At the three-quarters mark, this has proven to be a very productive year thus far. I’ve organized two concerts, one of which involved multiple cities and ensembles, the other was my first entirely self-produced gig. Both of those also commissioned two new piece, both of which I’m quite proud of. I was re-elected to the governing board of Cascadia Composers for another two years. All of this has caused me to reflect on how one forges one’s path in this artistic medium.
I’m beginning to realize just how many skills I’m going to need to develop in order to keep creating my own opportunities. There’s been a bit of a debate over at NewMusicBox about whether an artist can also be an entrepreneur. I don’t think of myself as much of an entrepreneur, but after working on these concerts I’m beginning to see the benefits of it, especially in an environment with ever-decreasing resources and opportunities. Yes, we’re artists first, but sometimes that’s not enough, especially if you intend to get your work out there and even hope to make some kind of living off it. If you don’t want to be a public artist, then I suppose none of this applies.
One can hire an agent or a label or get signed on to a publishing agency (if you’re lucky enough to be deemed worthy by such agencies) with all their distribution powers, but the cost of that is giving up the rights to your own music for a meager share of the profits. Why should the creator of the work get less than 50% of the benefits? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs, especially in the age of the internet? Why give up the rights to my music when at the push of a button I can send my music anywhere in the world at near light speed?
To forge out on one’s own means you have willing to be very hands-on. Not in the sense of being a control-freak, but rather you must be willing to expand and develop a tool set you might not have thought you needed. To put on a concert involves an incredible number of moving parts and variables and this will force you to be organized, or fail. And in this process you learn lots of other things like how to write contracts and negotiate performance and artist fees, how to book venues, how to publicize and promote your event, how to get sponsors and grants, etc. All of this increases the chances of your music being heard, even if it’s on a small scale. If I didn’t and only focused on my writing, where would my music end up? On my shelf? Maybe on a few home-made recordings? Each of my pieces are my children, and I want them to lead full, independent lives, and to do that you have to find things for them to do, people for them to meet, and places for them to go.
They say if you want something done right that you should do it yourself. If you want your music out there on your terms, you got to get it out there however you can.
Copyright © Jay Derderian, 2014. All Rights Reserved.