Monday, October 6, 2008

What is a professional artist?

Some ideas that have been floating around in my head for a while - I think it's time to let some other brains join the thought pool....

Every now and again, I'll find myself re-evaluating the word and idea of being a professional.
  • The modern terms "professional" and "artist" seem mutually exclusive.
  • "Musician" is synonymous with "non-productive non-worker"
There are many reasons for this... professional musicians lead insular lives due to the commercial music environment (high turnover in management, volatile commercial landscape). Generally speaking, only people inside the professional entertainment vocations associate with professional musicians. Outside, most people know someone who's attempting a commercial career, or has abandoned a previous attempt.
  • We have an existential identity crisis as artists, specifically as musical artists.
  • Styles of dress once symbolic of societal fringes has been mainstreamed, as has the concept of being "creative."
But not the concept of being "poor" or living in an extremely frugal manner. Pop culture absorbed all visible identifiers of "creativity" (and all it's implicit suggestions: sensitivity, "outside the box" thinking, implied validity, etc) without also imposing an environment that demanded those actual skills. (Pop "Idol" competitions, etc..)
  • Many of our musical genres and forms are being replicated by software/hardware (Yamaha "styles")
These factors create a lack of cultural space for creatives to identify each other. (this is what accounts for, IMHO, the high flameout rate on Craigslist, the lowest common denominator of impulsive stabs at creative community.)
  • Our commercial world ebbs confusingly in a non-intuitive oversupply problem that defeats most rational economic thinking.
  • Ubiquity of music production tools has enabled everyone to participate in the creation of unique aural memories.
  • Many standard back-office operations have been moved to web-based services
  • "Traditional" music companies thrived by monopolizing "the new".
  • Enter technological evolution (Alesis ADAT), scale logarithmically, then exponentially, creates an oversupply of "new".
  • Songwriting/performance is the new circus freak. ("Everyone's ugly, but he's REALLY ugly!") The most eccentric novelty wins (2girls, one cup).
I will take some time to flesh out some more thorough thinking. In the meantime, reactions, thoughts, etc, are welcome in the comments.


Phoebe said...

I'll take a dip in your thought pool... although I may keep my floaties.

"Our commercial world ebbs confusingly in a non-intuitive oversupply problem that defeats most rational economic thinking."

You couldn't have put this better. Not only are there huge problems with oversupply, but a striking lack of demand. How are we to progress as a creative culture when there is little to no demand for creative (especially freelance musical) services? Perhaps this is diagnostic of our creative cultural stagnation, and exacerbated by recent economic downturn.

As a side note, I have a project I need some advice on. Creative advice. Have some to offer? Hope you and the lady are well- drop me an email when you have the chance. I searched your website high and low to no avail.

Take care yoself.