Newspapers

Yesterday on the radio, I heard an inspiring conversation about local news coverage, journalism, and democracy. Newspapers were a big part of the conversation.

A little backstory: After Hurricane Katrina, our neighborhood lost our curbside recycling service. Not long after that, I cancelled my newspaper subscription. I was not reading it very often, and since we couldn’t recycle it, I had some tree guilt.

The radio show yesterday made me rethink my newspaper situation. We have curbside recycling again, and I feel like I should aim to be a better informed citizen, so I decided to investigate getting a newspaper subscription. In the time since I cancelled my Times-Picayune subscription, the T-P has gone from a daily to publishing a hard copy only three days a week, and The Advocate has come into the New Orleans market.

I went to the T-P site first. Apparently you have to give all of your personal info and start a website account to find out how much a subscription costs. If the information is there otherwise, it was not easy to find. So I went to The Advocate’s website. They had a page with links to “See Prices.” That link opened a popup in which you enter your zip code, and click the “See Prices” button, and…nothing happens.

I possibly would have subscribed to both papers this morning, ended up with neither. Have they given up on this side of their business? Should I give up too and just commit to paying more attention to local web news?

My thoughts on Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million

A note to the apparent morons who run the state in which I live: I WILL PAY MORE TAXES TO SUPPORT HIGHER EDUCATION!!!!!!!!!

The nature of Louisiana’s backwards legal system makes much of the state’s budget protected and very hard to adjust, except for higher education, which is easy for the legislature to cut. Our governor, who pays lip service to a religion that is supposed to be based on helping the poor and caring for our fellow humans, refuses to allow taxes to be raised for any productive reason. I think he (and his fellow lawmakers of similar political ideology) does this not out of a sense that it is really the right thing to do, but out of a loyalty to a political party that places money above all else, and even then, really just the money of people who already have a lot of it. The lawmakers of Louisiana, led by our governor, are cowards, who are afraid of the dogmatists of their own party, to the point that they will do nothing to help the people of our state in any way.

I actually voted for Jindal. I thought he was a smart man, and he made me believe that he would use that intelligence to run our state well. I did not realize at the time that his political aspirations would out weigh all other considerations to the point that he would be incapable of straying one millimeter from republican dogma, even if it is the best thing for our state.

I got both of my graduate degrees from state schools (the University of New Orleans for my M.M., and Louisiana State University for my Ph.D.). The system worked well for me. These degrees helped me learn many things, and led to me getting a great teaching job and staying in our state. I can now afford to pay more in taxes, and I would love to do that if that is what is needed to keep our higher education system alive.

One more note to our lawmakers: PLEASE LET GO OF YOUR POLITICAL DOGMA AND USE THE BRAINS THAT GOD GAVE YOU TO MAKE DECISIONS WITH THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR STATE IN MIND!

This nola.com article offers a good perspective on the amount of the cuts that are being envisioned.

Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million, putting it into perspective | NOLA.com

$139.00 eBook. Really?

I am on a number of email lists focused on subjects related to music technology. Today a member of one of those lists sent an announcement of her newly published book. The title sounded interesting, so I followed the link to her website, with the idea that I would likely purchase the book, until I saw the prices. The hardcover version is $170 US. The eBook, yes, eBook is $139 US. “How is this rationalized?” was my next thought. Who would pay that?

Then it hit me. Regular people don’t buy these books. Libraries or institutions may buy them. Sometimes students are forced to buy them under the duress of it being a required text for a class. In all of these instances, there is a layer of financial bureaucracy between the user and the book publisher. Even in the case of students, it is often student loan money or some other financial aid that buys their text books, so it doesn’t feel like “real” money.

This is similar in principle to the way healthcare costs have risen because there is a layer of “insurance” companies between the providers and the patients. There are financial transactions between doctors and insurance companies, and between insurance companies and patients, so the cost of each individual transaction gets obfuscated by the layers of financial (insert expletive here) between the doctors and patients. The patients don’t pay directly for the services, so they don’t get outraged at how much it costs.

Similarly, if my university library is paying some outrageous sum of money every year for access to online journal databases, but my colleagues and I are the ones using the databases, no one is in a position to get mad about the cost. The users don’t see the cost, and for the folks who pay the bills, it is just another bill to pay. It’s like financial three card monty. Just keep things confusing enough so that no one notices or thinks about it.

It seems like a very inefficient system for the outsides of the system, and very lucrative one for those who create the layers of obfuscation in the middle.

Why do we let this happen? Is it because we need a super expensive publisher to legitimize our writings to the tenure committee? There has to be a better way.

If that book had been $40, this post wouldn’t have happened, that publisher would have 40 of my dollars, and I would be waiting for what seems to be an interesting book to arrive in my mailbox.

Where does the money come from?

Warning: This post has more questions than answers, because we can’t find the answers until we ask the RIGHT questions.

In recent weeks I have read the complaints of a number of people about the amounts of money that performers are paid in “creative music” situations. I know that I could spend an entire book weeding out meaning from the term “creative music,” so let me just clarify that I mean art music that is outside of the economic mainstream.

One of the people who inspired this post simply thinks that the musicians should “make” the clubs sign a union contract and pay a good wage. If music is part of the club’s business model, in the way that a band on Bourbon St. is there mostly to make the party happen, and making the party happen is how the club makes money, then I agree. The market sets a price for beer, and it should also set a price for the band. Both the beer and the band are part of the formula that the club uses to make money. We should also note, that in these situations, the band plays what the club wants them to play. These are craftsman musicians who are hired to provide a service for an employer. The club takes the risk, the band simply provides a service.

This isn’t really the situation I am thinking about.

What about a situation in which I (the hypothetical artist) have a band and some new music, and we want a place to play this music. This is original music, and it isn’t particularly mainstream. My goal is to find a place to present this music, and in doing so build an audience, and make some money.

Some venues pride themselves on presenting new music. It is part of their business model. Let’s take a “best case scenario” for the artist version of this situation, and assume that our hypothetical venue is dedicated to presenting new music. For our little thought experiment here, the genre of this new music isn’t really important, we just have to stipulate that the new music is made by an artist who is not yet well known.

Where does the money come from?

One version of the “unknown band” plan is to offer free entrance to entice more people in to hear the music. I won’t go into my arguments about why it is a bad idea to present yourself with the implication that your performance has no value. If there is no cover charge, then all of the band’s money must come from the bar. Giving the band 20% of the bar ring is on the generous side of standard. If 50 people come to your gig, and each of them has three drinks, and the drinks average $7 each, then the bar ring is $1,050. 20% of that bar ring is $210.

The cover charge scenario is the other way to go. With a $5 cover that goes entirely to the band (which can be rare), those same 50 people generate $250 for the band. Now, will there still be 50 people there with a $5 cover? Probably a question for another post.

Based on these numbers, when you get to audiences of 200 or so, you get to numbers that can support budget style touring (a van and couches). As cover charges can go up, the numbers change. The math isn’t difficult. The point is that the money for the band either comes directly from the audience (cover charge/ticket sales) or indirectly from the audience (percentage of bar sales). No matter how you look at it, audience size is the determining factor in terms of available money for the artists.

Who is responsible for bringing the audience? That may be another post.

The point is when there are 50 people in the audience to hear my great new music for the first time, and the band makes a total of $300, then we did a pretty good job of converting audience into dollars.

$300 a night for an entire band is not a living wage.

This raises more questions. Am I entitled to a living wage from my art? Do I make art as a financial sustenance or just for psychic sustenance? Do we, as audience members, have a moral obligation to financially support the artists whose work we enjoy? Do we, as artists, have a moral obligation to freely share our art with the world? Are there other places to find money besides the bar and the door? (I consider merchandise sales to be a separate income stream from the performance fee.)

The answers to the above questions can inform our search for answers about how to increase the amount of money performers make for live performances.

Faculty position in Music Industry Studies at Loyola University New Orleans

We are hiring a faculty member to teach music industry related internet technologies at Loyola University New Orleans.

Primary responsibilities include teaching in the areas of Internet technologies and web development within the context of Music Industry Studies. Must be able to teach usage of HTML 5, CSS, and PHP or other dynamic languages. Emphasis on marketing using social media and other platforms required. Secondary duties may include teaching in other areas of music industry technology including smartphone/tablet apps, new approaches to content delivery, and related areas of expertise, potential for the development of distance learning programs, work in a collaborative manner and fulfill various roles in college and university activities, serve as an academic advisor and mentor to students, assist with departmental websites and student workers, and other duties as assigned.

Other specifics can be found here: http://finance.loyno.edu/human-resources/faculty-employment-opportunities. The full consideration date is June 15, 2013 and the gig starts in August. If you or someone you know want to live in New Orleans and teach aspiring young musicians and entrepreneurs, in a setting with a good bunch of colleagues, please apply. I’d be happy to answer any questions as well.

A Simple Reason Why Audiences Are So Small For New Music Concerts « Elissa Milne

This is really good. There is deep insight here into how and why audiences exist, and my experience with the Open Ears Music Series affirms these ideas. Click the link to read the whole thing.

A Simple Reason Why Audiences Are So Small For New Music Concerts « Elissa Milne:

“Live concerts (or any live events) are built on a fan-base, so if you have no fans you have a limited chance of attracting an audience. This holds true for a pub band as much as it does for a purveyor of experimental sound art. Any performer needs to build an audience if they want to have an audience.

Now I do appreciate that there has been an aesthetic of writing with no thought for connection with listeners, but seriously people, if you write with no consideration of how you are building your audience you can hardly be surprised when you don’t have one.

And yeah, it’s your audience. It’s not the audience for ‘new music’ or ‘experimental music’ or ‘art music’. It’s the group of people in your neighbourhood, community, workplace, internet forums, facebook groups and twitterfeed who are interested in what you do. That’s what an audience is: it’s a bunch of people who care about your work so much that they want to participate. By being there. By being close to the action. By giving you money so you’ll keep doing what you do.”

(Via @pbailey.)

‘It Can’t Be Done': The Difficulty Of Growing A Jazz Audience : A Blog Supreme : NPR

I disdain the use of the word “Jazz” as a reference to a monolithic cabal with a singular focus, but the article linked below contains some noteworthy insights, in spite of that J word usage.

‘It Can’t Be Done': The Difficulty Of Growing A Jazz Audience : A Blog Supreme : NPR: “Jazz simply needs to continue doing what made it great in the first place: engage with popular culture in an intelligent, nuanced and sophisticated manner, as some successful groups are doing today. If there is any hope of audience building, this is where it lies. It must be organic, visceral and culturally relevant, qualities which cannot be consciously conjured by an audience development committee.”

(Via @tedgioia.)

Search & Restore New Orleans

Some of you are probably familiar with the NYC based organization called Search and Restore. It is run by a tireless man named Adam Schatz. Well, Adam is bringing his ever-excited craziness to New Orleans via a three night festival in New Orleans on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Jazz Fest.

Search And Restore: New Orleans is a 3 day festival (April 30th-May 2) celebrating the incredible new jazz musicians, creative composers and improvisers operating in New Orleans today, organized by Adam Schatz (founder of Search & Restore), Justin Peake (founder of the Merged series @ the Dragon’s Den) and Jeff Albert (founder of the Open Ears series @ the Blue Nile)

There is a Kickstarter campaign in place. I know I am always curious about how the Kickstarter money will be used. Your donations will help us guarantee a fair fee for every musician performing in the festival, with equal pay going to every artist in an effort to truly value the work. This financial security will allow us to go above and beyond with promoting the event, so that we can expose bigger and newer audiences to this vital community, and we hope you will be a part of it too!

Please pledge at the $600 level. It is the only way my wife will let me have my favorite summer hair style…

The Jazz Session podcast needs (your?) support

Wow, two posts in row pointing out friends who are asking for money. I guess such is the world in which we live. The truth of the matter is that the old system of media/entertainment/art/whatever is dying. It no longer does any sort of good job at producing interesting and fulfilling material. The job of producing good stuff has fallen to the artists themselves, and other people who are personally vested in quality. That is why we have artists making and funding their own records now, and that is why some of our best music journalism is done by independent bloggers and podcasters.

This stuff has to be paid for in one way or another. With artists making CDs, the answer is fairly easy: buy their CDs. Jason Crane, who produces the fabulous music interview podcast called The Jazz Session, has adopted a somewhat public radio style way of trying to make his show economically feasible. He is seeking members, people who will make an ongoing commitment to financially support the show. We do these things (produce podcasts, run music series, etc) because we love to do them, but it does cost money to make them happen. Sometimes we can subsidize it from our personal lives, and sometimes we have to ask the people who enjoy this work to step up and help pay for it.

I love Jason’s show. I listen to it regularly and have learned a lot from the interviews. Jason has a wide ranging aesthetic and does a great job of giving exposure and forum to artists whose work falls left of the mainstream. I am a member.

I would recommend that you go to the website and listen to a show or two. There is a long list of artists from which to choose. I particularly enjoyed the Ken Filiano and David Weiss interviews. If you like what you hear and feel it deserves your support, you can join here: http://thejazzsession.com/join/

The show needs about 15 more members by the end of Thursday August 11 for it to continue.