I am writing this blog post to ask/discuss a different question, though. What affect are all these new tasks/responsibilities having on the modern musician? Many modern blogs criticize musicians for being lazy. They chastise us for just sitting in our room playing/writing music all day and explain that we will never be able to launch a career that way. They are correct, but why do so many musician just want to sit in their room and make music? Maybe this happens because we are musicians, not marketing experts. Music is what we love. We didn’t get into this because we had a burning desire to design web sites or launch advertisement campaigns. We want to make music.
The old system allowed for this. The musician made the music. The record label had other people who handled media and marketing. Going back to the beginning of record labels a musician didn’t even need to have a substantial following to be considered. They just needed a shot to pitch their music to the correct people, and the talent to convince those people that they were worth investing in.
Now, due to the way that technology and independent artists have changed the industry, a musician has to build a fairly large fan base and successful independent career before a label will even consider them. This forces all musicians to divide their time between their music and the other aspects of starting a career if they ever want a shot, but at what expense?
Have you ever heard the expression, “jack of all trades and master of none?” I feel that this may be happening on some level in the music industry. It takes a great deal of time and devoted practice to develop a musical talent. Think of all the monumentally great musicians throughout American history. People like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (to name a few). These people spent enormous amounts of time perfecting their craft. Charlie Parker mentioned in an interview that he spent three to four years of his life practicing fifteen hours a day to achieve the level that he performed at professionally.
If a person spends 15 hours a day practicing, how much time is left for marketing and media? This is why I ask, “Has the modern DIY musician age hurt musicianship?” How many truly revolutionary musicians (at the skill level of those mentioned above) have emerged recently? Even the Beatles (and others from that era) were not as encumbered by today’s multitasking demands. Are there still musicians out there who are raising the bar on musical skill? If not, perhaps the lack of time available to practice (due to the need to cover other tasks) is at least partially to blame.
Does this mean that I think modern musicians should forsake media and marketing development and just focus on their music? Of course not! Those days are gone. Unless we want to spend our lives playing only for ourselves, we have to adapt to the new culture. However, we should try to keep a good balance between music and the other stuff. Let’s not get so wrapped-up in the new trends that we forsake the true art of musicianship. One of the most powerful marketing strategies is having a truly amazing product.