Being a professional musician is hard work – it always has been – but in a volatile and ever-shifting music industry, more is required of successful musicians than ever.
Whether they’re holed up in home studios, recording and mixing their own music, booking gigs and tours, creating poster art, balancing the books or trying to secure press coverage and distribution, the life of the modern musician is increasingly one of huge multi-task, do-it-yourself workloads.
When residencies, record deals and teaching placements fail to come through or come off, musicians often become entrepreneurs and create their own work.
It isn’t enough to just have the voice, talent or songwriting skill to make great music – today, more and more musicians operate like the self-employed bosses of small, business firms.
When it comes to a DIY ethos and self-organising musicians, the conversation is usually steered towards popular artists and underground music moguls.
Over in New York however, a group of classically trained musicians have banded together to form a collective.
The Declassified is a group of 46 highly talented, professional musicians formed, fresh out of one of the most prestigious music colleges in the world.
With limited orchestra spaces available to them upon completion of their studies, the group decided to organise and book themselves in for musical performances, taking on short teaching placements, hosting masterclasses and establishing residencies at universities and conservatories.
Bassoonist and group member Seth Baer told the New York Times: “This is an organised effort at entrepreneurship. It’s not quite a commune, but it’s very communal.”
The group is made up entirely of recent graduates from the Academy – the two-year fellowship programme run by Carnegie Hall, the Julliard School and the Weill Music Institute.
During the programme, the students, were given lessons in how to effectively become classical musician entrepreneurs, ready to make the most of the opportunities and chances available to them by directly taking control of their career.
After graduating, the alumni chose to continue as a group exploring their new-found entrepreneurialism, and they still maintain a link with the Academy programme.
The Declassified receive some residency work from Carnegie on the understanding that they take on future alumni.
Whilst the musicians organise their own events and book concerts, including a festival in Iceland, they aren’t entirely self sufficient.
Relying on specialist friends, the group are helped by a friendly lawyer friendly who has been assisting them in filing for a non-profit status, whilst four New York University business students are helping to create a formalised business plan, as well as providing free advice on marketing, fund-raising and an administrative structure. It has been reported that this all forms part of their own degree coursework.
Whilst The Declassified clearly have a long way to go before they reach the DIY commitment of Ian MacKaye and his Dischord label, the group’s entrepreneurialspirit will hopefully stand them in good stead as the industry continues to twist and turn with the digital age.
What do you think?
Do you need to be a talented business person as well a musician to succeed in the modern day?
Are musicians being hampered creatively by their newfound commitments and duties?