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As you already know from my post, I do not share your views on this point, Stefan, but I'm glad that you've taken the time to comment since you articulate an opposing opinion well.
Since you're a composer as well, I would only add that regardless of what any other composer in the world is doing and how poorly you think they may be doing it, that you should continue with your own best work. You are not in competition with anyone else, nor are they in competition with you. There are audiences out there for everyone, and those audiences will find the artists who speak to them. Happily, there are a seemingly endless number of languages to which listeners are drawn.
Any time ArtsJournal adds a new blog, you can bet there will also be new additions to the list of things music schools don't teach but should: criticism, business, marketing, fundraising, tax law, non-profit management, and now IP policy. I think those are all worthy fields of study, but I don't think they belong in music school, at least not as required courses, which is what's often implied.
There are those who believe that the endgame of higher education is employability, that the value of an education is directly proportional to how much the graduate is able to earn after entering the workforce. One music professor I know calls this "hire" education, and he is not alone, even among musicians, in endorsing it. The problem is that in a world where "hire" education rules the day, the arts would not be taught in college at all; this is a world not only without art, but also without the idealism that makes it possible. We sell out this idealism at our own peril.
I'm not arguing against a well-rounded education. I took as many non-music electives as my school would let me get away with, and I wish they'd have let me get away with more. However, I did not go to music school to become an entrepreneur, a scholar, or an activist. I have a natural affinity for all of those roles, and have played them to varying degrees since graduating, but that's still not why I went to music school, and it won't be why I go back, if I ever do. When I was 18, all the older people were impressed with my "commitment," "dedication," "ambition," and it won me allies and favor; sometime in the last 10 years, it became "isolated," "specialized," "self-referential," and now I get into arguments about it. In any case, I can't see the benefits outweighing the drawbacks here: simply forcing more of these classes on a bunch of young artists guarantees nothing in the way of change, all the while putting them in the "hire" education box that us artists ought to be loathe to inhabit.
I am frequently amazed at audiences' contentedness with musical products that you might say fail (often spectacularly) to meet "professional" standards. People choose to support their amateur friends' bands over more competent strangers 10 out of 10 times. So while I tend to be in favor of the democratization of art making, I have frequently wondered if there isn't a dark side to it, namely that by painting art as something anyone can do, we actually undermine people's ability to appreciate the great artists in their midst, and instead reduce everything to a (social) popularity contest.
Artists of all stripes simply crave validation, or at least recognition, of what they've created, and so absent the self-policing mechanisms that take hold in the strongest art communities, even some rank amateurs end up promoting themselves as something more. We want to assume that we're not competing directly with those who "blindly plunk around" because the products we offer are so different, but the difference is not obvious to enough people for that to be the case. So giggle if you want, but I feel threatened by just about anyone holding an instrument if they have more friends than I do.
I'm not sure this is a new problem, though. This passage from one of the essays in Schoenberg's "Style and Idea" has always intrigued me, not least for having been written over 60 years ago:
The abolition of amateurism stems from the ambition of amateurs who wanted to compete with professionals. The result was extremely destructive to the art of music. The necessities of competition now forced rivals to use improper means in order to make a success, and what is even worse is that those who as amateurs had formerly been impartial and unselfish, and ready to support needy or unfortunate artists, promoters of the arts, were now in the market themselves. Instead of buying music, instead of attending concerts, instead of enjoying music, they themselves demanded support.
Glad to see Bill and I can agree on some things. But, I think the three of us can agree. I was speaking strongly because I thought this topic needed more strong words, but I agree that there are areas where we need to work together (even if at heart we still disagree or think the other one is a beast) and you need to engage as many people as possible. On the other hand - we've been losing this battle through a slow-drip method for some time. In politics, the right hasn't been afraid to pull punches and slip into hyperbole to advance their cause, and it often works. I'm willing to bet the property rights people will get pulled into the copyright debates to our disadvantage before long, so perhaps some strong rhetoric will serve us well here and there....
This blog is about Net neutrality and the members were chosen accordingly. Of course, this creates a bias where people think their pet interest, Net Neutrality, is the most important. To make your case, I think more needs to be said about why the threat to neutrality is serious. The Telco’s and cable companies can mount massive lobbying efforts, but other corporate giants, like Google (YouTube) and members of the film industry are supporting neutrality because pricing variables for bandwidth would negatively impact their businesses. (Video providers do not want to have to pay more to deliver their bandwidth-consuming products.)
Why do you think the Telcos will win and not Google and Hollywood? Even though recent rulings have limited the FCC’s abilities to regulate the Telcos, it also seems possible that Google and the media industry could win the battle. A neutral Net would probably serve plutocracy more than one with hierarchies, so “neutrality” will probably win. Second, international governments have already realized that wide-spread, neutral access to the Net is essential if their societies are to remain economically viable. Third, a neutral net helps their societies exert influence in world dialog and enhances a nation's soft power. Fourth, we are seeing a reemergence in the faith of governmental regulation, which allow the FCC to prevail in attempts to insure neutrality. For these reasons, the Telcos are probably going to lose this battle, in spite of the many alarmist voices in this somewhat stacked forum.
I doubt the voices of small advocacy groups representing common citizens, such as those represented here, will have any significant voice at all in the decisions. The idealism here seems naïve. Like most lobbying efforts, this will be a battle among the 800 pound gorillas and national interests. If neutrality prevails, they will call it Net neutrality, but it will actually be a sort of indirect subsidy for the media industry and other manifestations of economic and soft national power. If the Telcos lose, other forces, such as the Net’s ever-increasing commercialization, will still stifle the web and end its brief golden age of openness and equality. In fact, this is already happening. And in the off-chance the Telcos win, I think it will motivate new forms of innovation that will circumvent most of the limitations of bandwidth hierarchies.
All the same, I wish you folks every success.
I think the most common thread of this entire discussion is that we live in a plutocracy. From that perspective I think Brian’s words might be harsh and not suited for polite society, but they are accurate and describe well the corporate forces we are dealing with. The commercial film industry is indeed one of the most “vicious” in the entire corporate world. It seems to have something do with the extreme competition and extreme gambles their productions require. “Blood-sucking” is a metaphor for extreme and exploitative greed. This also accurately describes the commercial film industry. They have few qualms about dumbing-down our society, exploiting child audiences, threatening people with methods similar to racketeering, and using any means necessary to destroy the competition both in the film industry and in other forms of entertainment and art. “Beasts” is also a good term because the forces of greed and exploitation created by the film industry’s corporate atmosphere has a dehumanizing effect on its executives and agents. “Hell-bent” is also accurate because the competition and risks are so high that often only the most singular focus can succeed – a focus that precludes many important ethical and moral considerations (such as the effect of their work on audiences and society and the means they use to maintain their quasi monopolist control of the industry both nationally and internationally.) And of course “antiquated business models at any cost to society” is also true and has already been discussed many times in these blogs.
Anyway, if you want politeness you might want to avoid artists. Some of them have a bad habit of telling the truth, though they are probably becoming rarer.
Perhaps the problem is not only a lack of knowledge about audiences, but the systematic destruction of audiences. There was once a “Golden Age of Television” that lasted from the late 40s to the very early 60s. Programs included The Philco Television Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre, Playhouse 90, and The Bell Telephone Hour. There were regular concerts and appearances by Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini, and even the first opera written for television, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” By the 60s, corporate interests took precedence and the fight for ratings led to programs that literally dumbed-down the audience. Ironically, through knowledge of the audience, its intelligence was destroyed. Will knowledge of the audience always be better at objectifying it for comemerical purposes rather than enriching it?
Is it possible that a similar Golden Age of the Internet is now coming to an end? Will the evolution of sites like Facebook dumb-down the Net? Will the Net become a place dominated by the 50 word statements in little boxes, followed by a bunch of silly wise cracks? Will the major media sites like CNN, MSNBC, and the major papers continue to increasingly dominate what we read on the web and eventually occupy so much attention that the Net’s Golden Age of free, almost anarchic dialog erode? Will a practice of censoring forum discussions in the name of moderating them become the norm? Will the growing competition to find Net advertising constrain freedom of thought? What will the effects be when Hollywood begins to use the Net to deliver its products?
In other words, will the kinds of forums held here on AJ become even more rare and marginalized?
These forces might eventually be bigger threats than bandwidth allocation and licensing. Commercialization is already destroying the Golden Age of the web just like similar forces destroyed the Golden Age of Television. Once that happens, bandwidth and licensing will become less relevant because there will be little intelligent left anyway. Sorry to be so pessimistic.
The letter of the law might be "life plus 70" now, but the reality is that no copyrighted works have entered the public domain for 90 years. Every time things start getting close, Disney fires up the lobbyists and gets it extended again.
During that time, media has changed substantially:
- color TV
- HD TV
- stereo audio recording
- digital recording
- digital imaging
It seems ridiculous not to have any of that media available to the public.
I'd say the biggest threat is not specifically the copyright, it's a mindset where there effectively IS no public domain, and you're always creating under risk of lawsuit.
My corollary question would be where/how do we find out what the biggest policy threats or initiatives are?
I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on a variety of subjects, but still found out some new stuff this week. For instance, I knew vaguely about the FCC asking about radio ownership mentioned in Jean's post (http://www.artsjournal.com/artists/2010/07/resources-part-ii-dear-foundat.html) but did not know about how that affected wirless microphones.
I will check out the Alliance for Justice website also mentioned in Jean's post, but is there a website or blog that trackes these policy changes? Or maybe ArtsJournal can start including that as one of the sections in the daily newsletter?
If I might add:
Number one rule when dealing with decisionmakers: give them the opportunity to be a hero, by describing in positive, non-hectoring, picturesque terms what that might look like.
Number two rule is don't be disappointed if they don't take you up on it; somebody will. Try to make sure that the ones who do can stay your champions as they grow in stature and influence.
Brian, please check this table from “The Council of Europe/ERICarts, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 10th edition, 2009” entitled “Total government expenditure on culture per capita (2000-2008).” It is prepared by agencies of the European Union. As the title suggests, they surveyed 36 European countries and give the numbers for yearly public arts funding from 2000 to 2008.
The table shows that government expenditure for the arts went down in only 2 of the 36 countries.
We should remember that the UK is far outside European norms. It is the only country that combines the American and European system.
I hope everyone interested in cultural and telecom policy real politics has a chance to watch these aides talk about why it is so important to visit them, tell them the stories and make the real life connections so they can persuade their bosses to vote in favor of arts and public media funding. They all represent Congresspeople and Senators, and they are on the ground making policy choices and recommendations.
Folks can argue a lot about whether state funding is a thing of the past... or future, but for the present it makes a HUGE difference to any organization or individual lucky enough to capture it...especially in communities that could be considered "art-deserts..."
Here are some articles about how the French government has tried to protect France’s film industry from American domination. Some of them are older, but the dispute has existed for a long while:
One of the key problems is that Hollywood can amass far more capital for productions.
This abstract of an article in the _Columbia Journal of World Business_ entitled “The French film industry: A crisis of art and commerce” sums up the problem well:
“Three decades after ‘New Wave’ directors JeanLuc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer captivated the world with a revolutionary style and an uncompromising vision, the French film industry is in a state of crisis. No longer a dominant cinematic force even in its own country, the proud inventors of filmed entertainment sit aghast as Hollywood siphons millions of francs out of its citizens' pockets and lures away the country's promising young talent. At a time when bold new American directors like Quentin Tarantino, Larry Clark and Tom DiCillo are pushing French film out of the art houses where it once reigned, the audience for foreign language features in the United States is graying and not being replenished. Unless French filmmakers switch reels and begin to make movies that the global marketplace demands, the country that produced classic motion pictures like ‘L'Année Dernière à Marienbad,’ ‘Jules et Jim’ and ‘Jean de Florette’ will become just another ancillary market.”
(End of quote.)
Under the circumstances European film-makers are holding on pretty well, but it is interesting that they long faced exactly the same problems with American corporatocracy as we are discussing here.
Brain, please check this table from “The Council of Europe/ERICarts, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 10th edition, 2009” entitled “Total government expenditure on culture per capita (2000-2008).” It is prepared by agencies of the European Union under scientific standards. As the title suggests, they surveyed 36 European countries and give the numbers for yearly public arts funding from 2000 to 2008.
The table shows that government expenditure for the arts went down in only 2 of the 36 countries. This is conclusive proof of my claims.
And please remember that the UK is far outside European norms. It is the only country that combines the American and European system.
And BTW, you contradict your main point when you note that European film still receives healthy subsidies. Some film-makers do, but it has still not allowed Europe to counteract the effects of Hollywood's hegemony.
Hi Bill -
I'm sorry, but if you are quoting any article or report that is pre-Sept 2008 when the economy collapsed then you're quoting irrelevant news. I am not getting caught in some neo-con reporting/spin, rather I am reporting what I am hearing directly from those in the arts in Europe, especially in the UK, where I work often and work with arts and cultural sector extensively. None of this is hearsay, but rather very real reports of budget cuts throughout the sector. Look at Scotland, for example, where the Scottish Screen and Scottish Arts Council have been merged and "redundancies" have been used to trim budgets and any arts admin person will tell you that their budgets will shrink by another 25% under the new measures of the UK Government. I am hearing this from both film and non-film people - traditional craft councils, music, theater, etc. From the mouths of the actual directors of the organizations and from many artists across disciplines.
Or better, just pick up the paper any day of the week and look at the cuts across Europe in all social services. Even their vaunted health care is being cut. I am not saying these are good things, nor am I saying they should look to American for good policy, I'm just relaying the sad truth, and it is very true. Yes, they do better than us, and probably always will, but that doesn't change the fact that what was good in 2004 is now bad in 2010 - 6 whole years and one financial collapse since.
As for the echo chamber - I am speaking about my field in particular because I know it best, but I can point to numerous examples of artists in multiple disciplines using these tools for their art and making a living. Opera is expanding audience by taking it to all those multi-plexes you mention. Avant-garde cellists like Zoe Keating are amassing over 1.3 million followers on Twitter and she's able to fund her album and sell it to her audience, and have a career, without any middle-men. This isn't particular to film.
By the way, you are wrong about film too. First, indie filmmakers aren't able to operate on the margins of those multiplexes and make a living - that game is over. That's why they are copying musicians and other artists and using the web to find their audience. Second, we didn't end their subsidies. Most European nations still have them, and even with cuts they are pretty robust. They fund the new generation of the Fellini's quite well and have kept their artistic culture quite vibrant in film.
I wasn't arguing that they want to embrace our model, but rather that the smart ones are realizing that they must embrace it - because they have no choice due to the cuts in those funds.
I, like you, would welcome more public funding for the arts in the US. I will still advocate for it, as I have often, but that doesn't negate the fact that state and federal budgets will continue to contract for many years and the chances of any political action leading to increased funding is nil. Hell, in states like GA, they are fighting to keep any funding - at all - for the arts. Don't think that's just because they have many neocons in government. It's the economy. And it ain't getting better.
It might be clarifying to make the distinction between regulating how end-users (i.e. individual consumers/creators/citizens) interface with culture and regulating how large media and telecom companies are allowed to control the conduits.
The former category is, as you note, often futile, a technical impossibility. The latter is only a matter of education and political will.
87% of Americans think big companies have too much power, according to the Harris Poll. I can't even think of another issue that 87% of Americans agree about!
Once again we see the echo chamber that Jean was talking about. The professional worlds of film and classical music could hardly be more different which creates wildy differing views of the world. America probably has around 10,000 movie theaters, but only 5 real opera houses. Indendent film makers can utilize even the margins of this massive infrastructure and be incomparibly better off than a composer who will have viturally no avenue at all for her opera to ever be seen.
Also, Brian’s comment that Europeans are moving toward the American model is dead wrong. This is a trope that perpetuated by free-market neo-cons who want everything privatized. They are flat-out lying, and the European funding stats prove it. (It’s also important to remember that anecdotal comments by European colleagues are generally very unreliable. More on that below. It is important to go to solid scientific sources when looking at national funding stats.
Over the last decade, countless governmental reports confirm that Europeans have held arts funding stable, or have even raised it, and even during the economic downturn caused by the dot.com and housing crashes. Britain , for example, doubled arts funding from £198m when the Labour Party came to power in 1997 to £411m in 2004. The reports show that in 2004, French government spending for the arts rose 5.9%, which was three times inflation. The economies of Spain and Ireland have skyrocketed since they entered the European Union. Their per capita increases in arts funding have been phenomenal. Now that they have met with economic problems, they have still held funding as stable as possible. When cuts are made, it has nothing whatsover to do with a desire to imitate Americans.
The reports also show that after the housing crash, the Europeans directed a huge portion of their bailout funds to their state run arts organizations. In the USA by contrast, only 50 million of the 800 billion went to the NEA (1/16,000th of the total.)
In general, there is much more lively discussion and debate in the European press about arts funding so it is fairly easy to document the developments and attitudes. Let me quote a few newspaper articles to illustrate what I am talking about. The first clip is from the BBC’s website, May 24, 2004 and is entitled “London is ‘Classical Music Capitol.’” It argues that public funding actually helps orchestras stay in touch with the public’s musical interests and tastes. And as might interest Brian, the author even addresses public funding and film music.
The LPO had just performed Howard Shore ’s score for Lord of Rings for an audience of more than 3000 people. Timothy Walker, artistic director of the LPO explained how public funding creates a connection with the public: "We have to do great symphonic repertoire. But film music is a great part of our musical life. We are funded by the taxpayer and we have a duty to appeal to as wide an audience as possible." Mr. Walker pointed to London 's "five great orchestras and two opera houses" as proof of the city's musical pre-eminence. " New York has just one symphony orchestra," he said by way of comparison.
(For those who might not know, the orchestras are the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. London also has two opera houses.)
The article notes that even though the city has five orchestras, the LPO sells about 82% of all tickets for its concerts, and many events are sold out. (No big need for iPods, Twitter, and Indie Rock influenced concerts there.)
Mr. Walker said it would be possible to raise attendance to 90%, but he would be:
"…worried that our program was not adventurous enough. If we program in a conservative way, with great conductors and soloists, we are confident we would sell out the concert hall. With new, edgier work, and younger artists, the risks are higher. Orchestras are very fragile organizations. It is always difficult to balance the commercial and creative aspects of the orchestra."
The article stresses that public funding gives the LPO the freedom to find a reasonable balance between popular and innovative programming.
Helsinki also has five symphony orchestras even though its population is only 565,186. A per capita comparison would give New York City 80 full-time orchestras!!!
Here are some clips from a commentary in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis from April 23, 2004 entitled “Music Education Permeates Finnish Society” written by Kristin Tillotson:
“ Helsinki alone is home to five symphony orchestras. Nationwide, there are 21 more, as well as 12 regional opera companies. At least eight world-class conductors, including the Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Esa-Pekka Salonen, were raised and trained in Finland . More than 30 full-time classical composers live and work there.
The article continues:
“How has a nation of 5.2 million people -- a population only slighter greater than the state of Minnesota 's -- produced such a surplus of talent? […] Outstanding music education is the primary reason. But at its source is a national attitude that music is not dessert, but an essential food group for personal, cultural and civic sustenance, and as deserving of government subsidy as health care and schools.”
No mention of imitating the American system. The Star Tribune article continues with a quote of the director of advanced studies at the Sibelius Academy , Osmo Palonen:
“‘[Music] is so ingrained in our culture; there is never a question about the government putting a lot of money into it. This also makes music very democratic here, not just something for the elite.’"
In an article in the Guardian on May 3, 2004, Louise Jury quotes Tessa Jowell, Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture. Ms. Jowell explains the vital role public arts funding plays in the health of cities and the well-being of the public. Her comments are closely related to Bill Ivey’s about creating a sense that the arts are part of the common good of societies:
“‘MPs are waking up to the fact that cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool are being brought to life by culture. Labour must lead from the front in advocating arts as a public good in itself’, she said. ‘There is a parody of culture which is prevalent, that these are issues of interest only to a disconnected elite. But it is the enthusiasm and hunger that people have for culture that is driving this.’
“The arts are not just ‘a pleasurable hinterland’ for the public to fall back on after the ‘important things - work and paying tax’ are done, [Jowell] argues in a 19-page pamphlet.
"‘It is at the heart of what it means to be a fully developed human being. Government should be concerned that so few aspire to it, and has a responsibility to do what it reasonably can to raise the quantity and quality of that aspiration.’"
How different such ideals are from the defeatist and misinformed attitudes regarding public funding in America -- and even among American artists.
The Guardian continues:
“While spending on the arts has doubled since 1997 and scrapping entrance charges to national museums has boosted attendance by millions, some MPs are still inclined to lob the elitism charge at expenditure on opera or orchestras. Arts leaders have felt despair that the Prime Minister has seemed so unwilling to be seen in their museums and theatres. But they will be encouraged that Ms. Jowell says ‘intelligent public subsidy’ is vital if the arts are to take their place at the heart of national life. Audiences will be developed only through ‘determined policy initiatives,’ she says.”
“Determined policy initiatives” that create “intelligent public subsidy.” Again, a big contrast to American views which result in the poverty of our cultural life compared to Europe . The 2004 British government arts budget was 800 million dollars, and thus 30 times higher than the per capita funding of the NEA. (And Britain , by the way, has one of the lowest per capita rates of public funding for the arts in Western Europe .)
Even now with a Tory government reducing budgets in *every* area of government, none seem to be meeting with more resistance toward cuts than arts funding.
An article in the rather conservative Bloomberg News, dated February 2, 2004 mentions that the cultural budget in Italy was cut by 2.5% leaving a sum of 1.97 billion dollars. The Italian government’s per capita cultural spending is thus about 56 times higher than the NEA budget. So when Europeans make cuts, their state funding is still tens of times higher than in the USA, and sometimes even hundreds.
The Bloomberg article also notes that:
“Among European countries, museums fare best in France , where about 1 percent of the national budget is spent on culture each year, and this year's package is up 5.9 percent -- three times inflation -- at 2.79 billion euros.”
The per capita French budget is thus about 80 times the NEA budget. Imagine if one percent of our national budget went to the arts. That would be 24 billion dollars for fiscal year 2007. That’s 172 times higher than the current NEA budget.
Arts funding in Italy was indeed attacked by the Berlusconi government. He was the sole owner of all of Italy ’s private television stations. He attempted to eliminate government involvement in almost all forms of media to increase his monopolistic control. The American model indeed!!! He was finally driven from office because his underhanded financial dealing caused the populace to see him as a common crook. He is now back in power, but his attempts to cut back Italy’s opera houses is being met with very strong resistance and it is unlikely he will have much success. The houses are simply too popular.
Most Europeans remain deeply wary of corporate sponsorship of the arts. Bloomberg News has written some interesting articles about these problems, but I won’t quote them here. The Guardian also addresses this problem in an article by Peter Kennard entitled “Hung out to dry by the sponsors: Art's corporate backers decide what we can see in public spaces”, published December 30, 2003.
This isn’t to say that the Europeans don’t keep an eye on the American scene. In an article from the Deutsche Welle website on February 2, 2005, Gerald Mertens, the director of the German Orchestra Union, noted that, “Orchestras in competitive markets such as Berlin , Munich or the Ruhrpott region in North Rhine-Westphalia will be particularly pressured to distinguish themselves. They have to become more active in documenting their societal value.” [ Munich , for example, has 6 full-time orchestras in a city of 1.2m. And Berlin has three opera houses in a city of about 4m.] Mertens said that while Germany remains the world's No. 1 market for classical music, it lags far behind Britain and especially the US in terms of innovation.
So when continental Europeans look at the American system, one must remember that they are often being merely polite. If only we had this modesty and open-mindedness in our relations with the world. In reality, the German musicians union looks at the American funding system as barbaric and they are viligant in making sure Germany never embraces it because they know it would mean the loss of 80 to 90% of their fulltime, year-round orchestras and opera houses.
So don’t listen to the rather widespread American propaganda that Europeans are abonding their public funding system. The neo-con political agenda of such misinformation is relatively transparent, and such views have plagued our society for decades. We should not despair. Just like the Europeans, with “determined policy initiatives” we can greatly increase our public support for the arts.
I suppose the biggest irony of Brian’s comment is that American hegemony in the film industry has done so much to harm Europe’s which once produced works by people like Fellini, Jean Renoir, Bergman, and De Sica. These were all films supported by state subsidies in one form or another. The American film industry used its long, bloody fists to end those subsidies under free trade agreements. So directors like that are all gone now, and thanks to that American model Brian claims Europeans want to embrace. In reality, a lot of Europeans film-makers are stopping just short of pulling out their rifles.
I should say, despite this post, that I tend to be in favor of regulation. Unquestionably, as Kevin points out, deregulation has had disastrous results on this country, from pointless wars, our financial markets and oil in the gulf. I'd concede media deregulation as well. Steve Tepper and Bill Ivey have also argued the growing privileged culture/fast food culture divide, and I don't disagree. And I too am suspicious of the "let's toss everything out and it will all work out" school. All conceded. So it's a little odd to find myself so pessimistic about the course of regulation of culture. But the whole process seems so weighted in favor of traditional Big Media interests, I wonder about the utility/futility of even walking onto the field. It seems time for some subversive action. Where I see small victories, they seem to be of the subversive sort.
While no one would argue that the supply and quality of art is plummeting, I am certainly willing to argue that whatever increased access we're enjoying now is still largely mediated by class position, geographic location, broadband access, etc, and that the media deregulation of the 90s has had absolutely disastrous impacts on the diversity of voices--artistic and otherwise, that people can access. People like Douglas and I, educated guys who live in big cities with many cultural amenities might not see it. But people I work with across the country, especially in small towns and rural communities generally feel crushed by the way Wal-Mart culture has steamrolled their local civic life & cultural heritage.
I'm thrilled that more people have access to the tools of creativity, and I love projects like Creative Commons, but I've learned to be extremely suspicious about optimistic rhetoric about empowering individuals that's tied to "regulation is an old way of thinking" messages. It's the same stuff we heard during the deregulation era of Clinton. It obscures the ways shallow forms of participation through interactive media can often be tools to increase people's investment in the products of a handful of major entertainment companies and other brands and business interests.
Thomas Frank's 1995 essay "The New Gilded Age" seems oddly on point fifteen years later.
I just want to say that I agree that this general discussion about policy and activism is very beneficial to advocacy for public funding and many other policy topics. I like Bill Ivey’s point that better arts policies are dependant on a change of consciousness in the USA. His explanation of how environmentalists created such a transformation was especially illuminating. It gave me a sense of hope and a valuable model to think about. Imagine an advocacy group for the arts modeled on Green Peace – a combination of policy wonks, lobbyists, POPagandists, subvertizers, and performance art dare-devils supported by a grassroots network of citizens making ten dollar donations. A daydream I know, but I think that is what Chris was getting at when he suggested we artists get off our butts and use our skills. The Gorilla Girls come to mind as a model.
You answer your own questions here. When the performers are like something from Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour on a cruise ship copyright is a loose concept hardly worth enforcing. If you took your camera and recorder to the Cleveland Orchestra they would quickly escort you out of the building. When Paramount invests 200 million in a movie they get very nasty when people pirate their DVDs. The amateur/professional binary in the arts has not vanished and never will. On the other hand, I am all for a very free Internet and I think professional artists should accept many of the ways people use and redeploy their work on the Net. I think that in almost all cases, this kind of “re-creative” use of art is a very deep compliment to the original artists and that it increases the value of their “brand.” In most cases, I think the uses of art on the Net by fans and patrons should be viewed as a natural and acceptable form of consumption. This is already the norm and will be almost impossible to change. Some in the media establishment just haven’t gotten used to it, hence the movment to clarify the laws and balance them with the consumer’s interests. Soon or later ASCAP & Co. will get over its shit-fit.
I think ArtsJournal.com works in a similar way. Journalists are honored when their work has the quality to be linked here. It also redirects traffic to their papers.
In reality, our lack of public arts funding is a much more important issue and has a far worse effect on our cultural lives than any threats to Net neutrality. It's strange how silent you policy folks are about that.
I enjoyed your tangential approach to the problems.
“POPaganda,” “subvertising,” and “culture jamming” are all political art forms that might serve the purposes you describe. These genres often examine the power corporations have over society. Ron English is one of the most famous practitioners. (I actually don’t follow that kind of work very closely.) One of the bloggers here even suggested we practice a kind of Internet civil disobedience by not adhering to some of the laws governing Internet usage. More established forms like novels, plays, and films that examine social issues are also important, but they are very slow to produce and many are artistic failures.
And most importantly, I’m not so sure artworks are very good at creating something as specific as government policy about the Internet. The best and most effective political art leans toward the broader, existential side of social consciousness (e.g. The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Orwell’s 1984.)
And their effects are notoriously slow -- about like planting a tree seed. The occupational hazards of being an artist are also a problem. Artistry is often a form of idealism practiced with fanatic intensity. We become insular, highly individualistic, undiplomatic, and anti-establishment – and some even narcissistic and abusive. We even tend to despise our colleagues who are political, especially since many of them use those gifts for merely careerist purposes. In any case, these are not the characteristics of gifted political operatives.
I think our best value is when we engage in dialog with arts advocates. They are more likely to understand our behavior and perspectives and know how to glean from our ideas insights that might be useful. I think Americans for the Arts might a good example of such an organization.
Thanks for the vote of confidence and keeping the thread I started open.
Perhaps the best funding systems are those that minimize the dichotomy between the artist and community, or the artist and the public good. The ideal might be that the ideal that the artists are an inherent part of their communities.
In Germany 98.8% of the public funding for music is spent on the municipal and state level. The actual numbers:
Federal 31 million
State 1.01 billion
Municipal 1.77 billion
The visual and other performing arts follow a similar pattern. The belief is that communities can best judge for themselves the kind of art they would like to have, and that they best understand the work and needs of their local artists. Artists are seen as part of the community and as its representatives. In the case of orchestras and opera, the artists actually have positions as civil servants. They ARE the community.
I think this would be the best system for a diverse country like the USA. It is simply not possible for people in Washington to understand the cultural needs and perspectives of areas as diverse as California, Minnesota, Alabama, and North Carolina.
This would also solve difficult political problems. If San Francisco wanted an experimental performance art festival and a Senator from North Carolina objected, they could just tell him to stay at home and mind his own business. And if people in Tennessee want to fund a large festival of Appalachian folk music they could tell the aesthetes in Chicago who make fun of them the same.
Culture is by its very nature inherently local and this should be reflected in public funding systems. Artists ARE the community.
In moving from me to we, for more ways to make culture participatory, explore more ways to collaborate that can bring people together to accomplish greater things than they can alone. Some are described at Moving From Me to We - a top blog on AlltopCollaboration
Thanks for these reflections, Bill. When I read Arts Inc, I was repeatedly struck how it resonated with the punk rock tradition that first fueled my interest in arts organizing, especially in the passages about reconceptualizing participation. And I was delighted to see the subtly subversive way that you placed hip-hop and other popular genres in the community context of "cultural heritage."
In fact, I can think of no sector of the arts world that has been more successful in reconfiguring broad norms and orienting us towards action for a vibrant expressive life than the field of all-ages venues and grassroots youth music organizations. As we describe in our book In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manualfesto, this has been an organic phenomenon, emerging in basements, warehouses, storefronts, even teen centers, over the past 30 years as young people have stepped up and claimed their right to a creative life.
Tim’s discussion of the many hats that artists wear is very relevant here, as all-ages music organizers intuitively combine arts performance, arts administration, arts education, and arts policy work, although they rarely frame their labor in those terms. It’s often the same dedicated young people playing in bands, planning and running events, participating in skill-sharing workshops, serving on boards and committees and—when necessary—organizing activists to lobby city governments, all under the same roof. The culture of these spaces centers on demystifying the tools of cultural production. Frequently, they offer hands-on training and workshops in live sound, audio engineering, emceeing, etc. Audience members are empowered to participate as organizers, performers and volunteers, developing the skills, confidence and inspiration to make their own art and start new venues in new places. Thus, artists and audiences alike learn to think critically about the conditions that allow grassroots cultural expression to flourish; they learn to be advocates.
The participatory culture extends beyond music; many spaces anchored on music also include galleries, silkscreen studios & darkrooms, recording studios, and zine libraries, all for community use. Often self-consciously positioning themselves in liminal spaces between “high” and “low” art, they tend to be places where experimentation across genres and disciplines naturally thrive and anyone can see herself as a creator; thus they’re well-positioned for the remix era that Lynne describes. And since volunteerism and DIY thriftiness are central values, overhead costs are often much lower than similarly scaled arts organizations; a great example of the “simplicity” that Casey called for.
Advocacy is a natural outgrowth of participation in all-ages music culture. In my hometown of Seattle, for example, there are a handful of arts orgs that have joined forces with the media-reformers working on the net neutrality issue, which is so important to all of us. They aren’t the high art institutions, museums, galleries, nor are they unions or service organizations. They’re organizations that come from punk/hiphop/youth civic engagement backgrounds and teach people to take the tools of culture into their own hands: Hidmo, a hiphop community center; The Vera Project, a community run all-ages venue; Reel Grrls, a filmmaking program for young women rooted in the DIY punk ethos.
What’s incredible is that these kinds of projects are already happening across the country and has been for decades, mostly off the radar of policymakers and arts funders. That's starting to change, but bridging the wide gap between these young grassroots organizers and the people with the resources to support them is going to be crucial for maximizing their impact and creating a sustainable future for the arts.
Thanks for creating this blog. I just found it and hope it continues to shed light on questions I have about bridging the gap between the music industry and music creators.
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.
um, Ali's poem went like this:
it was a celebration of himself.
When I look at the Parthenon, Roman sculpture, or the great cathedrals of Europe (and the guilds that created them) I get the idea that the amateur/professional binary had a bit of traction before the renaissance. It also seems most classical music institutions also still believe in the dichotomy. There aren’t too many amateurs in the Chicago Symphony. Imagining that the amateur/professional binary has been erased when it hasn’t is an example of how postmodern orthodoxy leads to delusion.
I like Casey’s idea of how the territorial exclusions of copyright led to the free exchange of ideas and thus the spread of the “Enlightenment.” Today things seem different. I love Pandora Radio, but it is blocked in Europe where I live part-time. I had to install an identity cloaker in my computer to stream it. It connects to a server in the US that connects to Pandora and then bounces the signal back to me.
This is a wonderful and informative overview of how activity on the web evolves. But after studying the whole chess board there still comes that moment when we need to make the next move. You mention the Transmediale in Berlin. There’s also Ars Electronica in Austria, and Ircam in Paris (along with the Ensemble Comtemporain and the Centre Pompidu.) As long as Europeans continue to massively fund institutions for digital arts like these and Americans don’t, American artists will continue to be put in a losing position. We are being screwed. It’s telling that Americans do all the work to create the Internet and develop digital technology, while Europeans sweep up the cultural prestige. This is a direct result of cultural policy. They’re making the better moves.
Thank you for the very stimulating comments, Casey. It’s nice to see someone respond to the really difficult questions. Such dialog is the quickest way to unity and activism.
I’m torn two ways in the hi-lo leveling debate. On one hand it has opened our minds to so many new forms of musical thought. On the other, postmodernism has become an orthodoxy almost as monolithic and stifling as the old serialist ideologies of the 50s to 70s. I wonder if more discerning and differentiated views are needed.
One thing is certain, Europeans have not developed the same insecurities about the “classical” tradition as Americans. They massively fund classical music which allows their composers to be far more active and experienced than their American counterparts. That’s why little Finland has such a new music presence in the States while American composers are neglected. That’s why Americans did so much to develop computer music, but that France with its massively state funded Ircam ended up with the most profiled developments and computer music composers.
It’s all very complex. Finland is 98% white and 98% Luthern. How could we ever have the same unity of focus, and the same singular veiw about what our traditions are? Does that mean we should surrender the classical music composer residencies to Finns and other Europeans? Isn’t their some way we could support classical music with funding levels comparible to Europe while still supporting the other areas of our incredibly varied and rich musical traditions? If Europeans continue to fund classical far more strongly, what will be the long-term results for American classical composers?
Territories will also complicate this in our networked, globalized era. Rights have always been more fluid than we perhaps imagine, however -- at the dawn of print licensing (not quite yet copyright), people were allowed to republish at will in other territories, provided they didn't bring that reprint into the vicinity where the original work was first introduced. This actually went a long way towards spreading enlightenment through Europe.
I was speaking in a more global sense about the range of practical things that musicians -- again, not painters or dancers -- would do well to have a grasp of. Payments, as a generic term, being one.
Let's flip the coin and ignore for a moment the span of time each musical idiom has inspired emotional resonance for evolved primates (who are a fairly new phenomenon themselves).
At one point, classical composers earned revenue from printed sheet music. This grew out of a prior set of trade arrangements between authors, pamphleteers and movable type-jockeys. "Popular" composers, such as Gershwin, could still count on these monies well into the 20th century. But what about blues musicians? Notation was not in their tradition. Does that mean their expression is somehow less valid? Blues is, after all, new, too -- at least in its American form. Maybe Son House was just another fingerpainter?
Even when it comes to public funding, we should do ourselves the favor of not being exclusionary based on arbitrary or subjective estimations of artistic worth. I'd go as far as to say that kind of thinking runs counter to expression itself, which is both the projection of one's innermost aesthetic, and a process of experimentation based on one's exposure to external influences. This includes other kinds of art -- some of which may not fit tidily within a recognized canon.
I may share with you certain frustrations with how our society values (or doesn't) creativity, and I might also even have my own preferences about what's worthwhile and what isn't. But I'd hate to stymie the evolution of any form of expression based on inherited definitions of legitimacy.
Is it perhaps in the interest of certain powerful players to make the system of payments, rights, licenses, and contracts as obtuse & complicated as possible.
If that's the case, then to imply that artists should figure it out before they can adequately participate in a debate seems a bit unfair, don't you think?
Needless to say (but heck, I'll say it anyway) I totally agree with you, Bill and I certainly didn't intend for my comment to pitch one genre against the other. The inherent difference in the way business is traditionally done when writing contemporary concert music versus, say, pop songs, is a huge stumbling block in our industry's not-so-new-anymore digital paradigm. Concert composers have it far better. Commissions, aka notably sized hunks of cash, a good portion of which is paid upfront before the composer has sipped enough single malt to even imagine the first note of the new piece, are a significant part of a composer's income. As we all know, songwriters almost never have such an advantage; all is written and produced on spec. Since rent and groceries are not done on spec, this presents a problem. I work in both the concert and the commercial music fields and am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to be offered money for the thoughts in my head when they involve a wind band or a chamber work, and how I truly sail solo when demo-ing a pop tune that I just hope might find it's way to the shores of a welcoming artist :-)
Snake eating tail: The changes in the recording industry have the most deleterious effect on the artists whose income relies on the back end, and who historically might have been provided a front end from the record companies, which now themselves have considerably less of a back end and thus, rarely offer a front end. In the music biz, as in sailboats, "double enders" are pretty cool. Unlike sailboats though, in music, I'd say they're essential. So one of the many challenges is, how to provide a front end for a formerly back end business? Will this tale of woe eventually have a happy ending?
I think the leveling argument presented here might be another example of how the arts can be subversive. Are we to infer from Mr. Ivey’s comment that the 75 year-old tradition of rock has equal cultural significance to the 800 year-old tradition of classical? Are we to infer that universities should offer professorships to indie rock artists and that they should be publically funded? Isn’t he presenting an argument whose implications are at least somewhat subversive? Do they not add to the complexities we are facing? How do we move to unity from here?
And aren’t there other very complex issues raised by the hi-lo leveling argument? Will it create a situation where America has 10 million digital finger painters while tiny countries like Finland provide the resident composers for the New York Philharmonic and Santa Fe Opera? I can’t argue these issues one way or the other, but I think the “warm handshakes” are a bit distant. As Casey asks, how do we come together?
And Casey, regarding your comment, I must ask, “What payments?” There are very few composers receiving a significant number of performances, so licensing does not seem to be the avenue for solving their problems. Can we unify when the proposed solutions seem pointless?
At any rate, I think the dialog helps move us forward.
I might add that understanding the system of payments, rights, licenses, and contracts is also the first step for fixing structural problems with any and each.
There were three responses to my last comment posted by the bloggers. I will try to respond to them in this one post. It’s true, Doug, that millions of children and adult amateurs are digital artists, at least in a sense. If we want to define art that way, it’s definitely not subversive. On one hand, we don’t want to be unnecessarily elitist, but if we define artists in terms that include almost everyone, confusion and a lack of agreement are bound to ensue. Arguments like these are common, but seem evasive and specious to artists who have spent their lives in hardship because they have had to live outside the economic norms of society. As a Juilliard trained pianist, I have no doubt you know what I’m talking about.
If administrators and journalists want artists to join them in unified activism, I think they might need to develop more discerning and differentiated views about what constitutes an artist. The hi-lo leveling of orthodox postmodernism is often degrading to people who have devoted their entire lives to artistic pursuits. Even if amateur and professional artists are both outside the marketplace, there is often a very big difference between the two. Effective arts policy has to reflect this understanding.
Part of the “admin-heaviness” that has evolved in the arts often includes this kind of condescending view of artists. Administrators are viewed as rare business types who should receive very high salaries, but any and everyone is an artist. Deborah Borda, the business manager of the LA Phil, makes 1.5 million a year, while the orchestra’s elite musicians have a base pay of around 100k per year – 1/15th as much. This has become the norm for our major orchestras and similar trends are found even in the visual arts. If we are looking for unity, these dichotomies do not bode well.
Bill Ivey mentions the highly commercial atmosphere of gallery art, but fails to acknowledge that the performing arts function under entirely different economic models. You can’t compare a painter to the 400 people necessary to run a fully functional opera house. A gallery can be a commercial enterprise, but an opera house cannot. Artists will not unify with administrators when they make these sorts of arguments.
Mr. Ivey also fails to acknowledge that even the visual arts have strong distinctions between commercial and non-commercial forms. I live in Taos, NM which is a very old arts colony. There are over 80 galleries in a town of 5000 people. They are the backbone of the town’s economy, but almost all of them sell rather kitschy “Cowboy and Indian art.” The many painters and sculptors here who strive toward more meaningful forms of expression often face serious financial problems. The Agnes Martins (she lived here) are the very rare exceptions. If you want to engage artists in this discussion, you cannot brush obvious issues like these to the side. Rightly or wrongly, we quickly assume that you are not really on our side and that our hopes for unity are misplaced.
We also need to be clear about what aspects of net neutrality we are discussing (myself included.) For example, even if there is some overlap, the issue of corporations receiving privileged pricing for their bandwidth is fairly different from issues involving licensing and royalties. Privileged pricing for corporate customers affects us all (and to be clear I should have noted that,) but the issues involving licensing and royalties do not. (Those ten million kids making digital art on YouTube aren’t looking to make money with their work.) Public arts funding is a far more relevant public policy issue than licensing on the Internet, but American administrators treat public funding like a taboo topic. Here too, there is a disconnect between administrators and artists (though of course I wouldn't claim to speak for all artists.)
Unity in activism begins with clearly defining our concerns and addressing them in good faith. On the positive side, I think that is something being achieved through these discussions -- even if the absence of artists is notable.
The ability to discuss policy issues is a privilege. Most artists are working in the trenches with most of their time and energy devoted to survival and making art. While the voice of the culture maker is ultimately the most informative this voice is also the one that is too busy to join the conversation. This is why advocates are so important.
Alex and I, of course, have fundamentally different views. Historically, classical music has never been in the marketplace (it was created and developed under a feudalistic patronage system,) and it is extremely unlikely it will ever be successfully market oriented.
Alex speaks of a shift in consciousness that would help artists make money in the marketplace by believing they can and that they deserve it. This is not a new idea. Giants like Beethoven, Mozart, and Schumann all tried it and failed, which does not speak well for our own merely mortal chances. Late in his life Haydn met with some notable commercial successes, but only after having been supported by aristocratic patronage for the previous 50 years during which he developed his craft. Examples of attempts and failures at commercial success by great composers are countless.
I feel that a more meaningful transformation of artistic consciousness is created by the “mixed economies” of Europe. Many of their musicians recognize that they can and perhaps should provide an alternatives to commercially oriented work. Europeans deeply respect the marketplace while at the same time realizing that well-managed alternatives are needed in some areas of society.
I think a similar shift in consciousness is evolving in America. Milton Friedman’s radically anti-Keynesian neo-liberalism (more commonly known as the Reagonomics of privatization) has caused so many problems it has more or less seen its day. This is changing the consciousness of some of our arts leaders. Bill Ivey’s views, for example, seem a bit different than those he expressed in the AJ blog he participated in five years ago. He seems more cautious about market deregulation and privitization, and more interested in balancing them with a healthy public sector. (Of course, I’m probably reading too much into his statements, but he seems to be moving in tandom with a general trend in thought that is more critical of ecomonic neo-liberalism.)
If our schools help future leaders understand that our private arts funding system is systemically flawed, and if we learn to study the more effective public systems in other countries, progress will be made. These are the changes in consciousness that we need, and that are in fact happening. I think a few of the panelists here are behind the curve.
Brian asks, "Can we have greater success by embracing the creatives formerly known as amateurs?"
I believe so, because by embracing them, we automatically foster what I referred to in my initial post on Monday as "affinity." The more people who have their own hand in some form of art-making, the more people who will appreciate the making of art on all levels. And, quite possibly, be willing to spend money on art. This is also why arts education for kids is vital for creating future audiences (as well as future artists). Building affinity. But we all know that tune.
I've always giggled at professionals who view "amateurs" who blindly plunk around in Garage Band or Photoshop as a threat to their livelihood. The essence of being an artist is that presumably, you're unique in what you have to communicate. People respond not to the number of academic degrees you possess, but to your personal take on the world as it relates to your heart and every other part of you. When non-professionals have access to tools that allow them greater self expression, this is a wonderful thing for them, and also for those of us who earn our living from the results of our own plunking.
Remember, boys and girls: "amateur" comes from the word "amare," "to love": amo, amas, amat, for those of us geeks who enjoyed years of Latin classes. Amat-eurs love what they are doing. And presumably, what we are doing, when we're doing what they love.
Bill, I think you might want to qualify that a bit. Artists' interests are not aligned with the handful of major corporations that still control the vast majority of our creative media production and distribution systems.
But artists' interests are often aligned with small, ethically-run independent record companies, for example. The explosive growth of the modern independent music movement in the 90s and 2000s is largely because people wanted to propagate models that were more artist-centered, democratic, and participatory, that worked outside the industry gatekeepers. Many of the folks who run these labels are recording artists themselves, and are typically dedicated advocates for their artists' interests both in business realms and political realms-- many of them have long been among the most vocal opponents of media consolidation.
Unfortunately, it's become fashionable in the copyright-reform community to talk about "the music industry" as if it were a monolithic entity, as if there were no difference between Merge Records and Sony. This has obscured important realities, leading to a circumstance where a teenage fan might think she's sticking it to the man by downloading a copy of the new Ted Leo album instead of buying. It's important that as we try to make our system more nuanced and more public-purpose-oriented, we make sure that our description of present reality is appropriately nuanced as well.
For clarity, my opening quote below was pulled from William's comment, not from Clay's post. Thanks!
"The simple fact is we don’t share those concerns because our world is so different."
Or, consider flipping that: perhaps the classical artists' world wouldn't be as vastly different, and they would be better remunerated by the marketplace, if the artists themselves were to take an interest in and educate themselves on matters of licensing of music on the web, copyright laws, and media consolidation. I don't argue that, with some exceptions, the new music world does not generate a comparable scale of income to that of the popular music world (and I'm guessin' that's why they don't call this popular music). But I absolutely believe that many artists could do better than they do professionally, were they to embrace a broader vision of entrepreneurship and business savvy that goes beyond grants and charitable support.
It's a little bit chicken-and-egg (or, Catch-22, take your analogous pick). If artists proceed with a negative attitude about their ability to generate income from their art, then it's more likely that such an attitude will become their reality, and only further perpetuate the frustrations they already experience. It's hard to make money when one is constantly transmitting a message that one can't make money.
We all appear to agree that educating artists is essential, and I've observed that once artists understand the worth of their assets and how those can be used to benefit them in the marketplace, things tend to improve in their careers. The better we understand the open sea of the non-arts world, the more capable we will be of successfully navigating through it! It's an enjoyable journey.
Yes, there is little agreement about what sort of advocacy work people with the arts should do. Jean wrote that work for better public arts funding systems and arts education are the normal “comfort zones” for such advocacy. She suggests that we are being somewhat narrow-minded or parochial if we can’t look beyond topics like those to issues involving the licensing of music on the web, copyright laws, and media consolidation. In effect, she is saying we should share the same concerns as the pop-music-industrial-complex and Hollywood. The simple fact is we don’t share those concerns because our world is so different. As I outlined in my previous post, the vast majority of creative musicians are not even remotely involved with the marketplace. Our works are not published and not broadcast so copyright and licensing barely affect us.
On the other hand, issues involving public arts funding could have a profound effect on our lives. The public funding system in Germany supports 83 fulltime, year-round opera houses while America does not have any. Even the Met only has a seven month season. We only have about four other real houses in the whole country (Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Santa Fe.) Their paltry seasons range from six weeks to five months. Our so-called National Opera in Washington didn’t even do any performances at all in April and May. The so-called Houston Grand Opera has a tiny chamber orchestra as its instrumental core. For comparison, look at this topographical map of Germany’s 83 opera houses and note the density of the landscape:
The NEA spends about 50 cents a year per capita per year on the arts. If one added in state and local funding the number might be stretched to a couple bucks. By contrast, Norway spends $564, Austria $327, Sweden $282, France $254, and Germany $123. It is a similar story with every developed country in the world except the USA. As the following table shows, we are more on par with Albania, Moldova, and the Ukraine:
Little Finland (pop. 5.5 million) spends $215 per capita. It is no wonder that Finish conductors like Esa-Pekka Salonen and Osmo Vänskä conduct major American orchestras, or that Finn Magnus Lindberg is the resident composer of the NY Phil, that Finn Kaija Saariaho is feted at the Santa Fe Opera and Lincoln Center, or that the NY Phil’s conductor developed his career in Sweden before he could come back to the USA.
Our private system of funding simply does not provide comparable support, so American artists are being screwed. They can’t develop careers like Europeans can, and so our arts leaders cynically import Europeans to lead our orchestras and opera houses, and even to fill many of our most prominent positions as composers. And yet you want us to get involved in licensing and copyright when our works aren’t even published and broadcast in the first place.
You should not wonder if we artists see you all as a bit clueless. You need to look outside American plutocracy and the Hollywood/Nashville box for a moment. If you address relevant topics like public arts funding and arts education you would see more participation here in the blog and in your efforts to unify activism. There’s a good reason those are “comfort zones.” They’re relevant.
The general premise of this blog, that artists are not involved in activism, is untrue. Many artists are involved in social causes. The International Alliance for Women in Music, and the International Women’s Brass Conference both work for the rights of women in music. Together they have about a thousand members. There are many well-known organizations that offer poor children music lessons and youth orchestras. There are artists who work and lobby to strengthen public arts funding. There are artists who offer free concerts to the homeless. There is an entire genre of new music referred to as acoustic ecology that is deeply involved in environmental activism. There are many such examples. And especially in the USA, the very act of trying to be a creative artist at all is close to being a form of activism, if not subversion, because it often challenges our nation’s narrowly defined orthodoxy concerning the primacy of the marketplace.
The blog’s second, and more specific premise, is that artists are not actively involved in the debates surrounding net neutrality, even though these policy decisions will strongly affect them. This second part of the statement is untrue. Most classical musicians are so far outside the marketplace that systems of licensing would not have much effect on their incomes (or the use or abuse of their work) regardless of what policies are effected.
A classical CD can become a Billboard Bestseller with as little as 300 sold units. According to recent stats, the official total sales of the top 25 titles amounted to 5,000 copies, an average of 200 units a recording – including downloads. In financial terms, we’re talking chicken feed for many of even the most successful classical recordings. See:
Even famous orchestras seldom make money with recordings of even popular works. See:
In other words, only the most infinitesimal fraction of musicians make significant amounts of money from recordings, so many of the licensing decisions are fairly irrelevant for most of them. It can be little wonder that they are not interested in the policy “debates.”
There are a few areas where some genuine conflicts evolve, such as licensing agreements that can shut down small Internet sites that play new music, but these groups are so marginal they would have little say even if they tried to become more politically active.
On the other hand, I really like the ideas presented in Bill Ivey’s comment above. Our arts schools could do a much better job of training the people we need to lead us to better public policy for the arts. These people need to study the systemic failurs of our system, and especially by comparing it to the more effective public funding systems that exist in almost all other developed countries.
Esther, I absolutely agree with your points and think you've clearly articulated the issue(s). And I take heart in knowing that there are instances where artists and artist support groups HAVE distilled the key messaging and organized successfully, for example in the area of affordable artist housing. How long ago was it that the notion of subsidizing housing for artists and acknowledging that they are working, contributing members of society was a really radical thought?
Before I even got to your final paragraph I was thinking about what you wrote and what Nettrice wrote and was thinking some kind of video game to makes arts advocacy fun and addictive would be the way to go. Great idea!