Simplicity vs. Austerity

By Casey Rae-Hunter, Communications Director, Future of Music Coalition
The posts here are really getting pretty amazing. I'm gonna print out Nathaniel and Tim's entries and put 'em on my wall for motivation. Right next to the poster of the kitten dangling from a tree with the caption, "Hang in there: it's almost Friday!"

I'm not trying to be the philosophical chowderhead in this series, but I wanted to go wide (again) for just a sec.

Everyone's been talking about policy and legal frameworks, which is great, but I still think that resources are a major concern. In an economy like this, everyone's cutting back and pinching pennies. But this doesn't have to be the end of the world.

One thing that the for-profit universe has down pat is cutting expenses and shifting resources around. Of course they do this mostly by getting rid of personnel, mergers and consolidation -- none of which we're particularly fond of. The flexibility is impressive, if even if the results aren't. Maybe we could try less destructive ways to conserve. This could help us shore up important resources on the road to solving all of our issues (if that's even possible).

Simplicity vs. Austerity

There's a lot of chatter lately about "austerity measures" -- many of us are experiencing the phenomenon to some degree. But the arts community (and nonprofits in general) needn't resemble a Soviet breadline. Perhaps we can pursue simplicity instead of austerity and achieve a more workable result.

In my mind, this requires a clear assessment of what we're currently doing. Is it effective? How much of it is simply automatic functioning -- in other words, we've been doing it for so long, we might not remember why we started. Have conditions changed? Is a particular battle winnable, or is that even the goal? If  the answer is "no," it might be a good time to reevaluate how much time and treasure we're devoting to it. By identifying ways to simplify our process, we conserve energy and open up more space for critical thinking.

I'm not suggesting that anyone radically alter their mission statements or give up on their core issues. I'm merely offering that there might be a way for us to redeploy some of these resources towards efforts that can actually produce some of the change we're itemizing here.

Just a thought.

July 21, 2010 8:16 AM | | Comments (4) |


Well, I did study jazz for a number of years, but that's a fair assessment (including the Watt-ism).

Casey, given that we share an indie/punk background, what I'm hearing here is that we basically need to "jam econo." Am I interpreting this correctly?

Oh, for sure. No one is arguing that the end result of corporate restructuring is a net positive. I'm just saying that the for-profit folks have no qualms about moving the pieces around when they need to. Whereas nonprofits sometimes fall into certain routines for many different reasons.

And this isn't really about layoffs or consolidation — it's about looking at what we're doing and asking ourselves some simple utility-based questions. Whether that leads to any structural improvements would depend on so many factors unique to each institution that it's impossible to go into here. It's more of an "approach" thing.

Just for clarification: Recent studies have shown that layoffs and downsizing actually incur more expense than they are supposed to eliminate.

Leave a comment


This Blog Arts and culture are a cornerstone of American society. But arts and culture workers are often left out of important policy conversations concerning technology and creative rights even though the outcomes will have a profound impact on our world. Is it benign neglect? Or did we... more

This blog is a project of... the Future of Music Coalition, the National Alliance for Art Media + Culture, Fractured Atlas, and more

Our Bloggers We have 22 bloggers taking part in this week's conversation. They are... more

Contact us: Click here to send us an email... more

Recent Comments

Casey Rae-Hunter, Communications Director, Future of Music Coalition commented on Simplicity vs. Austerity: Well, I did study jazz for a number of years, but that's a fair assessment ...

Kevin Erickson commented on Simplicity vs. Austerity: Casey, given that we share an indie/punk background, what I'm hearing here ...

casey commented on Simplicity vs. Austerity: Oh, for sure. No one is arguing that the end result of corporate restructur...

Chris Nelson commented on Simplicity vs. Austerity: Just for clarification: Recent studies have shown that layoffs and downsizi...

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary