Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor
eBook - ePub

Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor

What You Won't Learn at Most Music Schools

Ramon Ricker, Steve Danyew

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eBook - ePub

Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor

What You Won't Learn at Most Music Schools

Ramon Ricker, Steve Danyew

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Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

Lessons from a Streetwise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools was first published in 2011. It’s a book that discusses contemporary issues in the real world of music, and the fact is, much has changed since then. An update was needed, so voilà—the second addition. For this edition, I asked Steve Danyew to contribute. He’s a former colleague at the Eastman School, and as a young person, he’s up on all the latest and greatest happenings in the tech world. He’s also a fine composer whose career is blossoming now.

What has changed in the last seven years that affects musicians? Certainly, the use of video has gone through the roof, not to mention social media, email marketing, Facebook ads, boosted posts, GoogleAdWords, and the list goes on. More and more musicians now publish their own music and recordings. The Internet has made it possible for them to side-step the big publishing houses and record labels. It’s pretty much a “given” that musicians who are building solo careers must have a strong web presence. They connect with their fans and often use crowdfunding to raise money for projects. And since this is the real world in which we live, we have to talk about money. Changes made by Congress have impacted health care and taxes. Is it better or worse? The answer is, it depends. Each individual’s personal circumstance will answer that question. Then there is the manner in which musicians are compensated for their creative work—copyright, royalties and now-digital royalties are being reexamined. These subjects are all addressed in this second edition.

What hasn’t changed in the real-world music industry is the human dynamic. Audiences still stand and applaud a performance. They don’t applaud their sound systems or playback devices. They appreciate and recognize excellence and quality. That is really the essence of this book. In my mind, in order to find success in music two conditions must dominate:

1. Do something you love and commit to quality; and

2. Get your message out and get noticed.

Here’s hoping the pages in this second edition will help aspiring musicians and old pros alike do just that.

Ray Ricker

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Legos and Putting Them Together
LEGOS. YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE, little interlocking pieces of plastic that can be combined in an infinite number of ways. With Legos you can make things like buildings or vehicles. If you don’t like what you make, you can continually try to improve it by rearranging the pieces; or you can take your creation apart and construct something else. In music and in life, the knowledge and skills, both musical and non-musical, which you have acquired thus far are like Legos. You put them together to create and build a career. You build “you.”
Your musical legos can be combined to construct many different careers.
Of course there are many musicians whose Lego kit is almost a duplicate of yours. Remember those music student statistics from a page or two ago. Your job is to find some pieces that are unique and special. And just as your first attempt at constructing something with Legos may be insipid, oddly shaped and not very creative, your first attempt with your music career may be similar. You may find that you are missing some blocks, but through self-study or with a mentor or a teacher you will be able to find what you need.
The point is that if you have musical talent, and if you have worked hard to develop it, you have the building blocks necessary to create a career. The first step is to be musically and technically solid on your instrument. You have to play! Add to that some entrepreneurial savvy and as Dr. Seuss would say, “You’ll be on your way!” Remember, your job is to build “You.”
You, Inc.
We know that a musician is a person who performs, composes or studies music. An amateur does it for recreation and fun. A professional may do that too, but the difference is this: professionals are paid for what they do. (When I speak about professional musicians I am not just talking about performers. I include composers, teachers and academics in the mix.) Professionals are, in effect, a small business, offering goods and services just as any small business would. Imagine a newly-minted clarinetist from a top music school. She may be a fine player, but what does that clarinetist really offer the marketplace? Who will pay for what she can do? Importantly, for the clarinetist, will it provide enough money on which to live?
Our clarinetist’s product is playing music on the clarinet, but what style of music—orchestra, chamber, klezmer, Dixieland, jazz? If the only product she can offer is soprano clarinet (B-flat and A) and she only plays the classical and orchestral repertoire, she better be the best in the world, or at least on the way to becoming the best in the world. This type of musician is equivalent to a boutique store—offering very high quality goods but with limited selections and sharply focused on one thing. Over time, to remain relevant, our clarinetist must expand by continually adding to her repertoire—putting more clarinet product on the shelves. This keeps her challenged and familiar with recently composed music. And just as Chevrolet comes out with a new model of the same vehicle each year, our clarinetist needs to keep her core product in top shape and continually improving as she revisits previously performed pieces, making them better and better. If she wants to diversify and offer more products, she might add the smaller E-flat clarinet or the larger bass clarinet. This creates more possible income channels for her. But as she adds these product lines the quality must be kept at an undisputably high level. She has to really command these instruments and not just dabble in them.
Commit to quality. Add more product lines, but expand slowly. Don’t dilute your core business.
Let’s say our clarinetist has added these other instruments to her product line and things are going well. She’s getting some work playing chamber music and is getting some calls to sub in the local orchestra. How could she expand her store? That depends on her background and interests. Maybe she plays in a woodwind trio or quintet. If she has a talent for and interest in composing and arranging, she could write for her ensemble. If the music is well received there may be a publishing avenue for her to follow. If she is handy and dexterous she may do some minor instrument repair work. But whatever additional products she pursues to make herself more attractive to the buying public, it is crucial for her to maintain the high quality of product that she is becoming known for.
So you see, building a career as a professional is like stocking a store with products. None of us wants a dingy, musty store that just sells beer and cigarettes. We want our store to sparkle, to exude quality and to be a place where the customer can get the finest there is. As our clarinetist stocks her store, she begins to establish a reputation. Marketing people say she is creating a brand.
What Do You Consider Success?
This is an important question to ask yourself. In a perfect world in which your every dream was realized, and you were successful at everything you attempted, what would that look like for you? Would you be a soloist with major orchestras and perform around the world? Would you be a top singer at the Met or a famous jazz artist with your own group? Would you like to be a celebrity—someone like Kim Kardashian, whose job is just being Kim Kardashian? Does success to you mean being “famous” or “rich,” or are you more altruistic? Maybe you want to “make a difference,” and perhaps teach music to under-privileged children or set up a music school in your community. Is music even a consideration when you think of being successful in life? It could be that success to you is finding a partner, a soul-mate with whom you can spend your life. That could be your definition of ultimate success.
Think of “success” in small units. Celebrate your day-to-day successes.
“Being successful” is probably different for all of us. If you equate success with “being famous,” and you are 45 years old, and don’t have management or any prospects of that, have never won a competition on your instrument and have only been a soloist with community orchestras, are you a failure? If success to you means “being famous,” then the answer is probably yes. But what about the little wins along the way? I would argue that if you set yourself up to be famous or to have a principal position in a Big-5 orchestra, your chances of success are not very good. So what do you do if you never attain this lofty goal? Do you mope around and think of yourself as a loser? If you “fall back” (a term that I hate) on teaching, for example, are you settling for something less than the best? (People who fall back on anything rarely do as good a job as the person who is doing it as a first choice. There are too many excellent musicians out there who aren’t falling back on what they do and are totally into it.)
I like to think of success in smaller units. When I’m playing second clarinet, if I can make the first clarinetist feel good about what we are doing together, I’m successful. If I can give a good lesson to a student and have him leave my studio ready to dig deeper into what we talked about, I’m successful. If I can add some horn or string parts to a car commercial that lifts up the 30-second spot, I’m successful. These little successes build on themselves. Of course, you should have a dream—something that you aspire to achieve, but don’t forget to celebrate the little day-to-day successes.
The Musician’s Business Challenge
LET’S PUT ON A BUSINESSMAN’S hat for a minute and look at a young musician’s career from that perspective. What are the challenges facing this person as he or she steps into the profession? One might say a musician’s challenge is to utilize and evolve the skills obtained in school in order to excel in a highly competitive market. His or her goals will be to become financially stable and to remain relevant. Here are some possible barriers he or she may face:
  • It’s a commodity market.
  • There is changing demand.
  • There are price pressures.
  • Reduced resources.
  • A highly competitive and large talent pool.
Looking at the barriers can make the future seem pretty grim, but as we progress through this book we’ll see that it isn’t that bad after all.
It’s a Commodity Market
A commodity is a good or a service that is basically the same regardless of who produces it. Oil is oil. Rice is rice. Gasoline is gasoline and chickens are chickens. There is little differentiation between producers, and the price within a region will be about the same. A classic case of a producer who was able to break from the commodity pack was Frank Perdue former CEO of Perdue Farms. Through extensive and brilliant advertising and using a marigold-laden feed that imparted a yellow color to the skin of his chickens, he was able to convince the American consumer that his product was superior to others, and his birds were sold at a premium price.4
Perdue was able to rise above the others because he demonstrated, at least in people’s minds, that his sunny-skinned chickens were superior. Musicians must do the same thing because, in reality, we operate in a commodity market. Each type of service that a musician performs has a price on it that is either mandated by the musician’s union (minimum scale wages) or (if it is non-union) by local custom. The musicians who play wedding receptions or bar mitzvahs in Des Moines, Denver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, you name the city, will expect to be paid in a range that is unique to the area. There will occasionally be a gig that pays considerably above the norm, but by and large there won’t be much variation in wages.
Below are some union scale wages for playing a show in four different cities in New York State. The three upstate cities are geographically close in proximity, which is exactly what their scales reflect. New York City, which is widely considered a market unto itself, is considerably above the others.
New York City
When a contractor puts together musicians for an event, regardless of the geographic region, he could hire the concertmaster of the local symphony or a high school student. Either way the pay for a violinist will be the same. That’s a commodity. The market as a whole determines the price for the goods or service. The musicians’ challenge is to differentiate themselves like Frank Perdue did, and create a reputation (read: brand) that because of its unique qualities will command a premium price over the others. They can do this by becoming the in-demand player that everyone wants. The person hiring such a person knows that he will get a certain level of performance that is above the norm and is well worth the extra money. When the pay is less flexible, as in the case of a show, a first-call musician might benefit over others by getting literally all the work.
Your challenge is to break from the pack and be noticed.
During the Vietnam War, I was a musician and stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At that time we had more personnel on each instrument than was needed to adequately staff any event that had to be played. This surplus of musicians on each instrument meant that for any given service there were always some musicians who were not playing and enjoyed some “off” time. An interesting commodity market was created among the musicians, as we bought and sold our duties. Let’s say that I was assigned to play a parade on Friday afternoon. If, for some reason, I wanted to do something else, I would look at the roster, see who was off and ask that person if he wanted to play in my place. There was no negotiating. The price was fixed. Parades went for five dollars and funerals for two. (Funerals were much shorter.) KP (kitchen police—working in the kitchen—it wasn’t fun) went for $25.
Looking back, it is evident to me that we created a very efficient market where everyone benefited. The entire West Point band operation was housed in one building, and the majority of the musicians who were single lived right in the building. The married personnel received a subsidy for the number of dependents that they had, and they lived either in Army-supplied housing or off post in one of the neighboring small towns. Because the bachelors (there were no women in t...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. Index of Lessons
  6. Foreword
  7. Introduction: A Little Background
  8. Chapter 1. Legos and Putting Them Together
  9. Chapter 2. The Musician’s Business Challenge
  10. Chapter 3. What Is Entrepreneurship and Why Should We Care?
  11. Chapter 4. What Are the Characteristics of an Entrepreneurial Musician?
  12. Chapter 5. What Is a Brand and Is Yours a Good One?
  13. Chapter 6. Be Ready for a Non-Linear Career Path
  14. Chapter 7. Ten Things That Can Help You Make Money
  15. Chapter 8. Publishing Your Work
  16. Chapter 9. Practical Information that Will Help You Save Money
  17. Chapter 10. Six Non-Linear Career Journeys
  18. Chapter 11. Ninety-Seven Street Level Tips That You Won’t Learn in Most Music Schools
  19. Chapter 12. Coda
  20. Bibliography
  21. Endnotes
  22. Appendix: Where to Find Jobs
  23. Index
  24. Acknowledgements
  25. About the Authors
Stili delle citazioni per Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor

APA 6 Citation

Ricker, R., & Danyew, S. (2018). Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor (2nd ed.). Soundown, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2877526/lessons-from-a-streetwise-professor-what-you-wont-learn-at-most-music-schools-pdf (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

Ricker, Ramon, and Steve Danyew. (2018) 2018. Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor. 2nd ed. Soundown, Inc. https://www.perlego.com/book/2877526/lessons-from-a-streetwise-professor-what-you-wont-learn-at-most-music-schools-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Ricker, R. and Danyew, S. (2018) Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor. 2nd edn. Soundown, Inc. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2877526/lessons-from-a-streetwise-professor-what-you-wont-learn-at-most-music-schools-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Ricker, Ramon, and Steve Danyew. Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor. 2nd ed. Soundown, Inc., 2018. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.