There is an old Jewish curse that simply goes “May you live in ‘interesting’ times”. Other industries, such as musicians, parallel photojournalists in a diminishing market for their talents. We think it’s important to understand that photography is not alone and to look at other industries so we can spot similarities during these “interesting” times. Here are some interesting points from Ed on this subject.
Ed represents a fair number of musicians, singers and performers some of whose names are well known and many remain unknown. Ed’s former partner did nothing but “music law” – he now does other “legal” things as well. So Ed has some experience saying that:
1. Many aspects of the music business are already dead. Live bands at middle class weddings have largely given way to DJs. Office parties have given up on the cost of live music and that include major corporate events.
2. Go to Vegas (and equivalents) and note the diminished number of live bands at the numerous bars and clubs within the hotels at all price points.
3. Neighborhood bars (many because of the smoking bans) eliminated live music to save money, lower costs and push food over liquor because “eaters don’t smoke but drinkers do”.
4. Many high-end charity events, debutante balls and so on were simply canceled in 2008 and 2009 due to the economy and the inability to raise money. Those that booked live musicians reduced the size(s) of those bands to cut costs.
4. The major acts now make money by touring and only a precious few can book sizable arenas. Agents that were booking acts from the ’80s and ’90s for tours at clubs, hotels etc. have gone extinct. Acts that used to book arenas of 10,000 + are lucky to fill 3,500 seat venues.
5. Quincy Jones was right. Save a few super acts and “brands” the economic lives of musicians has materially worsened. Don’t believe me just check with the musician’s union in NYC, Chicago or any other major city. Why pay for a full complement of musicians when people will accept computer tracks and DJs to minimize the number of players needed or even, eliminate them entirely.
6. Money is tight so investing in a performer is or seems like a greater risk than ever – if of course you can find someone with the money. Those who book or sign acts these days don’t take chances. They want one of the relatively few acts who are guaranteed to put some people in the house.
7. If the music scene were in such good shape you would not have seen the veritable explosion in the number of cover bands. Cover bands make music but musicians don’t view them as terribly creative. Do you?
The analogy between photographers and musicians is an apt one. In each instance the customer or “middle man” can use some pre-existing, lesser quality BUT free or cheaper substitute. Neither musicians nor photographers are considered indispensable to or by the population at large. No guitarist is Les Paul, no photographer is Avedon. No one expects that to be the case nor cares very much about it.
PS: An article in Ad Age citing sources, states that 163,400 jobs in advertising have been lost “since the beginning of the recession” and 14,713 jobs have been lost at U.S. newspapers (alone) in 2009 (only). God bless those of you who “remain optimistic”.