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Thread: Music/Arts and Professionalism

  1. #1
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    Default Music/Arts and Professionalism

    This is a topic that has been on my mind for quite a while, and thought it would be interesting to throw it out here and see what the wise folk of dissensus have to say about it. It stems from myself and other musically inclined friends being at a crossroads in life where we're trying to deal with a conflict between ideals and pragmatism etc. But I don't mean for this post to be about me and my life but more about the conflict between arts and professionalism.

    To me, it seems that aspiring towards arts as a profession is rather contrived and damaging to the quality and enjoyment of actually partaking in arts, and by arts here I'm primarily talking about music - but it could just as soon apply to anything of a creative nature. Music, at it's best to me has something of a cathartic (or some kind of) necessity, it's not an obligation or means to an end. Needless to say, with so many musicians there is a vast difference in personality between material that is made before fame/after fame - scenes are born out of obscurity, where a lack of pressure and freedom that being a no-name brings, produces inspiring music. Though as they move from obscurity to fame, the music begins to become formulaic and predictable as we have seen so many times before. That is once you are recognised for a particular thing, your creative vision narrows as there is a crowd to satisfy - and the music becomes a means to pay for bills and as a career. The art of it goes and it becomes like a trade.

    So how do people feel here about the idea of aspiring to live off arts? Is it a case of be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it? A self defeating endpoint. Of course the conclusion will probably go something along the lines of - it depends who you are, and what it means to you etc etc. But when music alone becomes the inspiration for music, rather than life for music - how greatly does it limit to joy and quality of making music? If one loves music should one take precaution that the pressures of professionalism may never sully it for them?
    Last edited by hopper; 06-02-2012 at 07:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hopper View Post
    If one loves music should one take precaution that the pressures of professionalism may never sully it for them?
    i've certainly heard this sentiment many times, "i'll never make music for money because it means/i love it too much".

    but on the other hand to the well known dynamic of commercial success damaging creativity, there are of course also plenty of examples of people who make a living and a name for themselves and never compromised, their art never suffered because of it, and keeping on the path they set out before fame.

    sorry that this is not saying much but each has to decide for her/himself...

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    nah i'm not really looking for any advice, i'm just interested to hear people's personal attitudes towards this

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    I think the "music shouldn't be done as work" is very often a protective rationalisation used by hobbyists who aren't creatively capable enough to achieve that goal, or an self-excusing rationalisation made by people who don't want to pay for other people's art.

    I think career artists who limit their vision after making a career out of it, aren't true artists at all.

    There's an industry around music which puts unique pressures on the artists to creatively subdue their work. Those pressures are much less prevalent in visual art or literature. I think the phenomenon you're describing, of musicians creative spirit dwindling over time, is an outcome of the machinations of the record / performing industry, rather than the act of going full time itself. In all the other arts, people seem to get better over the years, rather than worse.

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    Artists make art. If you're doing it fulltime you can make more art. To me the rest seems a bit art school undergrad.

    There are people who are uncompromising AND living off their art. Not many but still: to not want to be one of those people seems like a copout.

    Otherwise, yeah: Holden Caulfield, playing piano in the closet.

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    id certainly be happy to make moeny off what i do but no one likes it. if youre lucky enough to have people that like what you do then youd ben mad to turn down the money. id love to get paid to write.

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    I think as the margin for profitability in music diminishes this becomes more of a pressing question...there was maybe a time when a producer could live off a few high profile remixes a year which didn't take too much effort (maybe people on here can confirm/deny that) but that kinda work isn't around so much anymore.

    But yeah I'm sure earning a living from yr craft changes your relationship to it, but I think part of being good at whatever you do is having strategies for keeping it interesting even when the pressure's on.

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    it's an age old problem...

    and on the other, OTHER hand to the artist who can have his cake and eat it too, there are the ones who never compromised and sentenced to relative obscurity for ever because of it, in total disproportion to their artistic achievements. case in point: Captain Beefheart.
    Last edited by zhao; 07-02-2012 at 11:47 AM.

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    yeah i do, but this is a different thread!

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    surely there are lots of artists who do what they want 50 per cent of the time, and then do more commercial stuff the other 50 per cent to cover the expense of that.

    of course you might be doing what you want and that happens to be couched in a commercial idiom, which seems perfect.

    plus, in literature for example, if you get one big hit, then you can increasingly do what you want and people will still buy it because of your name. A lot less true in music, I'd think, because there's far more competition/you need professional marketing way more if you've written a book, for various reasons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    but on the other hand to the well known dynamic of commercial success damaging creativity, there are of course also plenty of examples of people who make a living and a name for themselves and never compromised, their art never suffered because of it, and keeping on the path they set out before fame.
    Plus, even beyond "perfect pop" and so on, there are some people for whom the need for commercial success actually seems to have acted as a bit of a spur to come up with new and artistically valuable stuff - Miles Davis being a good example. On one level, commercialism can mean trying to get your message across to as many people as possible...

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    At the moment I listen to rap music which is not only intended to be commercially successful but is actually often about being commercially successful. Rick Ross, for example, obviously aims for the charts/streets and rhymes about having a lot of money almost to the exclusion of everything else. Interestingly, I suspect that not only is the nakedly commercial nature of this type of music not harmful to its artistic success but actually contributes to its vitality.

    I suppose it certainly robs the music of much lyrical depth and emotional resonance but that isn't what it aims for in the first place.

    Although I think there certainly is a compromise inherent in creating art for commercial success, there is always going to be a degree of compromise in taking creativity out of the private, individual sphere for submission to an audience. But then, I think that this can really be seen as the making of art, that which imposes certain limitations upon and formally refines a creative expression into something which can be understood and enjoyed by more than one or a few people. I suppose this isn't what you're talking about, though, you're referring more to doing art as a job turning art itself into something routine and passionless.

    I'm thinking mainly about my recent experience with writing for magazines/websites and the difficulty there is in writing for an audience rather than for yourself... but also the way writing for an audience has improved my writing, has made it more succinct, less self-indulgent etc.
    Αι ψυχαί οσμώνται καθ΄ Άιδην.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    it's an age old problem...

    and on the other, OTHER hand to the artist who can have his cake and eat it too, there are the ones who never compromised and sentenced to relative obscurity for ever because of it, in total disproportion to their artistic achievements. case in point: Captain Beefheart.
    Relative obscurity?!?!?! Captain Beefheart is MASSIVE! EVERYONE has heard of him!

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    a good example of a group who abandoned their earlier experimentalism and went in a very reduced, to an extent formulaic, pop direction, one has to think to some degree because of commercial success, is ----------------------------------------------------------------- kraftwerk.

    during their days of hanging out with Cluster and Neu!, their first 2 albums were extended free-form improvisation tribal electro-rock with loads of tempo changes, "ethnic" instruments, and plenty of crazy noise.

    but the 4 minute electro-pop tunes caught the world's attention, and they never looked back.

    Quote Originally Posted by woops View Post
    Relative obscurity?!?!?! Captain Beefheart is MASSIVE! EVERYONE has heard of him!
    no no no. every music nerd you mean. your perception is far from actuality.

    his all american sex drugs and rock and roll is of a quality which deserves hourly plays on all Classic Rock stations states wide, like Stairway to Heaven. but instead, exactly NONE of his songs are played on commercial radio, EVER.

    The (Debut) record (Safe As Milk) did not achieve popular success on its release, failing to chart in either the United States, where none of Beefheart's albums would ever enter the top 100, or in the United Kingdom, where the band would enjoy modest success with later works such as Trout Mask Replica (1969). Scaruffi notes, "Although in this period the group produced great freak-music, almost no one noticed. Well received only by the few radicals in his circle, Beefheart felt like a solitary cactus in a desert full of quick sand."[9] -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_as_milk
    Upon release in the US, Trout Mask Replica sold poorly and failed to chart. It was more successful in the UK, where it spent a week on the charts, at #21. --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trout_Mask_Replica
    Last edited by zhao; 07-02-2012 at 07:01 PM.

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    I guess what it boils down to, is that most good music comes from like a kind of 'letting go' for lack of a better word, and that is a much harder thing to do with pressure.

    My band and I released an album under the name 'Our Sleepless Forest' a good few years ago with no pressure at all and for my liking the music was pretty good, we barely even knew how to use the software of anything and all sorts of weird results came out of it - generally for the best... Then we gained a little bit of success and found ourselves doing stuff commercially for tv etc. In the last couple of years we've been asked to work on stuff for getting a bunch of songs together for licensing, and with that music making kind of became an enemy to me, all the joy got sucked out - and the results are so so sterile, none of us were able to 'let go' as it were. It was really pretty horrible - and the whole thing just made me reassess my ambitions, and for a few years I've been in a real conflict about ambitions about making a career from music.

    I guess it depends on who you are, it would certainly seem that there are some people out there who don't suffer from pressure and can keep on working at a very creative level in all sorts of conditions really, and I'm not one of them. It's not a matter of some abstract ideal that art and money should be completely separated

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