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music: "Good" vs. "Valuable"


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#31 Newbie Brad

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:56 PM

Objective = cash
Subjective = people
Objective value = cash in pocket
Subjective value = culture



so in the end, VALUE is an 'idea', or a 'feeling', or 'emotion', coming from people ---but it is concretely measured in terms of money....


I think an interesting sophistry is "what is the value of cash?" Another is "what is the value of people?" I like what Stick said about the value of having an artistic vision and a good quality of life regardless of monetary values.
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#32 Sol

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 04:32 PM

I have two things to contribute to this intriguing discussion :whistling:

Firstly, I'd think that, in theory, commercial value and ability of an artist are directly related, because what makes a musician commercially valuable? Their ability to entertain.

However, in today's world, because there's so much availability of music, it starts to all sound the same after a certain point. Thus, people try and differentiate music to make it sound special, and thus, make themselves have unique tastes. Partially because the modern world's youth, whom I believe are those most affected by commercial music, don't have many ways to be individuals, they start to form youth cultures sometimes centered on music. Because of this, it doesn't really matter how good an artist is (though horrible ones usually aren't the most popular), it's that they fit into an acceptable and familiar genre that allows people to go, "I like this because I know it because I like it."

So, in my opinion, this kind of cult of conformity extends to the music world mostly, where more unique and expressive musicians, who are more risky to be promoted by major music companies, have a harder time succeeding simply because of people's preconceived biases.

This is all my opinion, but sit the average person down and ask them who their favorite bands are. More often than not, they're of the same general style and/or are popular because of corporate backing. Or even better yet, play something that's completely contrasting with what they like, such as Jazz, World(I loathe that term, but it's useful for defining non-western music) or Electronica for a Metalhead. Again, more often than not, first reactions aren't very welcoming.

#33 Edward Powell

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 05:24 PM

So, in my opinion, this kind of cult of conformity extends to the music world mostly, where more unique and expressive musicians, who are more risky to be promoted by major music companies, have a harder time succeeding simply because of people's preconceived biases.

This is all my opinion, but sit the average person down and ask them who their favorite bands are. More often than not, they're of the same general style and/or are popular because of corporate backing. Or even better yet, play something that's completely contrasting with what they like, such as Jazz, World(I loathe that term, but it's useful for defining non-western music) or Electronica for a Metalhead. Again, more often than not, first reactions aren't very welcoming.


Believe it or not, I do try not to be a cynical person - because I don't think it is healthy. ...however there is something a bit creepy about these ultra-mega concerts I have sometimes caught a glimpse of on TV. It seems relatively common to have 100,000 people at one of these gigs. I can remember going to rock concerts as a kid, usually 10,000 was considered pretty huge, and even then if you were at the back, you felt pretty removed from the thing (although i remember seeing Jethro Tull, I was right at the back but still it was the best rock concert of my life).

On the other hand, for example, here in Istanbul, you can go to the Cultural Centers and for free see concerts of the best Turkish classical musicians, and usually the hall is empty.

Great posts, Neil, Sol.... thanks! :whistling:
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#34 Paul Shigihara

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 05:54 PM

Bach is, perhaps, the greatest musician in Western music history, little debate there...
yet, in his lifetime, while recognized as a great organist and teacher, he was NOT recognized as a great composer.....

.....I think that the European/American consciousness, overall, is more interested in being entertained, and often just titillated, than in enjoying great art, of any kind. And, I believe that any person who has aspirations of doing something more than being an entertainer had best take that into consideration if they want a career as an artist (and BTW, nothing wrong with entertainment either).

....If someone wants to pursue a particular artistic path, I think it's the devotion to their vision that is the most important thing.
And one can have an interesting and fascinating life without being "famous," or popular with the public at large. In the end run, it's the quality of one's life that is important, and that can take many different forms....Hstick


very well put !!!

but often musicians/artists tend to make the mistake of believing that because they make
'quality' music or are very talented and devoted to their art they are entitled to outward 'success'...
the 'unrecognized genius' syndrome is widespread...

#35 Sol

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:22 PM

So, in my opinion, this kind of cult of conformity extends to the music world mostly, where more unique and expressive musicians, who are more risky to be promoted by major music companies, have a harder time succeeding simply because of people's preconceived biases.

This is all my opinion, but sit the average person down and ask them who their favorite bands are. More often than not, they're of the same general style and/or are popular because of corporate backing. Or even better yet, play something that's completely contrasting with what they like, such as Jazz, World(I loathe that term, but it's useful for defining non-western music) or Electronica for a Metalhead. Again, more often than not, first reactions aren't very welcoming.


Believe it or not, I do try not to be a cynical person - because I don't think it is healthy. ...however there is something a bit creepy about these ultra-mega concerts I have sometimes caught a glimpse of on TV. It seems relatively common to have 100,000 people at one of these gigs. I can remember going to rock concerts as a kid, usually 10,000 was considered pretty huge, and even then if you were at the back, you felt pretty removed from the thing (although i remember seeing Jethro Tull, I was right at the back but still it was the best rock concert of my life).

On the other hand, for example, here in Istanbul, you can go to the Cultural Centers and for free see concerts of the best Turkish classical musicians, and usually the hall is empty.

Great posts, Neil, Sol.... thanks! :whistling:


Haha, I do admit I am a cynic. I'm a quite pragmatic, half-empty type of fellow, and I know I can't change. :ninja:

But the thing is, in light of some of the other comments I just read, some of my favorite artists are not well known. In fact, it seems like some of you guys are separating artistic expression and entertainment, when in fact, I believe artistic expressionism equals entertainment. I listen to music that gives me auditory pleasure, not because of some fancy symbolic intention behind it. When the musician is able to both entertain and give a greater artistic message, then that's even better.

#36 Edward Powell

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:42 PM

Bach is, perhaps, the greatest musician in Western music history, little debate there...
yet, in his lifetime, while recognized as a great organist and teacher, he was NOT recognized as a great composer.....

.....I think that the European/American consciousness, overall, is more interested in being entertained, and often just titillated, than in enjoying great art, of any kind. And, I believe that any person who has aspirations of doing something more than being an entertainer had best take that into consideration if they want a career as an artist (and BTW, nothing wrong with entertainment either).

....If someone wants to pursue a particular artistic path, I think it's the devotion to their vision that is the most important thing.
And one can have an interesting and fascinating life without being "famous," or popular with the public at large. In the end run, it's the quality of one's life that is important, and that can take many different forms....Hstick


very well put !!!

but often musicians/artists tend to make the mistake of believing that because they make
'quality' music or are very talented and devoted to their art they are entitled to outward 'success'...
the 'unrecognized genius' syndrome is widespread...


We in the West are perhaps a bit spoiled... I mean, it is easy to compare one's level of success with the guys who play the 100,000+ Festivals, and then feel pretty small --- but a recent chat with a REALLY cool musician, nadishana.com for whom I am building an instrument similar to my Ragmakamtar... he lives in Berlin and is from Russia. He spent 15 years in Siberia just living on potatoes and making CDs in his cottage. . . he says that the West is a musicians paradise, and he means 'artistic musicians'... his big complaint is that in the West you must be MULTI-TASKING all the time, but other than that it is so great to be able to at least make some money and even have the opportunity to do well. . . .

Another thing. . . I think that in India and China the general population are even more into entertainment than in the West... as much as the situation for art music sucks in the West, in fact it is the best place in world for it --- actually the only place in the world.
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#37 Kai

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:48 PM

Bach is, perhaps, the greatest musician in Western music history, little debate there...
yet, in his lifetime, while recognized as a great organist and teacher, he was NOT recognized as a great composer.....

.....I think that the European/American consciousness, overall, is more interested in being entertained, and often just titillated, than in enjoying great art, of any kind. And, I believe that any person who has aspirations of doing something more than being an entertainer had best take that into consideration if they want a career as an artist (and BTW, nothing wrong with entertainment either).

....If someone wants to pursue a particular artistic path, I think it's the devotion to their vision that is the most important thing.
And one can have an interesting and fascinating life without being "famous," or popular with the public at large. In the end run, it's the quality of one's life that is important, and that can take many different forms....Hstick


very well put !!!

but often musicians/artists tend to make the mistake of believing that because they make
'quality' music or are very talented and devoted to their art they are entitled to outward 'success'...
the 'unrecognized genius' syndrome is widespread...


Which is why I mentioned the attitude :whistling: "Damn ignorant masses! Why can't they love good music the way I do!" :ninja:

Society is the way it is; you're not going to change the indifference that many people have to your values by demanding they change theirs to match yours. "Pay me, you benighted swine! I'm better than you! You should try to have MY good taste!" doesn't go over too well, even if it's only implied.

Appreciation of talent and its remunerative consequences develop slowly, evolutionarily in any society. (Van Gogh dying poor? Bach just making a living?) On the other hand, hype and the kind of fame derived from it come and go rather quickly.
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#38 Guest_Stick man_*

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 04:29 AM

So, are we in agreement that white folks are cheese dicks? Hstick

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#39 gazmungus

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 07:16 AM

So, are we in agreement that white folks are cheese dicks? Hstick

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Aye! except me that is!

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#40 Edward Powell

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 07:40 AM

So, are we in agreement that white folks are cheese dicks? Hstick

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actually it has nothing to do with skin colour... go to any part of the world and you see the same tendency. In fact, there are the most concrete opportunities for artists IN the West. [and of course the most opportunies for crap - - - there are just simpy more opportunites PERIOD :whistling: ]
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#41 wjjones

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 07:50 AM

Appreciation of talent and its remunerative consequences develop slowly, evolutionarily in any society. (Van Gogh dying poor? Bach just making a living?) On the other hand, hype and the kind of fame derived from it come and go rather quickly.


I rarely have the time to get heavily into forum discussions anymore, but I'll weigh in on this issue.

Van Gogh died poor for a variety of reasons, not the least of which he was somewhat of a kook and really didn't have the mental tools to exploit his own resources or abilities effectively. Conversely, a guy like Picasso did just that and lived extremely well, selling even crap for large sums of money.

Let me say that I'm not a fan of either artist or of much modern art in general, for that matter. I've been much more edified by studying the older masters, many of whom lived well during their careers. Make no mistake, a lot of these masters were geniuses, but they were commissioned whores doing the bidding of their political or ecumenical benefactors. Do we honestly think they CHOSE to do portraits of obnoxiously wealthy clerics and aristocrats for purely artistic reasons?

Contemporary art whores like commercial sculptors and illustrators value and study the skills of the old masters and many - just like the working studio musicians who can play whatever chart is placed in front of them on demand - do okay. It's hard work, but it's what I like doing. Calling it work is actually a bit deceptive.

I don't want to be famous, because that's a double-edged sword, but I do want to continue making a living as an artist. Most people don't even realize that we commercial artists exist on anything but an imaginary plane, but we conceive, design, and illustrate or sculpt for money nearly everything you people look at or use daily, without you even knowing our names. :)

And hype may cause most of pop commercial culture to pass quickly, but that's exactly one of the devices we use to help us catalog and define our past. Valuable? Absolutely, whether it's good or bad. Look at how blurry the lines are between past centuries, then consider how sharp the divisions are between the past few decades of rapid culture and style change. Though I can loathe some of it and scoff at its fleeting fame, I can't deny the part it played in our cultural evolution.

#42 Kai

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 05:47 PM

Really good points! I stand corrected or at least clarified - I don't want to imply that there aren't other factors involved in an artist's success (the "single cause" logical fallacy), so that Van Gogh's or Bach's level of success could be facilely attributed only to some uniform lag in societal appreciation.

I want only to emphasize (like Paul, I think) that complaining about a dissonance between one's own tastes and that of large social groups, and drawing a conclusion that one deserves to be paid nonetheless - that one's internal sense of "value" should automatically translate to an external social correlate, is deeply silly from a practical standpoint, first of all, and philosophically suspect as well.

It'd be nice if I was paid well for my musical work, and I do think (subjectively) it's worthy of it, but I don't expect or demand it. The degree to which I might be paid for it is a function of my own efforts to make others aware of its existence (I do very little of that, so I don't complain, for that reason alone), the degree to which that effort succeeds, the availability to me of mechanisms for this promotional and sales effort, the size of the potential receptive audience already predisposed to pay for stuff like mine, and the degree to which they actually could and would pay. (Note I don't say "should", except in the limited sense that if I offer it for sale, it should not be pirated. But not "it's available so it's your moral duty to buy it if you like it!")

For me to tilt at windmills by trying to convert people who aren't already predisposed to like my stuff, who have come to their own independent (or culturally dependent, for sure) tastes through long processes which in all likelihood predate my efforts and even my existence in some cases, would be futile. (I may think they're idiots for loving Brittany Spears, but why waste time trying to convert them?) Which is not to say that a process of educating musical tastes isn't possible, just that it's slow and riddled with subjective judgments. I can dislike or even despise certain musical tastes, but I think I also have an ethical duty to be patient with the people who have them, and to acknowledge my own fallibility, even if I ultimately decide I'm right. The self-righteousness of a lot of "high art" artists annoys me. (I once shared a house with an artist couple who were really full of that.)

On another note, I do wish that commercial artists, especially those who are involved in product design & industrial design in general, could have their names associated with their creations, rather than being anonymously subsumed under the corporate brand or whatever. Sure, they're usually part of a team, but if the splash screen that pops up when you launch Photoshop can list all (or at least some of?) those who worked on it, why not other creations as well? If Jonathan Ive can receive recognition for his work on various iconic Apple products, why not other artists? As many folks here know, I once did tech support at an ad agency, and it bothered me that the graphic artists there received little recognition compared to the creative directors, especially since many of them were the real sources of visual ideas. In film production, the composers get credit... (etc., etc.)
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#43 wjjones

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 06:41 PM

And I'll see your good points and raise you a couple more, Kai.

Britney Spears' music. Okay, I can criticize it for being commercial, unoriginal, and derivative and wish a certain torturous death upon anyone who buys her cd. BUT, I have to be careful that I'm actually on solid philosophical grounds if I do so. More than once - okay, hundreds of times - I've been properly handed my hat or served crow, so I try not to be too judgemental, lest I find out that I was wrong all along. At least, I try to base my philosophies upon positive statements about things I like or approve of, rather than negative statements about what I do not. In other words, I try hard not to define myself by my dislikes. I define myself by my likes and give others the opportunity to do likewise. I know you know what I mean, so I'm not debating. Just clarifying where I stand on issues that are largely dependent on subjectivity.

I have some pretty quirky tastes (not Britney Spears) that a number of my peers think specious. Raised in rural Missouri, there are certain country songs that - to me - are as pure as the driven snow. I'm primarily a jazzer, so even my jazz tastes get frequently criticized by artistic folks who find jazz inaccessible. I just can't live with the ideology anymore that someday, they'll be the ones who evolve "up" to my tastes. There's more historical evidence to suggest that I'll evolve sideways.

As far as recognition for commercial work, like I mentioned earlier, fame is a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, we live in a highly judgemental society. If I'm doing a commercial gig that pays the bills but is somehow judged by the elitists to be pedestrian or "low", I don't necessarily want my name associated publicly with the product which might keep me from getting a good gallery representation or "validity" as a fine artist. Know what I mean? Say I sculpted a Britney Spears figure, for instance... :)

Sometimes it's a paradox and better to just bank the check and move on quietly to the next gig. There are companies out there who do give credit right on the packaging, though, and I've always appreciated it, because it lets me actually prove that I do indeed exist. I've also asked companies not to give me credit. Kind of an Allen Smythee sort of thing.

This year, I'm producing more guitars under my own name than I've done commercial gigs, mostly for the purpose of developing my own brand in a way *I* want to develop it. For years, I've been part of the product development talentpool that's helped a number of businesses succeed and I figured it was time I did that for myself, before time got away from me.

And while I still had some remnant of pride. :(

#44 Edward Powell

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 08:22 PM

on the topic of 'educating' the 'uncultured masses' - - - well, of course this is incredibly subjective, and therefore we must never push our tastes on others. However if we deeply feel that someone 'near' us might benefit from a more 'enlightened' (according to us) view, I think there are ways to do it.

For example, I will always thank my father for his very openminded and diplomatic way of teaching me what he thought of as 'high quality' music. In the beginning he used my enthusiasm for Rock music to simply get me playing. At that time 11 years old, I was continuously playing my tennis raquet to Kiss and BTO. He deeply encouraged me to play Rock guitar, but never once made any qualitative remark regarding that music. Never said it was good, never implied that it was bad. Always paid for guitar lessons and bought me good instruments. Over the years he got me to sit down with him to listen to Coltrane and the likes. . . and gentle comments like 'you know, finally acoustic music is really the best because it is the most real'. . . of course had an effect on me without causing me to lose self-esteem for playing ear-bleeding metal. ---eventually, and naturally I found myself adopting his tastes - but if he had judged my musical tastes and forces his on me, I would rejected them as a rebellion.
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#45 Kai

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 10:18 PM

At that time 11 years old, I was continuously playing my tennis raquet to Kiss and BTO.


:lol: "takin' care of biznis!" ....or not.... :( :)

(Sorry, all out of pithy commentary at the mo')

Actually - while I think few folks explicitly try to impose their (superior) tastes on others, often the attitude is all too apparent, even in the absence of any commentary. Your dad sounds like one of the exceptions and someone who personifies the patience I mentioned.

But I gotta say I don't agree with the categorical statement that "...acoustic music is really the best because it is the most real'. What does "real" mean here? As I've said before, the sound waves coming out of a speaker cone are as real as any others. (And people hear most acoustic music through speakers now anyway, though of course there are some ensembles and orchestras that still play without any amplification.) Electric and electronic instruments are relatively new but I don't think they're inherently any less subtle in their expressive potential than acoustic ones. A harpsichord is all acoustic but it isn't capable of volume nuance. It's mechanically binary for that parameter. I'd rather play a sample of one that gives me the 0-127 MIDI velocity range. An actual piano is a bitch to tune, but with software I can tune a quality sampled one to anything I want. Sure, they're not "true to the original", but I don't care. If the sound is beautiful (by my idiosyncratic standards, yes, but all such standards are subjective), I'm happy.
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