Commercial radio didn't really start gaining public appeal until around 1928 (for the people who could afford one that wasn't home made), but I digress. Gershwin is and was an innovator and hero for popular music. The Paul McCartney of his day. What he says, goes.
I wonder if it's actually real? Lots of silly fake quotes floating around. Did anyone check? If true it illustrative of the same old insiders whining about the infidels.
CD Baby has probably going on 400K albums or more (it says 360,000 but it hasn't been updated in ages).
The ginormous numbers myspace lied.. er I mean claimed were quite suspect, but I'd suspect there's over a million people who think of themselves as musicians or songwriters regardless of their talent. I've personally met over 20,000 musicians and writers and probably 1000 of them were very talented (or 5%). In our awards I think we've had app. 6000 nominees over the years (though many were repeats/same people) so probably around 2000 more people have been nominated at least once which means around 4-5% of our members have been nominated. So perhaps out of 400,000 CD Baby albums 20,000 are outstanding. With app. 125-150,000 more albums released commercially each year (i.e. with bar codes) and only 4% or so selling 1000 copies or more that number keeps coming up. So about 4-5% of the people pursuing music can make really respectable stuff. Another 20% or so can make good stuff. By the time you get to 50%, it's getting pretty weak. So 50% is bad to terrible. But since only a few dozen artists are doing much of anything at any given time along with another few dozen artists and bands who are living off their back catalog, I'd think you couldn't go much deeper than 200 artists making a good living. If the #1 album earlier this year only sold 52K albums, how many did #200 sell? 1000 or less?
The same number of big successes probably were living in 1930 as there are today, with exponentially more people pursuing it. Most of the money made are made by those servicing those pursuing music. Guitar Center does well. So do teachers of music and lessons, studios, and other service providers of all types. It's sort of like golf I guess, like many people have suggested, but most folks don't go in assuming their new clubs will get them into the Masters. Everyone in music is chasing a hit or fame. The numbers, regardless of talent, are not on your side. So I beg people to step back, make music that you are passionate about making, that pleases you, that creates joy and fun in your life. If you do that AND you happen to have talent AND you're willing to put in the often tedious and thankless work that has to be done, and you're willing to get lsaughed at, booed or worst of all, completely ignored along the way, and you persist long enough, shake hands, kiss babies (or babes) you might get one of those few slots. After all, someone will. But for those that don't make it, if you've done it your own way and had fun, is it such a tragedy to not be a commercial success? I say no. There are a lot of types of success in music, and only a tiny % of those successes are big stars. But someone who learns how to fill up the local clubs and sustains that as long as the bug to make music keeps biting them, that's a pretty significant success. Someone who get their ideas and emotions down in their songs, or says something they need to say AND has learned to say it well, is a success. It's not lowering standards either... it's raising them in my opinion. It's living your life, not to make a buck, but to LIVE.
I walked away from a lot of money many times to keep doing what I am doing and I don't regret a thing about it. I worried ZERO about making money and oddly enough, the few times I've really NEEDED money, it's come.. sometimes in expected ways and sometimes when I least expected it. In the meantime, I've met amazing people, some with amazing talent, some with little or no talent but still amazing humans. I've seen a chunk of the western and even a little cold war eastern part of the world (and hope to see a bit more). And most importantly I've been able to help a lot of people and improve their lives in a wide variety of ways, and that means I've changed the world in my timer here in my own way and I believe it's been for the good. It's definitely been good for me. I do find myself missing the excitement of creating new music or finished songs... but I never cared about more than that. The creative smorgasbord, playing music with friends, making something from nothing more than my thoughts and ideas was what gave me joy when it came to music. It seemed like the less I tried or worried about success, the more opportunities presented themselves. Sort of like the solution to money. Sort of like how our music awards always seem to get done even when the task seems beyond impossible. If you put yourself out there, try to do something fun and different and are willing to do it in the face of abuse and criticism, then eventually find people copying after your ideas and approaches when they previously ignored or belittled your efforts, all of that is part of an interesting life. Failure that doesn't kill you becomes the impetus for so many cool things if you are nimble and willing to go with it.
As someone who has good reason to be introspective these days, I sure wish you all could give yourselves the gifts I've given myself and received by others all while working harder than I ever worked before for free.
Then again I guess we should all just give up because George Gershwin and Jay Z said we should. Darn.
Well, And to think I was just thinking this very morning: It's back to the Salt Mines! Do you know, If I'm not mistaken they are still mining salt out of a mine, In Poland, I think, for over 500 years. Now that'll light up your evening!
Are you referring to Hallstatt? That salt mine had an entire historical era named after it when that little salt mine was one of the most important places in the world and it drove "the hallstatt era." Right now we're in the "middle east era" for producing oil, but that will mostly be gone or forgotten one day as will all other era's. But, it doesn't mean they are actually gone.. just means the world has moved on. The world is fickle. Stop worrying about what THEY think and more about how to make YOURSELF feel wonderful by being the best YOU can be and using your unique life gifts (and it may well not be music) to connect with others and change things for the better.
This post is a perfect example of my point. I pour my heart out above in a way I am proud of, and it was 100% ignored by the next 3 posters and anyone else who read it. But I think I'll use a form of it in an upcoming newsletter and send it out to all 50K readers we have. There, I know it will reach some people and make them feel better about doing their own thing and not kissing the ass of the music gatekeepers only to have it slammed in their face and feel like failures when all is said and done. They slam the doors on nearly everyone.. and everyone is not a failure. All those folks will (and have been already) be proven wrong anyway when they miss many people who become huge stars. And when they DO find stars it's really just a self fulfilled prophecy. After all, the labels fail 96% of the time. When you only have to be right 4% of the time and you're called a legendary genius, well that should make you think a bit before you ruin or waste your talents trying to please them.
This post is a perfect example of my point. I pour my heart out above in a way I am proud of, and it was 100% ignored by the next 3 posters and anyone else who read it.
Sorry Brian - I read the first thing you wrote about wondering if the quote was real or not and spent half an hour chasing it down. Good thing I don't pay any attention to anything you write!
Seriously though, I'm sure you realize that how much impact a post has doesn't have much to do with whether people respond or not (though it is, of course, gratifying). I've been surprised a number of times by people who have later commented (either verbally or in a post) about something I said (or posted) and thought nobody heard.
Once I had a student tell me years later that she was inspired by something I said on the last day of class about balancing work and personal life. It actually scared me a little and made me realize that it's a good idea to be a bit careful when saying anything in public...
I probably read every thing you write here - and have taken it pretty seriously. If I don't respond it could be that I can't think of anything worthwhile to add - or it could just mean my wife is calling me to breakfast.
In this particular case, I didn't respond because you were amplifying a philosophy of yours that I was already well aware of from reading your posts over six years - in fact one that has helped validate my musical existence: that it's OK to do something just because it's fun. That, along with the friends I've made, is what keeps me coming back.
This is probably the BEST post i have read in the 5 years i have been on JPF,and Brian,good idea,send it out as a newsletter.To me it totally describes what the meaning of Songwriting is all about,Personal fulfillment,allied to a love of Songwriting,yes it is nice to earn a few bucks with your songs,but if you go into Songwriting,THINKING,i'm gonna make a fortune with my songs,i suggest you think again,because if you do make a buck or two,you probably will have spent more than you made in trying to get to that position,and in any case,speaking for myself,i re-invest the cash on my new ventures,so in reality it is a never ending cycle..$$ can never be the goal..only a lucky reward..But you know,when you mentioned filling your local clubs as a sign of success,it most certainly is,and a BIGGER buzz,people singing along with you to your own songs.I was on stage one night with an old pro-musician friend of mine,he said "the highest compliment any Songwriter can ever have is other people singing your songs"..how right he is,that is the top accolade,,BTW,i could add another one,the "pirates" getting a hold of one of your songs and punting it all over Europe on pirate cd's..that happened with one of my comedy songs a few years back "The Smoking Ban Song",when Scotland banned smoking in public places(1st country in UK to do so)..a sort of costly back-handed compliment,it aint much fun when people tell you they bought it in Spain,or Turkey,or Cyprus,when on holiday,now i know how Elton John feels,lol...Anyway excellent post,enjoyed reading it...Terry..
Brian, I hope you are working on a book about the industry, I have gleened more from you in your posts here than i have from the few books about it I have read.
It reminds me of leadership classes. Pay your money to learn how to be great leaders like the Ted Turners, Bill Gates or Henry Kissingers of the world, and how to be just like them. Unfortunately, your community college class needs leadership for the team at Micky D's, or the salon o' d' coifure down the street. Those guys are way less than 1%, more like .0001% of the population. We need leadership for the other 99.999%. We need songs for them too. The local yokels, or even regional ones like Johns. JMO
oops, I forgot I posted this ! but I'm glad I did, it's very interesting seeing something 80 years old, by one of the great songwriters of all time, sounding like it was written yesterday ! And Scott, thanks for verifying, the whole thing is even better! Brian, I read alot of what you write without responding...I mostly agree with you on everything, and don't have alot to add ! AND you always DO run the risk of saying something wrong and getting blasted by you (I love you, but it's true) ...BUT having said that, I don't see how the quote implies you should give up...? ? I did thoroughly enjoy your response, and your ideas about NOT living life for money have inspired me for years now ! I truly can tell you that it's how I live my life...as long as I can get my bills paid, I'm fine with whatever...life is short...I just wanna enjoy the short time I'm around ! AND I NEVER think about money when it comes to music...just about delivering joy to people as well as I know how !
I'm with Herbie about Gershwin. My first comment about Gershwin was "what he says goes" , but that was only out of respect for one of the first popular music composers in the early days of radio. I still don't know if his quote was geared toward composers, musicians, or both. There were few popular "one man shows" in those days. Mostly orchestra's with interchangeable singers. And I won't dare click Scott's link. I'm afraid of my computer freezing, but thanks for the warning Scott.
Gershwin did perform his music live on the piano from time to time, but mostly sold license's and sheet music, not to mention royalties from radio broadcasts.
It wasn't easy for a composer to have access to a big band or orchestra in 1930. There was a depression going on, so I see a comparison between the era's as moot.
GEORGE GERSHWIN’S FIRST JOB AS PERFORMER WAS A SONG PLUGGER--$15 A WEEK! HE WAS 15 YEARS OLD THEN, HAD BEEN PLAYING 5 YEARS!
A song-plugger was a piano player employed by music stores in the early 20th century to promote and help sell new sheet music... which is how hits were sold before quality recordings were widely available. Typically, the pianist sat on the mezzanine level of a store and played whatever music was sent up to him by the clerk of the store selling the sheet music. Patrons could select any title, have it delivered to the song plugger, and get a preview of the tune before buying it. Musicians and composers who had worked as song pluggers included George Gershwin , Ron Roker, Jerome Kern and Lil Hardin Armstrong. Later, the term was used to describe individuals who would pitch new music to performers, with The New York Times describing such examples as Freddy Bienstock performing a job in which he was "pitching new material to bandleaders and singers".In 1952 Ernest Havemann wrote: There are about 600 song-pluggers in the U.S.; they have their own union; they are powerful enough to bar all outsiders; and they command fees up to $35,000 a year plus unlimited expense accounts. Their job is to persuade the record companies to use songs put out by their publishing houses and the radio station disk jockeys to play the records." Song plugging remains an important part of the industry. Record labels and managers will actively search for songs that their artist can record, release and perform, especially those that don't write their own material. Song plugging is not a science and many companies approach the role differently. Essentially the key objective is to connect songs with record label A&R.
GEORGE PRODUCED QUALITY AND QUANITY MUSIC THROUGHOUT HIS SHORT LIFE--MY FAVORITE IS “SUMMERTIME”. Mackie