Should Music be Socialist?

Weird question, right? I only ask because I was recently in Helsinki, Finland meeting with other Music educators from around the world and well, this discussion kept popping up. Many of us were talking about how to prepare students who want to make their entire income strictly from Music. Chair of Professional Music Kenn Brass recently told me that only 7% of US residents make all of their dough from musical ventures. Berklee grads do a bit better than average but still come in at around 30%. 100% of your income means enough to cover, rent, food, transportation, your vintage vinyl collection, and if you have anything left over, new gear! Cliff and Theo Huxtable illustrate this more elegantly than I can…

Are you going to make enough for ALL THAT by playing in a wedding band, having a youtube clip go viral, performing on live TV, and then touring the world???


Errr, I guess it’s possible, but not very likely. Musicians (including Karmin) have to gig and gig and gig and be open minded for opportunities that may be outside their wheelhouse. I used to play a lot of wedding ceremonies; easy street for a classical pianist: Pachelbel’s Canon, Trumpet Voluntary, a couple Chopin Preludes, etc. What happens if a jazzy cocktail hour gig comes up? A high school Broadway production? A Nickleback fan club sing-along? Should I adapt to different styles I may not like to make a living OR should I say “I am a wedding pianist, that is what I do and I should be paid handsomely for dedicating my life to the continuation of this valuable art”.

I had never thought about playing gigs as ‘selling out’ but that may be because I am a product of my capitalistic society. People I met from Norway, Russia, and other countries felt very differently about the music profession. If Robert Schumann spent his 31 short years playing chamber music would we know his name today? Would music composition or performance have advanced as it has if Chopin didn’t dedicate all of his time and energy to composing painstakingly complex Etudes, Preludes, and Ballades? I don’t know. Should a government support its talented musicians financially so that they can put all of their passion and effort into creating incredible music? Perhaps they will create the next Beethoven or Beatles or Adele and bring pride to their country. There could be thousands of musicians who have what it takes to change the world so why are they using their energy to paint houses so they can pay their rent? These discussions and questions always funneled into differences between capitalism and socialism.

I guess I see their point and I think they see mine as well. I think the next Mozart or Rolling Stones or Justin Bieber will surface regardless of whether they are paid through government commissions or by rising to the top while gigging and making ends meet. We all have to live within the scope of our own realities. That being said, if some powerful government entity is reading this and wants to pay me a salary to dedicate my life to creating music, please post in the comments section and we will hash out the details.



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