Suggestions for musicians,


Some jurisdictions are beginning to open up, remove total restrictions and allow some sorts of group activities. What is allowed varies from place to place, so please pay attention to what is happening where you live.

But, as the restrictions ease, the questions start coming back: What do I do? What projects do I work on? What is going to happen?

It may be a good time to start pondering what you want to happen, what you can dream of happening.

What music do you want to make? How would you like to earn that next pay-check doing something you like? Are there things you don't want to go back to doing? How can you escape the fall back into those ruts?

One thing I believe this isolation should have taught us is this: we need each other, so we should be kinder to each other. We need our fellow musicians. How can you manifest this in your professional life?

But, going forward, I notice something.

The great pianist and composer Gunnar Johansen (1906-1991) set up a recording studio in his home in the early 1950s. He may have been one of the first classical musicians to do so. Over the next few decades he recorded hundreds of compositions by a vast range of composers. (Though he is most often associated with his Liszt recording series, Ronald Stevenson told me Gunnar Johansen's Busoni recordings were the greatest that he knew of.)

Gunnar Johansen in his studio, circa 1990. Photo by the author, © 2020
Gunnar Johansen in his studio, circa 1990.
Photo by the author, © 2020

But, now home studios are the absolute norm. The film Whale Music (1994) depicted a Brian Wilson type musician with a gigantic mixing board in his basement. Now, everyone can carry orders of magnitude more audio processing power in their laptop.

And so, what is revealed is that the recent - and continuing - isolation has uncovered a gigantic 'glitch in the Matrix': musicians do not really need record producers, record companies or engineers to make music. They can do all of it themselves - and often just as well thanks to modern technology and software.

Further, by freeing oneself from the impositions of producers and companies, the musician is free to create exactly what he/she wants. Gunnar Johansen turned down the most prestigious management firm in the late 1940s because they insisted on restricting (and indeed, deciding) his repertoire. He was not about to let this aspect of his creativity out of his hands.

The isolation has shown us what we can do. But, has it told us anything else?

Yes, it has.

What individual musicians can't do is promote themselves without a marketing strategist. Musicians could do this, but it takes colossal amounts of time and uses utterly different parts of the brain, and most especially emotions - primarily around disappointment. There is something damaged about a musician who must always do the business end of the field. It is simply not healthy for one's creativity. This is the one thing that musicians should hire out.

So, there's a huge market possible for marketing savvy business people: creating promotional campaigns for musicians.

Therefore, the lessons I think we have learned here are these:

We don't need producers, record companies or engineers to make music.

We don't even need concert halls.

We do need someone to do the marketing, promotion and publicity.

Therefore: hire someone to do that.

If you are marketing savvy and tired of practising, hire yourself out to musicians in this capacity.

As we go back out into the world, I wish all musicians good fortune and great opportunities for creativity.

As the great piano teacher Tobias Matthay told his students as they walked on stage: 'Enjoy the Music'.

Copyright © 3 May 2020 Gordon Andrew R,





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