The Business of Music

The Business of Music

The Business of Music

The Business of Music

Synopsis

Is business, for music, a regrettable necessity or a spur to creativity? Are there limits to the influence that economic factors can or should exert on the musical imagination and its product? In the eleven essays contained in this book the authors wrestle with these questions from the perspective of their chosen area of research. The range is wide: from 1700 to the present day; from the opera house to the community centre; from composers, performers and pedagogues to managers, publishers and lawyers; from piano miniatures to folk music and pop CDs. If there is a consensus, it is that music serves its own interests best when it harnesses business rather than denying it.

Excerpt

The double meaning of the title for this volume, and for the symposium that preceded it, is of course intended. The first meaning, which one could paraphrase as ‘What music is (or ought to be) about’, contrasts with the second, which is: ‘How music is produced and consumed, bought and sold’. But even if the two meanings are quite different, they are intertwined. No one is so naive as to imagine that the material circumstances of music's existence leave no mark whatever on its character. The important questions are, rather, whether such influences are (or should be) central or marginal and whether, on balance, they are good or bad.

No musical tradition is wholly unanimous about the answers. Where music produced in our own age is concerned, a kind of litmus test is provided by reactions to the description ‘commercial’ and its subtly different pair of antonyms, ‘non-commercial’ and ‘uncommercial’. Within the Western art music tradition, commonly known as classical music, it would usually seem inadvisable, even improper, to apply the term ‘commercial’ to the music itself. Of course, everyone wishes for success (the composer and his or her performers must eat!) and for wide dissemination, even if, unexpectedly, to the vulgus. But in the view of the musicians most intimately involved, this success must appear almost accidental rather than engineered. If the community of practitioners and professional commentators describes a composition as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to its consensual aesthetic and technical standards, this quality remains unaffected by public success or failure and sticks to the work for as long as the experts remain in agreement.

The insulation of the concept of artistic value from survival in the marketplace is perhaps logical for a tradition that prizes durability and, almost uniquely among musical practices, likes to take the long-

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