Don't Play My Gen's Music Unless You Know How

HipshotPercussion

Senior Member
Your entrance into the forum was a bit of a rocky road, probably because you didn't realize it but you're hitting on a few contentious issues, older guys vs. younger guys, academic vs. unschooled, playing for the audience vs. playing for your own art. Good stuff!! You and Todd will probably get along better when you stop insulting his friends. :)

Enjoy a good Stylistics song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-cNJlB5JS0&feature=related
What a great song. Thanks for that, Dd. And for the heads up.

The issues you mention probably have existed in every art form since the beginning, or, at least, since young guys aged into old guys, artists started teaching, and patrons began, erm, patronizing.

In the TV writing business, I was a plaintiff in an age discrimination lawsuit that was settled in our favor at the end of last year for $70 million. An interesting twist to what I thought was a cut-and-dried battle was that although no one denied that age discrimination exists in that industry, the majority of the younger writers I know saw nothing wrong with it, as in, "You've had your day. How're we going to get a chance unless someone makes you guys step aside?"

The "being schooled" thing also in controversial in TV and film. I've burned out and retired several times. The first time, I went to Santa Fe and began teaching TV writing and production at The College of Santa Fe. The head of the program at the time was very careful to tell me that my job was not to teach students how to create professional level work but "how to appreciate it because we can't let ourselves be seen as a trade school," which I believe would have been quite a disappointment to the students who'd signed on because what they wanted more than anything in life was, of course, to become pros. If they'd known. Fortunately, many became pros anyway.

The creating for yourself versus creating for your audience versus creating for those who pay you if they aren't the audience thing has always been at the heart of show business. As a friend of mine once said, "The best kept secret in show business is that it's a business." During my career I've found very few people who weren't working diligently to undermine/overcome the restraints imposed on their creativity by the people paying the bills. Those pragmatists (or cynics) who went along with the executive/patron as audience thing usually failed because even if they gave those in charge what they said they wanted, their output never got a large enough audience to earn enough money to justify it. Over the years, I've seen time and time again that the biggest hits occur when the artists are doing what they really want, the way they really want it, and - wonder of wonders - their needs and desires are so in sync with the times that a large percentage of the public (my "real audience") watches/listens/buysbuysbuys, making the show/film a hit with huge profits rolling in. It's totally unpredictable, a wonderful conjunction of luck/work/talent/skill, and I love it.

I'd be an idiot if I said that what my employers thought of me didn't matter. Of course it does, if I want to work again. But that doesn't keep me from trying to subvert their usual timidity at every turn. Once upon a time I worked with a then major star who put it this way, "Kid, we're guerrilla fighters. We nod, we smile, and then we sneak in and do whatever it takes to fulfill our dreams. And the best of us make them think it's their idea because the real reward for doing the job well isn't the money it's getting to do it again."
 

con struct

Platinum Member
The creating for yourself versus creating for your audience versus creating for those who pay you if they aren't the audience thing has always been at the heart of show business. As a friend of mine once said, "The best kept secret in show business is that it's a business." During my career I've found very few people who weren't working diligently to undermine/overcome the restraints imposed on their creativity by the people paying the bills. Those pragmatists (or cynics) who went along with the executive/patron as audience thing usually failed because even if they gave those in charge what they said they wanted, their output never got a large enough audience to earn enough money to justify it. Over the years, I've seen time and time again that the biggest hits occur when the artists are doing what they really want, the way they really want it, and - wonder of wonders - their needs and desires are so in sync with the times that a large percentage of the public (my "real audience") watches/listens/buysbuysbuys, making the show/film a hit with huge profits rolling in. It's totally unpredictable, a wonderful conjunction of luck/work/talent/skill, and I love it.

I'd be an idiot if I said that what my employers thought of me didn't matter. Of course it does, if I want to work again. But that doesn't keep me from trying to subvert their usual timidity at every turn. Once upon a time I worked with a then major star who put it this way, "Kid, we're guerrilla fighters. We nod, we smile, and then we sneak in and do whatever it takes to fulfill our dreams. And the best of us make them think it's their idea because the real reward for doing the job well isn't the money it's getting to do it again."
I'm not sure I'm following you. Back when actual musicians were getting calls to do jingles, soundtracks and whatnot you were expected to leave your artistic sensibilities at the door. You were paid to play what was on the chart and get it all in as few takes as possible. Myself, I loved that work. It was all about skill, and to get to play with all those great musicians in those state-of-the-art studios never got old for me. My audience was most definitely the producers and I made them happy. I know that because I kept getting called back.

There were no restraints on the players because creativity was not what we were there for. We were there, as I heard one producer say, to hawk Popeye's fried chicken.

(These days one guy can do it all, strings and everything, in a space the size of a walk-in closet. I did once get a call to do cymbal rolls for Iraq war music for CNN; presumably the composer didn't have a good cymbal roll sample.)

There's a time for art, yes, but there's never not a time for advanced skills and professionalism.
 

HipshotPercussion

Senior Member
I'm not sure I'm following you....There's a time for art, yes, but there's never not a time for advanced skills and professionalism.
Yeah, we're really not following each other at all. Sorry. Different histories, different definitions. I'm struggling to understand but I find myself having to take what you're saying about your career and find parallels in mine...and having trouble with that.

Do you see a basic difference between writing/performing in a commercial and writing/performing in a TV episode or film? Between playing on a jingle for Apple and playing something you've written onstage at a festival? Between creating the copy for an advertisement and writing a short story? Between using a restaurant wall as your canvas and painting what you and, you hope, passersby will love as a mural and painting a wall because someone needs their living room redecorated?

I ask this because I see a basic difference in terms of whom I feel responsible to if I'm doing it. As a house painter I'm totally trying to please the homeowner. S/he is my audience through and through. As a muralist I care about pleasing the restaurant owner only in passing because I need the owner to pay me for, or allow me to do, what I really want, which is to excite/soothe/whatever the people dining there.

Early in my professional life, I subbed drums on a tour by a cult rock band. Anarchy ruled; it was built into the music. Nothing was ever played the same way twice, by any band member. It was up to us to grab all the creativity we could find and throw it out there to the audience and then come up with even more, based on the response they gave back. I loved it.

25 years later, I subbed drums on another tour with a hot singer. The basic rule for each performance was: "Give them exactly what's on the record. No more and no less." No one said, "Don't be creative" What they said was, "The creativity's already there. Just go with it." I felt that I was being forced to yield in every way to the record company, and I hated it.

I'm not saying that the kind of playing I love is "better" or "more important" in any way than the stuff you love playing, just that they're different. And I'm admitting that I could never do what you do.

Am I at least close here? Or should I just give up?
 

con struct

Platinum Member
Do you see a basic difference between writing/performing in a commercial and writing/performing in a TV episode or film? Between playing on a jingle for Apple and playing something you've written onstage at a festival? Between creating the copy for an advertisement and writing a short story? Between using a restaurant wall as your canvas and painting what you and, you hope, passersby will love as a mural and painting a wall because someone needs their living room redecorated?
I've got hardly any experience at all in writing for the industry. I've been a player. It wasn't until about 15 years ago that I started getting serious about writing original music. What little writing I've done for industry applications is just beds, you see, and once a film company used two of my songs in their movie which I don't think was ever released.

I ask this because I see a basic difference in terms of whom I feel responsible to if I'm doing it.

(snip)

I'm not saying that the kind of playing I love is "better" or "more important" in any way than the stuff you love playing, just that they're different. And I'm admitting that I could never do what you do.
What I did. I'm basically retired. And studio work has pretty much died. I was barely in my 20's when I began doing studio and club work and I quickly learned that my goal was to please the guy who was writing the checks. It's been that way for my entire career except for a few "art" projects I got involved in. You have to earn a living, you know, and music is all I really know how to do.

Why couldn't you be a studio drummer? With your experience I'd think you'd know exactly how to nail it.
 

HipshotPercussion

Senior Member
Why couldn't you be a studio drummer? With your experience I'd think you'd know exactly how to nail it.
Thank you for saying this. I consider it a massive compliment.

The studio drummer thing, though, won't work for me for a few reasons (setting aside whether I really am competent enough). The main problem for me is that my experience is limited to back in the day.

When I recorded it was mostly with friends, and by "with" I mean it was a time when the whole band, or at least the rhythm section, was in the studio at the same time, and although we were isolated in various ways we still were hearing each other live, able to inspire and be inspired by each other as we went. I love that interaction as a player, and also as a listener, in that for me jazz and blues swing more (and rock rocks out more) when you mess with the beat a little, with accents varying by being a little ahead or behind it from time to time. Hard to do that when everyone records alone because there's no way for each individual player to adjust. (Hmm, sounds like I'm rationalizing not being able to keep time, doesn't it? Well, if the shoe fits....)

I'm also old and curmudgeonly (yeah, I do know myself) and used to getting my own creative way, and that, as you've sort of pointed out, won't work in a recording situation unless I'm the leader/producer/etc., which I'm not qualified to be. I don't mind failing but prefer to fail because of my own lack of skill/talent/judgment and not because I had to go along with someone else's. I think it's a TV biz overload thing for me. Or I could blame it on my Asperger's.

Living where I now do, I'm no longer in a place where a friend can call me and say, "We need a drummer, quick. C'mon over." Even the Seattle studios are a couple of hours, including a ferry ride, away. (What's that studio in Seattle that's in a castle-like house overlooking the Sound? Anyone recall the name?) But I get to do a lot of jamming. This area is filled with musicians of all ages. Old hippies, young hipsters, you-name-it, come over frequently and I really enjoy jamming with them all.

I'm thinking I need a band. And a nice little blues bar gig a couple of nights a week. Uh-oh, now I'm starting to dream again....
 
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