For some reason, the idea that music should be completely separated from money is one that just won’t die within our culture. Some musicians and fans alike hold the belief that music somehow loses its purity once it begins earning someone money. But while that idea is obviously wrong, it’s one that manages to persist and thwart the careers of lots of talented artists. Here’s why all musicians should be invested in making money off of their hard work:
It takes a huge financial investment to become a musician
You might not realize it, but if you’re a musician who releases music and plays shows, you’ve probably already invested thousands of dollars into your musicianship. Instruments, music lessons, and sound equipment are obvious culprits here, but things like the time spent devoted purely to learning an instrument or to writing music should be seen as significant financial investments because this is time you could’ve spent earning money or looking for jobs. Musicians should care about money because it takes money to be a musician.
Music is work
Writing an album isn’t work like litigating a case or constructing a building, but there’s a ton of difficult, tedious work involved in making and performing music. There’s a popular idea in our culture that the music played on streaming platforms, TV commercials, and dance club sound systems just appears out of nowhere. But the truth is that there’s an incredible amount of hard work involved in writing, recording, releasing, promoting, and performing all types of music. No one in their right mind would go into a restaurant, eat an amazing meal, and refuse to pay for it out of principal. Music takes equipment, special skills, and countless hours to shape and create––and that process takes money.
Musicians’ pathy about money devalues music for everyone
The belief that money should be taken out of music discredits not only hard working musicians and songwriters but also an entire industry of people who pay the bills off of the idea that music is important and valuable. If money completely disappeared from the music industry, a hell of a lot less people would be making it. The notion that musicians or artists working in any medium have to either be completely for or against making money is immature and unrealistic. If you’ve worked hard over the years to become a competent musician and to make music that’s meaningful to you, you have every right to want to make a living that way.
But while dogmatic views about money tainting music are problematic, so are ones on the opposite side of the spectrum, especially in a music industry transformed by music streaming. For example, artists who refuse to distribute their music to major music streaming platforms in hopes that people will start buying albums again soon are depriving themselves from huge opportunities to find new listeners. Like in any good song, a meaningful balance of ideas can help musicians figure out how to approach money in music in a healthy way.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.