Ask any musician ten years older than you how business is, and he will probably say, “It’s OK, but it was much better ten years ago.” If that same person asks the identical question to another musician ten years older than he is, he will probably get the same answer. “It’s OK, but it was much better ten years ago.” Why was it always better ten years ago than it is today? A possible answer is that the music business constantly evolves, and the person who was busier a decade ago than he is today may not have moved ahead with it. Perhaps this person has skills that were well suited for yesterday’s business, but not for today’s.
In my lifetime alone I’ve witnessed several major changes in the music business. In the 1970’s and ‘80’s our Eastman graduates who wanted jazz careers often did their “graduate school” in the bands of Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson. At the same time symphony orchestras were finding increased support from foundations. They expanded their seasons. They were growing. In New York City, Broadway was a convenient thing to fall back on, but the crème de la crème was freelance recording. That is, until synthesizers and samplers appeared on the scene.
Synthesizers changed everything in the music industry and made it possible to have a very high-end product, at least to the undiscerning listener. Those musicians who embraced technology and moved with it could hope to remain relevant, but those who continued to do what they had always done probably woke up one day to find that time had passed them by. The industry had evolved without them.
For musicians today, more than ever, it is Generation Entrepreneur or Gen-E! Musicians must put together careers that have several different income streams. One source of income usually doesn’t do it all. The good news is that with a diversified set of talents it is possible to build a career that perfectly suits your interests and strengths. Not only will that help to assure your continued relevance in the business, it will also provide you with a very satisfying and fulfilling musical life.