Saturday, April 06, 2013

Thank a musician week

Update (2021): Many of the links below are now broken.

There's a lot of hand-wringing these days about how the old model of compensating musicians is breaking down under the pressure of file sharing, piracy, and 99-cent downloads, and about how nobody has figured out yet just what new model might arise to replace it. As interesting and important as all that is, it's worth remembering that there are plenty of talented working musicians out there right now trying to make a living, driving themselves from gig to gig and hoping that their next royalty check — assuming there still is one — will help cover their medical bills. If those of us who make up their audience — because we get some kind of joy or consolation or amusement out of what they do — want them to continue doing it, we're going to have to keep supporting them, and that means, one way or another, supporting them financially.

Fortunately, there's still a way of doing that that benefits everybody. You purchase a CD (or a download, if you're so inclined), maybe go to a gig if you have the opportunity, the artist gets some cash and a reason to keep going, and you get some music and the feeling of having done your part.

One thing the musicians in the list that follows have in common (other than demonstrating my shameless musical prejudices) is that most are now either producing and marketing their own music or recording for small boutique labels, which means that if you buy music direct from them there's a chance that a fair portion of your dollar might actually go into their pockets. And although I derive no financial benefit from promoting them, I can't say that I do so entirely for selfless reasons; I promote them because I enjoy what they do and want to make sure that they're able to keep on doing it.

— Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ashes and Roses, available from Bandgarden.
— Lowry Hamner, American Dreaming, available from CD Baby.

— Robyn Hitchcock, Spooked, available from Yep Roc Records.
— Andy Irvine, Abocurragh, available from the artist.

— Leo Johnson, It's About Time, available from CD Baby.
— Freedy Johnston, Rain on the City, available from the artist.

— Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust, available from the artists.
— Kelly Joe Phelps, Brother Sinner and the Whale, available from Black Hen Records.

— Amy Rigby & Wreckless Eric, A Working Museum, available from Amy Rigby.
— Zachary Richard, Le fou, available from the artist.

— Chris Smither, Hundred Dollar Valentine, available from the artist.
— Syd Straw, Pink Velour, available from CD Baby.

— Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest, available from Acony Records.
— Scott Wendholt, Beyond Thursday, available from Double Time Records.

Finally, here are two excellent music documentaries by independent filmmakers:

— Tom Weber, Troubadour Blues, available from Tom Weber.
— Fred Uhter, Wide Awake, available from New Filmmakers Online.


Tororo said...

Thanks for the recommendations! And I fully agree on nobody having figured out yet what "new model" might some day give artists a fair retribution for the works they want to share. In the meantime, old ways should not be disregarded, as you point out.
P. S.: I just noticed you were following my blog! I have no words for saying how happy and proud it made me. Thanks!

Chris said...

My pleasure; thanks for visiting.

Nancy Scott Hanway said...

Love the recommendations. Yes, and the same thing is happening to fiction, don't you think?

Chris said...

It's hard to compare, because many of these musicians are basically making their living as performers at this point, with the CD income adding a little extra. For most writers, "touring" is either not an option or doesn't bring in much income, so they're stuck with having to sell a product to make a living. So from that standpoint writers are even worse off. Plus most of them can't promote their books at live readings.