The value of a musician

Nearly every day, music saves my life.  Hyperbolic as that statement may seem, it’s true in the sense that since I was a young child, music has carried me through life. It has been a soundtrack, a motivator, a friend.  We all have songs that define a time period for us and songs that have pulled us through difficult times. I can’t imagine my life without music.

It is not possible to proclaim the value of the song without also acknowledging the value of  the musician. Without its writer, its composer, its singer, its players, it has no life.  Yet as Jake Pegg of Fair Trade Music PDX told me last week, “The musicians are last in line to get paid, but first in line to take a pay cut.”

We’ve all heard the stories of great musicians (and artists of all kinds) producing extremely important bodies of work, yet leaving this world without a penny to cover their burial costs. Meanwhile, an entire industry was created on their backs. From the bartender at the venue they first played and the promoter that booked them to the record executive that signed them and the music journalist that wrote about them, people have relied on musicians for their own livelihoods (not to mention inspiration, courage, comfort etc. ).  And while that industry has become weak in the past decade,  maybe it’s for the best. Maybe we should let it die. Don’t be fooled by campaigns disguised to protect musicians (SOPA) but really created to keep money in the pockets of rich industry people.

Long ago, when musicians’ jobs were being replaced by recorded music (in tandem with talkies rendering silent films obsolete–see The Artist, if you haven’t already) they came together as one force and supported each other through the changes. Today, the American Federation of Musicians has lost relevance in the unpredictable conditions surrounding popular music, especially vis a vis technology, but perhaps unionizing is something musicians ought to revisit.  The Fair Trade Music campaign, which is being supported by the musicians union, has some interesting ideas about reeducating people about live music and creating an environment in which they are not only honored, but paid.

This week, VCReporter published its annual local music issue and I attempted to explore in depth the economics of live music. I did this because it’s a subject dear to my heart as a fan and as someone who has been surrounded by musicians for much of my life.  I hope you get a chance to read it, read up on the union and maybe consider a Fair Trade Music campaign in Ventura and surrounding areas (Hello, L.A.!)

Long live rock ‘n’ roll

Support local music



2 Comments to “The value of a musician”

  1. Well said, Michel. Thanks for the eye opener; for helping clear the fog. Many of us (I), take for granted that music is and always will be available, even free; without even a thank you to these artists who share their intellectual property and talents. So, besides a musician’s union, keep writing about this issue. It educates the public and exposes how ridiculous it is to take for granted that it’s normal for artists and musicians to starve. Be the advocate, mama!
    Charlene, Ventura

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