This article on the LitHub website caught my eye We Need To Treat Artists as Workers, not Decorations. In summary, the author challenges the entrenched notion that because artists (and by extension musicians) do what they do for “love”, they are not workers, in the sense of being gainfully employed and receiving a salary or payment, and that discussing art and money in the same breath somehow compromises or trivialises the art. 

We really must get over the romantic idea of the starving artist – or musician – living a bohemian existence in a shabby-chic garret in Hoxton. 2020, the year of the global coronavirus pandemic, has revealed some hard truths about the day to day lives of artists, musicians, and indeed other freelancers, as well as some unpleasant, prejudiced attitudes, particularly from politicians who have inferred that such people, because they love what they do they do, are “not viable” (i.e. they do not contribute sufficiently to society and the economy), should look for employment elsewhere, and do not need proper financial support.

Musicians need to eat. They have bills to pay and families to support. Let’s stop being coy about talking about money in relation to music. This seems to apply particularly in the classical music world (when we talk about “the music business” we are nearly always referring to the world of popular music), where discussions about entrepreneurialism, marketing and business plans are regarded as unbecoming, almost taboo, in a profession which is devoted to sharing some of the highest, most wondrous and sublime creative achievements of mankind with others.

The trouble starts early on. Having observed from the outside, and, briefly, the inside of the conservatoire system in the UK, and having talked to many musicians – students and professionals – and others in the industry, it is quite evident to me that trainee professional musicians are not being equipped to cope with the realities of the working life of a musician. The focus is largely on performance, in a rarefied atmosphere which discourages talk of “career” or “job prospects”, and instead encourages student musicians to believe that they can sustain a life as a performer when they leave college. Few music colleges offer courses on the business side of being a freelance musician; thus, musicians are often naïve about money because they’ve been told it cheapens their “art” to talk about it. It’s a high ideal, and one which is quickly shattered when students enter the real world. 

Add to this a prevailing attitude that because you do something you love you don’t need to be paid for it – nor should you ask for money. For goodness sake, let’s stop telling musicians that unpaid work is “an opportunity” and that they should be grateful for “the exposure”. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills!

When artists assert that they ought to get paid, and paid fairly, it’s because they want to make a living, not a killing. They want enough to keep doing it. Artists are like other professionals who work from a sense of commitment—teachers, social workers—and who opt for satisfaction over wealth. They still have bills to pay. You don’t have to be doing something for the money to want to get money for doing it. You just have to be alive.

William Deresiewicz (author of The Death of the Artist)


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Acclaimed pianist and teacher Andrei Gavrilov has made the following statements about the current state of music education, as he perceives it. You may not agree with everything he says, but I feel he makes some valid points, which is why I am publishing his comments in full here:

Time has come to summarize my impressions about state of music education after four years of master classes all over the world. I had a great time with the international family of young musicians. We were progressing fast and productive when we were working together. Everywhere in the world I was working with talented guys, I had met the same (more or less) obstacles for their artistic development. What are those major mistakes?? What or who is producing the greatest damage to young souls? I will point it very briefly below:

  • Fake authorities, false “examples to follow”, established by music business (which only cares about money) – they are totally misleading, devastating for the young talents
  • No clear idea about the proper tasks of music making
  • No perception about goals and esthetics of Art in general, great lack of general knowledge
  • False view on the musician as a human being “cut off from the rest of the real world”
  • View on music as a separate world – perception of cheap amateurs and mediocre petite bourgeois
  • Lack of courage to take any risk
  • No knowledge and understanding of the total loneliness in serving the art, of the real artist’s path
  • No understanding that performer’s task is not a self-expression but transmission of other spirits
  • No knowledge about Christianity which is the basis of European-Russian culture, music in particular
  • No understanding of the need to study precisely all cultures and folks involved in creation of so called European music
  • No idea about the world of philosophy
  • No idea about different styles, characters of the compositions, national characters of composers, their consciousness, philosophical goals and ideas, religious consciousness and personalities
  • No knowledge about different epochs and the differences between them
  • No understanding in the need for actor-like ability to transform
  • Failure to understand the need for in-depth knowledge of related arts (painting, sculpture, theater, film, literature) etc.
  • Almost zero theoretical knowledge of the composer’s tools
  • No ability of theoretic analysis of any composition
  • No ability to analyze even a simple musical form of compositions – as a result nobody who could be able to touch a single serious composition without destroying it in all senses.

Please feel free to join this debate by leaving your comments below