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Trumpet Wom'

There’s plenty of talk around musicians not getting paid, but not very much around why musicians aren’t getting paid. I’m curious about it, so here I go!

I’ve always found it interesting how people willingly (with a little grumbling sometimes) buy overpriced drinks at bars and then tip the bartender for opening a can, pouring into a glass or pulling a lever.  But when it comes to music unless the musician is already famous there’s a reluctance to even tip a buck at a show or to buy an album. While yes there are a lot of mediocre musicians who barely put any work into their craft, this is not the case across the board.  I think it all comes down to social psychology.

American society at least, expects that a waiter or bartender gets tipped (you look like a jerk if you don’t), additionally more people have done a service job than the job of musician so they can truly empathize. Furthermore, Whereas society is in love with the paradigm of a “starving artist” that suddenly “makes it big” there is no in between.  So while someone may shell out $30 to see a famous band that’s coming through town and $20 for their latest album, the $5 cover for the similar sounding local band and the $10 album just feels like too much to spend.

I think it’s also related to something that I’ve touched on before, the idea that good musicians got where they are on talent alone. As if there is some magical force that makes a person suddenly be able to shred guitar and compose music. But as Harry Potter learns his first day of school there is a lot more to it than just having magic and waving your arms.  I talk to so many people that quit music because they weren’t “naturally talented enough”, this thought process negates the large amount of hard work and discipline required to master an instrument(s) and learn to compose. I don’t think most non-musicians truly appreciate what it takes to spend tens of thousands of hours by yourself in a room repeating the same patterns over and over until you’ve mastered them (then again to reinforce them).  So not only can they not empathize as in the case with a bartender, they really can’t even sympathize.

This also swings me over to the idea that being a musician isn’t a “real job”.  Besides the point about people truly,not understanding how much work is required to make good sounding music, music is a career you get into for love. Sadly, many have decided that it is impossible for them to do what they love for a living and I think deep, deep down they don’t think musicians deserve to get paid for doing what they love because they have decided they themselves can’t do what they love.  I don’t think malcontent is meant but I think this is a major, rarely talked about point. Personally, I think that if someone can make a living off of “pet rocks” than anything is possible and people should stop selling themselves short, but this is a conversation for another time.

Now another, less noble reason I think people don’t want to pay for music is it’s so easy to steal!  Not only physically but it is more or less socially acceptable to steal music. If it was considered common practice to steal drinks from bars, and the chances of being caught and having to face consequences were as low as they are in with the music industry, I assure you more people would steal drinks from bars.  I’ve also heard the argument that “music is too expensive” but honestly people find ways to pay for overpriced food, booze and entertainment such as tv sports packages, video games, movies and television just fine.

So in the end, I think it all comes down to social psychology.  I’m no psychologist but this is what my observations tell me. What can we do to change this paradigm of the starving artist? I don’t know but I’m open for suggestions.

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