[Harp-L] Making music 'happen'

I don't usually get this involved in threads on Harp-L, and especially threads
that border on the fringe of harp-related content.

The arguments about the conditions of markets for live music, the strategies or positions one can, should, or could
adopt in regards to these conditions. Whatever I offer as evidence or argument should be taken with a
"your mileage may vary" premise.

Here's where my commentary begins to approach flammability.

The "Just Do It", "Quit Whining and Make It Happen", "You Control Your Own Destiny" response/position
suggests that those who report otherwise fail to grasp or understand their own experience,
and lack imagination for putting their own experience into perspective or context.
And that's a load of crap, I think.

Tim's description of Austin is a great example of reporting conditions that are complex
and contain both positive and not-so-positive consequences. Tim is NOT making a
"Free Market" argument about supply and demand, per se. If he were, then we'd have to view
the musicians who keep coming to Austin just to starve or work other jobs to support their musical ventures,
as either idiots, lemmings, or part of an endless train of naive, but ambitious, artists.

There is a vast gulf between engaging in activities for one's own amusement & personal pleasure,
AND engaging in these same activities in ways that require interacting with the broader public marketplace.

The "Little Engine That Could" narrative is potentially as abusive as it is inspiring.

I have an MFA in Creative Writing from a prestigious, world-renowned writer's workshop program.
It is highly competitive. The overwhelming % of applicants are rejected. Of those accepted, many go on
to win Pulitzer Prizes, international acclaim, and have highly successful and quite public careers.
Very few, including those who are very successful, earn a living solely from publishing income.
We teach. We edit. We are MDs, lawyers, pipefitters, part-time + part- time + free lance + temp employees.

I have students who come to my office hours telling me how much they want to 'become successful writers'...
and that this is why they have come to this specific University and why they are majoring in this subject
and why they want to know what classes they should take next, etc etc etc.

It would be extremely pompous and self-serving for me to discourage them, to tell them they are delusional,
that the 'real world' will chew them up and spit them out without breaking stride. Instead, I ask them what they are reading.
I ask them what they are writing. Then I tell them to read some more and write some more and then to read and write
some more again. I tell them it's good to be well-rounded and that they will need to be creative in finding
the time and energy to write in the years ahead.

It would also extremely pompous and self-serving for me to tell them that they have to have a 'fire in their belly',
they need to 'want it enough to sacrifice', and that they should follow their bliss and 'make it happen'.
When I hear people peddling this sort of bullshit I want to spit nails. The larger public market does not
distinguish nor discern talent, ambition, desire, pluck, or determination. These are self-defined terms
applied after-the-fact, or by those who either need to reinforce the current situation, or those who are
already relatively comfortable with the status quo. The ambition or drive of writers does not determine
the state of publishing in America. The 'fire in the belly' of musicians does not determine the number of
venues that exist, or can be made to exist, that will pay a living wage. Meat packing workers don't earn
a decent wage in this country. It ain't because they don't work hard or don't want a better life badly enough.
And it's good to think about that when we munch a 99 cent hamburger on our way to an out of town gig.


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