Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Guardian on how authors and publishers in the UK are at odds over reports of author pay levels plummeting

a couple of years ago Pullman was sounding off on how professional writers could be set to become an endangered species.

A friend of mine interested in writing once told me that of ALL the writers in the United States who are getting published in any measurable way he'd heard or read that no more than two percent of them are "full time" writers, able to pay their living expenses and medical and so on entirely through the financial compensation they are giving through writing.  If true it's the kind of thing that needs to kept in mind when writers talk about any one percent.  Most writers are probably multi-tasking gigs and in the gig economy the likelihood if keeping your head above water doesn't seem all that hight.

But when I started reading about the history of music in the Baroque era it was interesting to learn that in the early Baroque the people who were innovating were not the musical professionals but amateurs, amateurs with aristocratic and financial stability,, of course, but amateurs in terms of their connection to music in a vocational sense. 

Sometimes I wonder whether the lamentation about the demise of professional literary criticism and the financial viability of the author is something we can think of as a class shift.  Middle class arts may be declining simply because the middle class is going away. But it's hard to forget that over twenty odd years I've read journalists heap some scorn on the dread conformity and philistine nature of the middle class ... almost as though they were not themselves part of that demographic.  But as the middle class has dwindled it seems that artists and journalists are able to e upset at the demise ofa demographic they might often otherwise snort at.

It might be worth pointing out, just to be a bit of a punk on the weekend, that if hip hop is the top selling style o music we may be in a new kind of "Baroque" era in the sense that musical innovation and stylistic change were catalyzed by amateurs back "then" and that a comparable, if not exactly at all identical, shift may be happening now. 

It seems like amateur musical activity birthing blues or even country could suggest that writers have been ensconced enough in pedagogical cultures that they can forget that people will keep writing and making music.  If the patronage castes are becoming different that can still be thought of as a crisis, but it could be that the crisis is that the art-making classes have remained tethered to academia despite the possible bubble or crisis of academia as an economic investment.  The one percent or the top twenty percent that have the ability and the luxury to contribute to the fine art traditions may feel there is a precarious position for them.  For amateurs ... if anything the re-emergence of amateur musical and literary cultures could be a sign that thigns are on a kind of rebound in cultural/artistic terms.

But ... that doesn't mean the cultural rebound is happening in a way that an be easily monetized. 

In music over the last twenty years the advice has been make your money gigging and/or on teaching.  That gets to the academic bubble question, and to Hindemth's scornful remark about how American musical education was directed too much at teachers producing teachers rather than well-rounded musicians.  It also gets to the question of whether or not gigging is really a paying activity.  I don't it can be, obviously, but behind this is the surmise that you won't make money through publishing scores or recordings and you won't necessarily get much exposure apart from touring and teaching.  That's likely the case, which is why I am not sure it's worth the troule of trying to "make it" in the music industry at all if odds are good I'll have to have and keep some kind of day job anyway.

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