Musicians, writers, art and money

Are there any good musicians that are also music writers? I know there are some. Greg Osby does interviews for Downbeat, and D.D. Jackson writes his column for DB. Ethan Iverson even does reviews in that same magazine. I’ve also heard stories from a variety of sources about critics (who will remain anonymous here) and their awful bands or performances. Does being a music writer tarnish one’s reputation as a musician? Does being a musicians tarnish or enhance one’s reputation as a writer? Does getting paid as a writer factor into these questions at all?

I recently heard someone talking about the jazz scene that is developing in Brooklyn. They were talking about some of the places that are having interesting new music, and it was agreed that this was a good thing, but it was also said that the clubs were simply allowing the music, not really supporting it. They would let the bands play, and put out a tip jar, and maybe give them a small cut of the bar, but they weren’t really taking any risk on the music.

Is that bad? Far and away the most adventurous, and arguably the best music I have ever heard in a club setting has been in places that didn’t have a whole lot of risk tied up in the music. If your business’ survival is dependent on your music revenue, you will program conservatively, because your business life depends on it. If your business depends on selling beer to locals between 5 and 10 pm, then you are free to do whatever you like with the music after 10 pm. These are the places that can have really great music scenes, because it is about the music, not the business.

Why do jazz musicians expect to get paid anyway? I mean when we are unknowns getting our stuff together? Classical music composers pretty much know that they will have to teach or something to make a living, because it will be rare that they get paid to compose. Same goes for poets and visual artists, and pretty much any other type of artist. I’m not saying that no artist gets paid, and I am definitely not saying that we don’t deserve to get paid, we do deserve it. But, do we deserve to get paid more than the guy who runs the club? More than the bartender? If there are 15 people in the bar, should we expect to get a couple of hundred dollars for the band?

I’m not sure how all of this is related, other than it is what is on my mind today.