Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Decommodified

If the pop music industry* can't figure out if music is a product or not (see here, for example), then how the heck are serious/art/classical/scare-the-dog-modern music types going to figure it out either? The only strategy I've been able to figure out is to view the work as a service, and not a good, and one that is executed in a gift economy. (In such an economy, there is plenty of exchange, but the goods and services are not predictably, meaningfully, or consistently convertible into the medium of money). This strategy is at least consistent with some other peculiarities — like not doing recordings (in favor of live performances, both public and private), and avoiding work that requires large institutional resources — but, according to a standard once counseled by my father ("rich or poor, it's better to have money"), my model is not functioning particularly well either. A better model is in order.

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* I always have to stop and laugh when I see the words music and industry marching side by side. How much more interesting would 20th century American music history have been had the musician's union been part of the IWW?

1 comment:

Paul H. Muller said...

Maybe we should go back to patronage.

Worked for Hayden. And the church is another musical patron that never entirely left the scene. I am looking forward to the first multi-billion dollar corporation to have its own symphony orchestra and resident composer - probably the last one was NBC in the 1950s.

The most worrisome question might well be this: If creating music cannot support a person full-time, can great music be created by part-time musicians? Is Borodin the 21st century model?