Category: Concert Music

An Open Letter to the New Patrons


Recently, a comment was posted here on my blog that I felt needed a response:

     “Bear, No offense, but I’ve been spoiled by itunes. I’ve come to appreciate the ability to purchase a song from an album without having to purchase the whole album. That being said, and again, no offense, but I really have no interest in buying your album to hear one song. I really dig your version of “…Watchtower”, but not enough to go through the hassle of purchasing the whole album online. I have to admit that I would probably like your other music too, but, that’s besides the point, I would love to purchase your version of “All along the Watchtower”, but if it’s not available as a single, you’ll lose my support. I’ll just wait till someone uploads it to a bit torrent site and get it for free. Wouldn’t you rather get paid for your work?”

        I’ve been sent variations on this theme an alarming number of times.  I don’t feel the need to clutter the internet with more diatribes for or against illegal downloading, but at the very least, I’m presenting this open letter to Battlestar Galactica fans, in fact, to anyone who gets their media from the internet…

An Open Letter to the New Patrons

        For centuries, artists have balanced the need to express themselves creatively with the need to sustain their livelihood.  We’re all aware of the cliched starving bohemian artist; its a cliche because its true.  But, even successful composers struggle with this balance daily.  J.S. Bach’s incredibly influential canon of contrapuntal works were originally composed for weekly church services.  Mozart had his royal patron, Emperor Joseph II, and the vast majority of his music was essentially written for pay.  Indeed, were he alive today Wolfgang Amadeus would be writing music for film and television to pay the bills.  Shostakovich wrote Stalin-approved music for the tyrannical Russian state, literally writing for his life.  

        Yet artists today are faced with the ultimate double-edged sword: the internet.  Here is a venue where we can reach an unlimited audience. They are not the passive spectators of film, television and radio.  The internet is a two-way mirror.  We can react to them, learn from them, and see how they react to us.  Our musical ideas can be developed before a global audience, changing and developing in real time.  Composers used to be resigned to letting future history decide their merit, but now we know instantly if our music is connecting with someone… anyone.

        There’s only one problem.  In the digital age, everybody can steal your music.



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