Tag: music history blog

Joseph Haydn and The Value of the Steady Gig

I remember one of the first things early in my Music History study was the stunning output of Franz Joseph Haydn. Drink this in:

108 symphonies; 68 string quartets; 32 divertimenti for small orchestra; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello; 29 trios for piano, violin, and cello; 21 trios for two violins and cello; 47 piano sonatas; about 20 operas; 14 masses; 6 oratorios; and 2 cello concerti. And this is pared down from a larger number! I went through several sources and the number averages around 800 total pieces!

So, how did he write so much? The answer is…he had a gig.

haydn_esterhazy
Haydn directing an opera at the Esterhazy Theatre in 1775.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s life was like many of ours. He started with many musical pursuits, including singing in a choir, then picking up odd music jobs where could find them. He eventually found himself though leading the musical affairs for a large estate of the very rich and powerful Esterhazy famîly.

This steady gig, while sometimes taxing and demeaning, brought something to Haydn’s life that only a few of us get to enjoy. He had time. He was given funds and authority. And he had also deadlines.

Anyone who knows the pressure of putting together a church service or lesson plan every single week, knows how it also spurs creativity. Many times just the act of having to write a new song, arrange a song for your group, or come up with ideas on how to teach a subject can bring new works from your mind that wouldn’t have ever existed otherwise.

He had to write symphonies, and quartets, and operas, and even specialty trios and works when his benefactor took up the baryton (similar to a viol) and wanted music written for it. Kind of like when your pastor who is also a singer wants that perfect song to sing and has you write it. Or an amazing wunderkind on flute wanders into your orchestra. You need music, and if you are a composer, you write for that!

Haydn had weekly things he had to prepare for and since they lived out in the country, it was just easier to write it himself.

“I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” – Joseph Haydn

Nevertheless, Haydn flourished and grew through these years and eventually became known throughout all of Europe as he defined the symphony style.

Why This Matters

Sometimes it’s easy to think of our music jobs as a hassle, or a step towards something else, or perhaps we have found ourselves in a staid job we have been doing for years, if not decades. But this gig you have had, that you were blessed to find, could be the way the sum total of your output is measured.

Like Haydn, you may move past your “Esterhazy” phase into a “Vienna” or “London” phase where you bloom even more. But without the season of work and growth, the next season of opportunity might now ever present itself.

Got a steady gig? Have some autonomy? Maybe it’s time to take more advantage of it. Haydn the heck out of your position, and write, write, write. Sometimes we forget when we are the boss, we have the opportunity to actually do what we love.

Have a great week!


John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, but he is studying to be, and for now he plays one on the Internet. Be sure and join this blog to receive more writings like this, as well as our Facebook and Twitter followings for daily inspiration and news.

How Recordings Changed New Music

37924378_m“It’s the latest popular song,” declared the phonograph, speaking in a sulky tone of voice. “A popular song?” “Yes. One that the feeble-minded can remember the words of and those ignorant of music can whistle or sing. That makes a popular song popular, and the time is coming when it will take the place of all other songs.” – L. Frank Baum

Before the late 1800s the only way you heard music was if you went to hear it live, or someone was playing the piano in the home. So you actively went to hear chamber music, or opera, or other live events to hear the newest music. It was very much the same as when a new movie comes out. We are going to consume something new and we hope exciting. (More on that in a minute.)

But with the invention of the phonograph, suddenly you could have a recording of a song you loved and play it over and over. Thus the first century of recorded music was born, and so was an industry. Phonographs, and then the radio brought music to listeners so they could hear their songs all the time and fall in love with tunes.

“As recently as the late nineteenth century, even the most devoted music lover might hear his or her favourite piece just three or four times in his or her whole life. Unless you happened to be a virtuoso musician with access to both sheet music and instruments, it was almost impossible to bring large-scale forms of music into your own home. Not until the dawn of recording and radio technology did our ancestors have any great choice as to what they listened to and when.” – Howard Goodall

With so much recorded music available for people to consume, the tastes changed for what they wanted to hear at live concerts. No longer were they going to hear a concert to hear new music. Now they were going to hear their favorite recorded song.

Audiences began to (and still do) demand these favorites in concert, rather than new, original pieces by artists. This changed the way new music was introduced forever, and still holds today.

Amazing popular composers like Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles aren’t actively writing and recording new songs because they know fans don’t really want to hear new songs when they go to their concerts. It’s not much different for current artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, big bands or cover bands. Modern concert audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard recorded, not the newest thing the artists are working on.

To be honest there is much more money in live performance for artists, especially today. Why spend time writing, recording, and marketing new material that will bring in little in royalties, if you can just hook a tour, repackage, and keep selling the old stuff while making a tidy profit?

This Ain’t the Movies

“There’s no business like show business!” – Irving Berlin

The film industry has worked out a unique strategy that keeps money flowing quite well. It releases its newest movies mainly in stages. They start with a big blowout, large theatrical release, then it goes to smaller screen theaters, then to pay per view, then DVD/Bluray, then Netflix, cable, broadcast, etc). It’s an amazing cycle of marketing opportunities and makes money every step of the way.

New music has been introduced for more than a century as a recorded form that people are inundated with first. Sure there still may be some orchestral works that have live premieres, but popular music by and large is blasted out to ears whether they want it or not. And those that have the deepest pockets get their music heard the most.

Don’t think people haven’t tried to think of ways of doing this “windowing” technique and trying to release music to CD then downloads then streaming. It just hasn’t and won’t work. People now want to stream it the minute it is released. It’s not about convenience for the artist or label, it’s about the wants and needs of the consumer.

The funny part of all this is that recorded music had an unparalleled run through the last century, due in part to technology starting with the phonograph through the CD. But the tech of this century has now put us in a quandary on the future of the whole recording industry.

Will we ever go back to hearing (or wanting) new music live again? Or will we continue to depend on media tastemakers to tell us what the best new music is?

Your thoughts (and best guesses!) are welcome.

“So people will come along and do new things and sometimes return to the spirit of an earlier age.” – Norman McLaren

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, or a fortune teller, but through the writings and community of Music History Matters, he can look back and see the parallels and lessons of the past in music today.

The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall

Story-of-Music_3DA Book Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

So, it’s not often I read a whole music history book from cover to cover. To be honest, most I start, or skim, or read parts that interest me. But The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall, got my attention from the start and kept it until the very last page.

In fact, I don’t often write book reviews but felt this book would benefit the readers of this blog as well as any folks who may be interested in music history from a sociological point of view like I am.

The subtitle for the book is “From Babylon to the Beatles, How Music has Shaped Civilization.” While this may be a tad hyperbolic, Goodall does a good job making sure this book clings tightly to what’s going on in the world and how each period relates to the people at that time. In fact, the book wastes no time getting to that very thing in its first paragraph.

“You may think that music is a luxury, a plug-in to make human life more enjoyable. That would be a fair supposition in the twenty-first century, but our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have agreed. To them, music was much more than mere entertainment.” (pg 6)

And from here we are off. Starting with early civilizations of cavemen, Goodall begins The Story of Music. From there we traverse through time, eventually touching on the first known composer, “a spectacularly clever and imaginative German woman, Hildegard of Bingen, who was born in 1098.”

“Instead of handing on the tried and tested chants, as had been the norm in earlier centuries, Hildegard made up her own chant tunes. This seems to us an obvious thing to do, but in the twelfth century it was both daring and unexpected.” (pg 27)

One of the things I love about this book is how accessible it makes music history to us who are living and working in music now. This is something I think is crucial to keeping the history of music relatable and helpful in ours and students’ future professional music lives. Almost every important point is correlated to how we deal with music today and that makes this book relevant, even though many are stories we already have heard or know well.

“The distance in form, intention, mood and expression between Schubert’s songs for voice and piano and those of, say, Adele is remarkably short, considering they are separated by two hundred years. The only thing that would shock Schubert about ‘Someone like you’ is the fact that a young woman is the song’s creator, not its object.” (pg 221)

One important aspect this book brings up several times is how the advent and subsequent accessibility of recordings brought about something that continues to plague music to this day.

“At a concert in February 1814, for example, Beethoven presented the première of his eighth symphony alongside a performance of his seventh, which itself was only two months old. No one at the time thought this unusual. By the mid-twentieth century, however, the tables had been turned: old favourites became the bread and butter of live concerts, with new works squeezed in between them apologetically.” (pg 313)

Goodall speaks extensively in several different points in the book about the early glut of classical recordings and how audiences began to prefer to hear their old favorites in concert, rather than new music. This isn’t only a classical music problem, as pop music audiences often prefer the songs they know and love to new music at concerts. More on this in a future article.

The books ends with a very optimistic flair and, as is the case with the whole book, Goodall brings the history of music to a close with our current music situation.

“J. S. Bach was probably the cleverest composer who ever lived, but he gave his performers almost no detailed instructions as to how they might play his sublime music. He hastily scribbled down the notes and left them to it. It is as if he is saying, ‘trust me, and play’.

We, more than any previous generation, can readily identify with Bach’s request. We press ‘play’ and a million styles, sounds, aural colours, echoes and voices breeze in towards us as if through an opened window. We are like children with a thousand games at our fingertips. We have, at last, reached a point where there are no wrong or right decisions about what music we may or may not enjoy – just one gratifyingly simple instruction: ‘play’.”

Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

 

Excerpts From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks.

This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l

Or at Amazon here.

A Tough Nut to Crack

hardnut“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” ― Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was not a stranger to hard work, but like any composer, he had to be inspired…and he had to have time to compose. But also like many of us, he had to deal with this thing we call life.

Every Christmas, The Nutcracker is adored by music lovers, both professional and casual. It’s become a staple of our Christmas musical landscape.

Originally commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theaters after the success of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, the composer received initial instructions on the Nutcracker ballet in 1890. The ballet was to be based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This didn’t do much for Tchaikvosky since he liked that fairy tale and didn’t see much room for a ballet in it.

Like a good composer for hire though he put his nose to the grindstone and began sketches in early 1891. But then…life settled in.

He ran into constant distractions from travel, including a trip to America, and then the death of his sister Aleksandra.

From New York he wrote, “I cannot start working again before June at the earliest… otherwise whatever I tried to write would turn out wretchedly”.

Even when he arrived home to St. Petersburg, he continued to find he was flummoxed by other things in his way of writing. In a letter to his brother Modest he wrote, “It is also good for me here, but work isn’t going as quickly now as at first. There are unexpected distractions.”

Once he did finish writing sometime in 1891, he still had to orchestrate, which started around the first few months of 1892. Finally in March or April of 1892, he could put down his pen. “I’ve finished the ballet; all that remains is to insert the markings and put it in order.”

Why This Matters

We all have works we need to get out; art that needs to get done. But life happens. We have travels, sickness, family matters, and sometimes that little thing called work!

Sometimes we (and when I saw we, I mean me) have projects that go a lot longer than two years to finish. But a work like The Nutcracker has stood the test of time, and I think the goal is to do our best work, as we can, when we can. Then let the work stand on its own, indicative of our hard work.

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. – Earl Nightingale

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but hopes Santa will magically bring his Musicology Masters degree for Christmas!

Bringing Up Mozart

Let’s face it, parenting just isn’t an easy job. But the job is even harder when you are rearing a creative child with an incredible amount of talent.

themozarts

No one ever faced a tougher job than Leopold Mozart, known in music history as the driving father who put his children, especially his son Wolfgang, on a grueling tour of Europe. What is interesting is that Leopold didn’t face anything much different than what we face each day as parents. Especially if you have or are a talented creative child.

Worry

OK, so as a parent you know you have something special on your hands. It may not be talent the kid was born with as I’m not sure that is even possible (see “Talent is Overrated”), but there certainly is aptitude there, and they keep surpassing your expectations and even your own ability.

Leopold saw this in Wolfgang, and tried his best to keep his son disciplined and on the right path. But that wasn’t so easy with the precocious Wolfie. His carefree, playful spirit can be found at the end of a letter to his sister Nannerl.

“Well, farewell. I kiss you 1000 times and remain, as always, your little old piggy wiggy.  (signed) Wolfgang Amade Rosy Posy”

Leopold worried his talented and free-spirited son would wind up married to someone poor, and that was not what Leopold had hoped for.

“Leopold had a graphic view of his son’s possible fate as an impoverished musician. ‘ Utterly forgotten by the world, captured by some woman,’ he wrote, ‘you will die bedded on straw in an attic full of starving children.’ His anxiety was justified to some extent but he could see his son’s future only in extremes: success and glory or misery and starvation.” – Francis Carr, Mozart & Constanze

I think many of us fear the destiny of our own talented children like that: they will either be world renown and rich, or destitute doing their own thing.

Disappointment

There is a time in every parent’s life when they are let down by their kids. You know the drill. They understand the parameters of what is allowed, yet they still choose to break them. Wolfgang did this repeatedly and sometimes even gleefully!

When Wolfgang began to write of being enamored with Aloysia Weber, Leopold did not approve. In fact, when his son wrote about accompanying the Webers to Paris, Leopold went ballistic.

“As for your proposal to travel about with Herr Weber and his two daughters, it has nearly made me lose my reason?…a horrible idea! Could you really make up your mind to go traveling about the world with strangers?” – Letter to Wolfgang, February 11th, 1778

It almost sounds like a modern day parent warning their guitar player adolescent son about going on the road with a rock band.

Why This Matters

Well, it’s pretty obvious we all share Leopold’s struggle. Just like we have to treat disadvantaged or struggling kids special, it’s a struggle to be good, strong parents to those who are on the other end of the spectrum (especially with “adult” kids).

In all likelihood, Leopold meant well, and Wolfgang likely didn’t make it easy. In the end, you could say Mozart’s talent won out despite his folly, personality, spending habits, marriage, and competition. His tremendous catalog and output still happened regardless of things that were in or out of his father’s control.

Your kid may not be Mozart, but you can still help him navigate the waters of an artistic life with good guidance, a patient hand, and consistent discipline.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but he plays one of the Internet. We’d love any and all thoughts you may have on this post, but since this is a blog meant to (hopefully) encourage real life application, please make them positive and on topic. However, corrections as always are welcome.

Art vs. Commercial (Rossini meets Beethoven)

artvscommAt the end of his career Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers to have ever lived, was completely deaf. Around this same time, Gioachino Rossini had also become quite popular with his comic operas including the huge hit, The Barber of Seville. With the public’s mixed reception of Beethoven’s vast Ninth Symphony, Rossini perhaps outshone Beethoven as Europe’s most popular composer at the time.

Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.

There are various accounts of this supposed meeting.

“The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but the Italian Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’. The two composers did meet once, an encounter brokered by the kindly Antonio Salieri, and we have it word for word since Beethoven, being deaf, had to have the conversation written down. The rules of engagement between the two types of composer were even evident in their short back-and-forth in 1822, with Beethoven congratulating Rossini on his success but warning him not to write anything other than comic opera as ‘his character wouldn’t suit it’. It is a conversation that continues to be played out between self-styled ‘serious’ composers and ‘crossover’ composers to this day.” – Howard Goodall, The Story of Music

Other sources tell different, but similar accounts.

30-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.” – Wikipedia on Rossini

Why This Matters

To be honest, there are so many different takes on how this meeting really took place, or if it is just an anecdotal tale (although I like the thought that it had to be written down due to Beethoven’s deafness and therefore could be somewhat preserved.)

But the point is that we may have many meetings with those who either feel our commercial music is not as “important” as their art music, and vice versa. Rossini just wanted to meet his idol, but Beethoven saw the real truth: it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music.

Beethoven’s work, like his Ninth Symphony, was so large, so groundbreaking in some ways, it was hard for crowds looking for pure “entertainment” to always get it. While he was certainly revered as a genius, there were mixed reviews.

“Beethoven’s musical revolution received mixed reactions. A critic who attended the (Ninth Symphony) premiere effused praise: “the effect was indescribably great and magnificent, jubilant applause from full hearts was enthusiastically given the master.” A London critic who heard the work in 1825 called the hour-plus length “a fearful period indeed, which puts the muscles and lungs of the band and the patience of the audience to a severe trial.” – Oxford University Press

This account, true or not, just shows how the debate of art over commercialism in music has raged for centuries. Where do you fall in the debate?

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy music producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Bibliography

(Excerpt From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gioachino_Rossini

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premieres

Rivals

“One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.” – Abraham Maslow

rivals
I learned something recently, and that was I shared a birthday with Antonio Salieri. Most know this name as the supposed “rival” to Mozart in Vienna, and of course from the movie Amadeus which suggests he was a jealous rival composer to the heroic and uber-talented Mozart.

Now, I will tell you unequivocally that Mozart is my favorite composer, so don’t take my comments in this post as critical of Wolfgang. However, after some time as a student of music history, hearing from professors and others on the subject, reading Mozarts letters, and the surprising small amount written on Salieri, I am starting to think we may have had it backwards.

Mozart seems much more perturbed and bothered by Salieri (and other Italian composers at the time) than Salieri felt about Mozart. Witness this quote from a letter to Leopold from Wolfgang.

“These Italian gentlemen are very civil to your face. Enough—we know them!” – Mozart

Wolfgang was complaining that Italians got more operas produced than his own German ones. This gives us much more evidence of consternation on Mozart’s part than Salieri’s. In fact, Salieri was already quite a celebrity as a composer, especially of Italian opera both before and after Mozart came to Vienna. Mozart also complains that Salieri was the local favorite saying, “the only one who counts in [the Emperor’s] eyes is Salieri”.

As current music listeners, and with the benefit of time, we are able to look back and weigh the output of each composer. I’d say most of us would choose Mozart’s amazing repertoire. But at the time, he was certainly not the only game in town.

“From a pretty wide examination of the annual reports of the principal German theaters of those days, I draw the conclusion that in the original Italian or in German translations, the more important works of Salieri were far more popular and much oftener given than those of Mozart, while the Grotta di Trofonio was at least as much performed as Mozart’s EntführungIn other words, with the exception of the Entführung, Mozart’s operas were less to the taste of the monarch and the public in Vienna than those of Salieri, and it was the same way all through Germany. Whatever the appreciative few may have thought of The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni, to the general operatic public Salieri was certainly the greatest of then living composers!” – Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Salieri: Rival of Mozart

Why This Matters

We all have to deal with people who we may feel are rivals to our musical success. We could be like Mozart, whose output was heralded is his own time and has become legendary through the centuries. Or we are like Salieri, who was a well-respected composer in his time, teacher of such greats as Schubert, Liszt, and Beethoven, and (much to Mozart’s chagrin) the big cheese locally (Kapellmeister).

In the movie Amadeus, Salieri is portrayed as a much less talented and envious man. It’s easy to see someone we work with who is more talented than we ever will be, and we want to hate them. But their talent is so beautiful that all we can hope for is to be close to them and work with them.

“Rivalry” or not, there are also plenty of letters of Mozart’s that talk of supporting Salieri, as well as examples of Salieri using Mozart pieces at functions instead of his own.

The truth is that rivals can serve to make us better at what we do. They can challenge us and spurn us towards greater works than we would have done without them.

So when you meet someone better than you, maybe better than you ever could be, relax and know your place. There’s no use in bitterness in such a short life, especially when we have such a beautiful job in music to do.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Life on the Fringe

lachnerMany of us in music will not become well known. We will perhaps meet important people in music, perhaps even be an influence on them. In fact, we may teach, guide, or lead folks that do indeed become very famous. But as for our lives, we will do well to find our niche, excel in it in an area, and have a long career in music.

Many composers through time have fallen into this category. One such composer, who I picked solely because he was born on this day, is Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893).

He was the younger brother of another and better known composer, Franz Lachner who was quite prolific and well-known is his day and whose work would go on to influence Beethoven and Schubert.

Vinzenz would scratch out a living teaching music in Augsberg, Germany until his brother Franz would arrange for him to become conductor and house musician for Earl Mycielski of Coscevitz in the Grand Duchy of Poznań. Eventually, he would replace his older brother in Mannheim and was highly valued for 37 years as court conductor.

As a teacher, he encouraged many, including Fritz Steinbach, Max Bruch, Hermann Levi, and Carl Wolffson. Of particular interest (to me!) was his distaste of the cult of Wagner, even going so far as to conduct a mutilated version of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (much to Wagner’s chagrin! In fact, Wagner would eventually campaign for Vinzenz to be retired from the court conductor role.)

Vinzenz retired after 30+ years and settled down for a quiet life of teaching until his death at 81. He lived a nice long life of music work, taught, encountered, and hobnobbed with many famous musicians, some who are known as masters hundreds of years later. Yet his life and work is lost to most in the modern music world.

Why This Matters (Or why maybe it doesn’t)

Many of us toil away in seeming obscurity; composing, teaching, singing, performing, and doing other things that have made some famous, but outside the limelight except for our own little local role. We have tangential relations with some who are well known locally, nationally, or even worldwide, but we ourselves are known only to a few.

What’s funny is that many people in the world would describe what we call living on the fringe of greatness as their life’s dream! We look to the greats and dream of that level of work, but there are just as many that we lead who look at us as “living the dream.”

As in the case of Vinzenz Lachner, our place in music history does matter. We are influencing, teaching, and yes even challenging many more folks that we know. We are making a difference in people’s lives and doing the work that has to be done in our area. We may even be highly respected in our little corner of the world. Even though Vinzenz Lachner is not regarded as a major composer, his work and output was valued greatly in Mannheim for many decades. His life in music mattered, and so does yours.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is a very casual musicologist, and continues his search through music history to teach and show all of us who work in music today that yesterday is important. For more examples of why Music History Matters, check out http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org and find your place in history.

The More Things Change

spotman

Over the past decade, much has changed in the music industry. The relatively short reign of the CD found its decline as a new generation decided it preferred downloading only the songs they liked. Now, music listeners are deciding they may like streaming music more than downloading using apps like Spotify, Pandora, (and soon Apple Music.)

In truth, what the end user listener (who you will remember is who the music is created for) has always liked is the most convenient way to access music. Streaming apps on their phone is great for listening like we used to listen to the radio, or records, or CDs. It’s easy, and we can dial in the music we want. Set it and….forget it.

But for musicians, songwriters, and others who are the makers of the music these folks listen to, the change is not so wonderful and helpful. In fact, the money that is made on the back end of the recordings is getting atrociously small. Streaming pays very little per stream, and you’ve probably even heard about artists like Taylor Swift taking her music off Spotify in protest (who needs all that small change anyway? Shake it off!)

As a person who makes and sells music myself, and works with people in every position in the music business, I can see how it’s easy to be really mad about all this. It doesn’t seem fair that the quality, money, and time invested reaps so little in return.

But as a student of music history, I also know that this is just another cycle in the history of music business. Not the music business, but the business of music.

Like the printing press, sheet music, the phonograph, the radio, the LP, the single, the cassette, the CD, and the MP3, streaming is changing the way the world consumes music. We might want to just quit crying and get used to it. It’s not going to switch back magically because we music types are mad about it. Like all those other times, we will either have to figure out how to monetize the music work we do in the current age, or do something else.

Many things in music haven’t changed. Live music is still as vibrant and effective as it has been since music was invented. You can even still sell product live. If you love music so much and are a musician or artist, you might best concentrate on getting out there and making it in front of an audience. If you are a producer, player, engineer, songwriter, or some other person involved in the making of music, it may be time to find your own niche and go after it because the “sit back and watch dollars roll in because you made or contributed to recordings” days might be over.

I find that those who are really the most fit to be tied are those who made tons of money in the heyday of record business (see the invention of the CD and everyone “re-buying” every album they ever loved on the new pristine format). The people who came up and flourished in the “days of wine and roses” where sales and money flowed like water, are the ones that are “suffering”. (This just in, many of these same people still make more than anyone else in the world doing music, but they are just disgusted that it’s not as much as they used to make).

The truth is everything has always changed in the history of music business, but then another way to make money always comes along. In fact, we are seeing new avenues for music now with YouTube, gaming, streaming, crowd-sourcing, and more.

Remember that when radio started, folks were outraged that their music was being played to people without monies being collected. ASCAP and BMI eventually began collecting that money, and people are still employed, paid, and getting rich off royalties today. But it took a while for this collection method to get stable and profitable as the technology grew.

Many folks, especially in music centers like Nashville, LA, or NY, are just very spoiled as a whole with how easy it has been to make good money as a songwriter/label/publisher over the last 30 years.

Ask any normal teenager or twenty something what they think, and they will give you a thumbs up on the state of music. They are happy with the way music is becoming easier to find and listen to. They are glad they don’t have to buy CDs for the one song they want, or fiddle with where to store downloads, when they can just tune in and access what they want, when they want. Kind of like we’re getting to do now with Netflix the past few years, and cable television for close to 40 years.

WHY THIS MATTERS

We have to remember that the end user listener is really who music is for. Our goal is that they listen. That hasn’t changed. We in the industry will just have to find ways to deal with the changes that have happened, and then as always find a way to make an income with our craft.

Or we could all go sell tires (until they invent flying cars, and then won’t we be mad!)

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is a producer, songwriter, arranger, author, and a dozen more things that allow him to earn a living and continue to create all day. Find out more about him at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Pay for Play (Music History Repeating)

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw

Those who deride, denounce, and generally decry the new music business world of streaming and single downloads should know we’ve been here before. I won’t go into 45 “singles”, and in fact this particular story predates even those years by almost 70 years.

0dca9-cowboysIn the book “Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry”, by Gareth Murphy, he tells an early story of the first (and only) recording industry monopoly. Around 1895, business tycoon Jesse Lippincott bought into Thomas Edison’s phonograph (at that time the prevailing “talking machine” technology was still a wax cylinder machine.)

He exclusively licensed the technology across the nation to dealers who in turn leased the machines to users. His partner in this business was Edward Easton, the industry’s first record producer, and the grandfather of Columbia Records.

“Despite a moderately promising start, Lippincott’s company and all of its affiliated distributors began hemorrhaging money. Wisely, Edward Easton went out to investigate what was happening on the ground. Throughout March 1890, in what would be the first nationwide study of the nascent record industry, Easton traveled coast to coast, visiting thirty-one of Lippincott’s regional branches.

“To his amazement, Easton observed something nobody saw coming. A San Francisco distributor had transformed the phonograph into “pay to play” jukeboxes. Custom-built, in beautifully decorated wooden cases and fitted with coin slots, they were placed in arcades, saloons, drugstores, and various strategic places of passage.

“The fashion spread from California to other cities. Although the average take for most of these nickel phonographs was about $50 a week, the most popular jukebox was believed to be in a drugstore in New Orleans. It averaged $500 a month. Within a year, Lippincott’s monopoly began to collapse.” – Gareth Murphy, Cowboys and Indies

It would seem throughout music history, consumers choose to pay for one song as they want it. I’m sure if they could have come into a music hall and demanded orchestras play just the piece they wanted, they would have.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

The plain truth that all current musicians have to live with now is that we are moving away from recorded music in general as a commodity. Until the late 1880’s the only way to even experience music on demand outside a music event was playing from sheet music, and that had only flourished since the widespread availability of the printing press.

Now, technology has freed music from such primitive constructs as cylinders, wax discs, tapes, and even digital discs. Music is everywhere, on every portable player, phone, tablet, laptop, and other device. It’s even available over the air in every restaurant or store, or on music channels in our cable package.

Just as jukeboxes transformed the first early record business, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Beats, Rhapsody, and others offer users the ability to hear any song any time, and it is rocking the recording business just like it did 150 years ago in it’s infancy.

It’s just music history, repeating.

John Eric Copeland isn’t a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. Be sure to sign up to get this blog when it posts, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkenIn for daily tidbits.