I just found out that I was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, the non-profit version, which I know is a big honor as it’s such a competitive program, but I can’t help but feel a kind of ambivalence about it, almost a reluctance, no definitely a reluctance, to tell my musical colleagues and fellow lefty liberals that I’ll be doing this.
When I taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music there were several other teachers who had this curious idea that if they learned to read music it would somehow negatively affect their ability to play by ear. I always laughed at that superstition but now I find myself beset by an equally ridiculous superstition: that if I learn more about the business side of running a non-profit it will somehow detract from my creative abilities.
I know this isn’t true, there are countless people who have shown remarkable abilities in creative endeavors and also in more grounded real-world pursuits, (Charles Ives of course comes immediately to mind) but I’m not the only person who thinks this way. It seems to me that most artists just want to pursue their art and hope to find someone who can take care of the promotion, branding, distribution, and yes budget balancing.
As someone whose had to do all of that himself, and hasn’t always been that good at it, (it turns out that there’s more to those things than I have ever given anyone credit for) I now know that not only will this not detract from my art but in some ways it is an intrinsic part of creating art.
For example I’ve been told ever since I started ACM that I have to be careful because I will run the risk of getting to be better known for ACM than as a composer. And now of course with Relevant Tones becoming an internationally syndicated radio show that risk is greater than ever. But here’s the thing. I enjoy running ACM, budgets and all, and I very much enjoy making a weekly radio show about the music I love and I consider both things part of my overall contributions to the world which I call art and which the music I have written and performed is also part of.
Talking to my friend Ben Taylor the other day who is a bass player in a very successful rock band but also does a lot of their management and has come to the guilty realization that he, like me, likes the business side of things too, I said that ignoring my ability to run ACM would be like cutting off one of my arms. And I like both of my arms.
I want to make great music but proliferating ACM storefronts music schools, planning concerts and new music festivals, Sound of Silent Film, our High School Workshop, all of the incredible things we do every day, not to mention Relevant Tones. How could I give that up?
If it means that there will be less music written by the time I’ve died then so be it. The music I’m writing, as good as I think it is, is only part of what I hope to accomplish on this planet. It’s taken me 20 or so years to just embrace the fact that I like the planning side of things, what artists generally refer to as “business,” and that taking something from the idea stage to real life is deeply satisfying for me, whether that’s a piece of music or a new storefront music school or making flow charts to determine how ACM is different from our competitors.
I spent a lot of time in music school and worked very hard to master my craft and I will always write music, don’t really have a choice there. I know I’m entering a new phase of my life by accepting this opportunity but I no longer believe that it will “take over my brain” or make me evil. I believe that it will help me learn to be more effective and to get me that much closer to realizing my goal of creating a more musically literate society.
Of course that could just be the new evil side of me talking. Time will tell!
- Written by: Seth Boustead
- On: September 30, 2013
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