, not just your music, remember you will only be successful if your audience is captivated by what they see and hear. It is not enough to be a great player of an instrument, a great voice, or a great songwriter. You have to be able to connnect with your audience. You do that by validating. Look that up.

Short version, you validate when what you sing, what you write, evokes a "me too" feeling in your audience.

Do that, and you become an entertainer, a professional.

June 12 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan Paul

While art and entertainment are often used in the same sentence, they can be direct opposites. Art can be entertaining and entertainment can be thought provoking and self relating as well. Compare it to movies. There are "art" films and blockbuster movies and they serve very different purposes. Sometimes it is nice not to think and simply be entertained. Music is no different. If you enjoy playing music, play all of it for the appropriate reason and have some fun doing it. It should make one better prepared for the task, regardless of the purpose.

June 12 | Unregistered Commenterperkussion

Basically it's a case of survival of the fitest in this job, there are no garantees, you keep fighting to make somewhat of a name for yourself. If there are 2 halls one with me performing and the other with Bono, both halls free of charge my hall would not be half as full as Bonos, even though I might actually be a better singer and musician than himself. It's the name of the game, the World does not owe us a living. Musicians are hunter gatherers.

June 13 | Unregistered Commenterlarry

Basically it's a case of survival of the fitest in this job, there are no garantees, you keep fighting to make somewhat of a name for yourself. If there are 2 halls one with me performing and the other with Bono, both halls free of charge my hall would not be half as full as Bonos, even though I might actually be a better singer and musician than himself. It's the name of the game, the World does not owe us a living. Musicians are hunter gatherers.

June 13 | Unregistered Commenterlarry

This is a classic example of not understanding what industry this is. This is NOT the MUSIC industry. This is the ENTERTAINMENT industry. Your level of success depends mostly on your ability to entertain an audience, audibly and visibly, and not your own level of musical technical proficiency. Take a few classic rock examples: Kiss? Not necessarily virtuoso musicians, but extremely successful in the business. Nirvana? "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is nothing more than four repeating power chords, and yet they were considered the voice of their generation. The moral of the story is not to write music just because you like showing off your chops playing it. Consider how much the audience wants to listen to it, and if performing live or in video, how much they enjoy watching it. You have to find a happy compromise between what you want to play, and what everyone else wants to hear.

June 13 | Unregistered CommenterArthur

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