Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Musician's Economy

Last night I had dinner with a few fellow musicians and one thing that came up was the economy. As people that basically create entertainment for others, a poor economy generally means fewer people will spend money on our goods. The first thing my wife and I cut back on when money is tight is our nightlife, and also how much we spend on things like new CDs or downloads (I have to admit, most of the music I buy now is downloaded from iTunes or Amazon).

Then I remembered that most people download music for free, stream it from the internet, or look for free forms of entertainment like concerts at the park. Plus music is a great temporary escape from reality. So maybe this is a good opportunity to connect with some new people that need an escape. Give them something to feel good about now, for free. That connection will outlast the recession.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I've thought a lot about this lately.

I had a big gig in Hawaii canceled recently. They blamed it on the Hawaiian tourist economy going down the drain. My girlfriend's symphony recently announced that it is $1.2 million in the hole. They haven't asked the players to go without pay yet, but there are rumors of that.

I had an actor friend that recently landed an understudy spot on the Broadway revival of Godspell. The financiers pulled out their funding a few days before it opened. Poof. The money was all gone.

These three things happened one right after another and I can't help but think it's connected to the economy.

But then again, this symphony was also $2 million in the hole 3 years ago and we didn't blame it on the economy then. As far as the symphony goes, this might just be a regular cycle for them (that sounds frightening, doesn't it?).

The theatre company I'm working for now is still thriving. They have 5,000 subscribers, which is a huge amount for a small theater in a medium-sized city. I've asked my other friends on Broadway and they say the scene is still thriving. The slump in domestic tourism has been offset in the rise in international visitors as the U.S. dollar continues it's value decline.

Small business musicians like us may not yet be in serious trouble. For starters, most of us have very low overhead. I'm used to not making much money. I've tailored my lifestyle in a way that I don't need a great deal of money to survive. So if the bottom drops out on the economy...well, my bottom was pretty low in the first place - it didn't have that far to drop.

Here's an interesting article about musicians during the Great Depression:

Times were tough on musicians - read the part about Sidney Bechet! - but it ended up creating the big band and swing era, possibly the pinnacle of jazz's popularity.