Western music has historically depended on patronage for artistic creation. The Catholic Church, kings and queens, presidents, the wealthy, and even educational institutions have previously played an important role as patron to the arts.
With the current crashing economy, in the United States at least, where supporting the arts is considered political suicide by some, musicians have had to depend on public institutions like the university or secondary education to receive any sort of funding and support. However, with schools and universities dooming arts education to oblivion by cutting budgets by enormous percentages, where can the professional musician turn? Who will fund the arts in the 21st century?
The answer is not a who, but a what: the Internet.
The Internet provides professional musicians with literally thousands of unique opportunities for performance, teaching, writing, and publishing that no longer exist because of traditional music industry practices. All a professional musician needs is a fast internet connection, a convincing multimedia website, and time to network.
Do you want to reach thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of eager classical music fans with your new solo album? Don’t waste your money on an agent and a record company unless you are “pop” enough to be “popular” to the masses. Instead, you can record and publish your album, sell it through dozens of reputable music distribution sites, market through social networking sites, and even set up live gigs with online contacts. What is even more phenomenal is that you can accomplish all of this for about $100.
In the last year alone, networking through the internet has given me the opportunity to design a music course for an online university, write hundreds of articles for various websites, compose a music theory album, and teach a virtual music history course. Next up is a filmscore for an independent film, another hundred articles, an opera, and possibly three more albums. My other music micro-businesses include a line of music-themed clothing, several children’s books for the Kindle, and royalty-free library albums for indie filmmakers and video game developers.
Managing all of these business ventures takes a significant amount of time. As a full time mom and musician, I have to balance my worklife with my homelife, and not always successfully. My supportive spouse gives me time for my creative outlets when my rambunctious toddler does not. Add to the equation that we share a single car and live in a musically dearth area of the country.
Why do I think this is important? Because too many musicians have convinced themselves that if they cannot perform in a professional orchestra, get a record deal, become a tenure-track professor, or become a highly-paid music director that they need to throw in the towel. What’s worse is that many of these classical musicians convince their students that the arts are dying, when the opposite is true. The arts are thriving, yes, thriving despite economic disaster.
I encourage you to create a snazzy free website on WordPress, to start a music blog on Blogger, to post a video of your last concert on Youtube and UStream, to self-publish a book or two for the Kindle or on Scribd.com, connect with musicians halfway across the globe on OurStage, to twitter away, and take advantage of our new patroness’s generosity.