MUSIC, MONEY & ESSENTIALISM
music • 08.05.10
There are many of us who want to find ways that music-makers can be kept solvent. It’s no easy task though and never was. Revenue from records was historically one way that could be achieved. It was always a long shot however, rewarding only a small minority of successful artists and their commercial overlords.
Technology having eroded the economic value of music recordings is a brutal fact of the current age. Fighting against it using moral arguments is like arguing at the weather. Whatever new ways there might be to finance musicians I imagine income from copies of recorded works will not be one of them. And just to repeat: it never really was. So no change there.
As for those who tell us simply to do great work and the money will follow? Arguments from quality like that make no sense. There is no such thing as quality. It’s a metaphor, a linguistic device for expressing preferences. All such talk is mere essentialism in its most suggestible form.
You learn after a while working in music that tastes are hugely diverse. Some really do prefer a dabbler to a virtuoso. You also learn that 99% of people are indifferent to 99% of music. What any given person likes is a drop in the ocean of what’s available. And tastes are shaped more by social cues than by any “ghost in the machine” that is quality. Before a work goes into the world it exists in a kind of quantum state, neither good nor bad. It’s the cultural context that determines its credibility and its resonance. If it were possible to run music up a measuring stick of quality, art would be a science. That there is no such thing as quality is the beauty of it.
quality is a metaphor