I gave a talk the other day to 40 or so young musicians who’ve come to study at Music@Menlo, its title being “Your Career and the Troublingly Open Arms of Media.” I’d hoped to give them a few inside tips on making recordings so that they would all become nice and famous. But the problem, I started by telling them, was that these tips would be obsolete by dinnertime.
Sooner or later these performers (8-28 years old) will want to give media a great big hug. But media and technology and the legalities that swirl around them shape-shift every six hours. How to succeed? Here’s one credo and as far as I can see it’s the most reliable one around: more is better. Chris Andersen, Wired Magazine’s editor-in-chief, said recently that musicians have to become “agnostic” about media and create as many ways as possible for the audience to find them; don’t presume ahead of time how people will want to find music. I added that, while musicians and consumers get excited about new technologies, also don’t forget that radio (very solid research says) is still going to be the dominant way for Americans to hear classical music for at least the next five to ten years.
That’s it in a nutshell, though how these musicians execute on that, and in particular make money at it, is a whole semester’s worth of classes. The Menlo kids asked smart questions afterward, but I could tell they’re nervous – reaching for a door they know someday they’ll want to open yet not sure what’ll be behind it.
Talented, passionate kids. How they love this music. I wish I could tell them.