This was a major story in the New York Times, early this month. And, believe me, it was dire. I remember the New York freelance classical music scene in past decades, and knew many musicians who made a living from it. Not always the easiest living, but you could get by, and maybe even do well.
And now, to quote the Times story:
[N]ight after night highly trained players traipse from Washington Heights or the Upper West Side or northern New Jersey or Long Island to play church jobs and weddings, Lincoln Center and Broadway summer festivals and fill-in jobs at the Met and the Philharmonic. They occupy the ranks of a dozen freelance orchestras, put the music in Broadway musicals and provide soundtracks — or at least they used to — for Hollywood and Madison Avenue. They form the bedrock of musical life in a great cultural capital.It was a good living. But the New York freelance musician — a bright thread in the fabric of the city — is dying out. In an age of sampling, digitization and outsourcing, New York’s soundtrack and advertising-jingle recording industry has essentially collapsed. Broadway jobs are in decline. Dance companies rely increasingly on recorded music. And many freelance orchestras, among the last steady deals, are cutting back on their seasons, sometimes to nothingness.
Plus this, from a leader among these freelancers:
Our community is under a lot of pressure. Our jobs are melting away. We have a lot of people who are right on the edge.
So this is serious. (And, a isn’t always the case, the full story is more sobering than the quotes I’ve taken from it.) You could blame the recession, but the musicians apparently don’t. According to the story, they blame the “classical music recession” — the decline in interest in classical music, which leads to fewer performances, and therefore fewer jobs.
(Shortly I’ll cite another news story, one that (as it was reported in the press) was clothed in bright, furry optimism, but which also — once you understand what’s going on — sounds a sobering note.)http://necmusic.edu/entrepreneurship