A response to David Crosby: Owritten by creative director/writer/producer/musician James Gadon
While browsing this Instagram rabbit hole mid-afternoon, I came across a post from American Songwriter Magazine. The headline read: “David Crosby’s Advice to Young Artists: Don’t Become a Musician.” It triggered me, sort of. While you understand Crosby’s frustration with how streamers have made it almost impossible for most songwriters, musicians and producers to rely on any type of income, I can’t say I agree with the caption message. In fact, I think the opposite.
I think young people should pursue music now more than ever. And to clarify, it’s not from a wealthy musician. I’m writing from the perspective of someone who is currently grinding it myself. But we need musicians! Real live human musicians, not stock music created by algorithms and robots. We need musicians just as we need actors, singers, painters, poets, writers and dancers. I know a lot of people think there is an excessive amount of content available these days. And of course, it’s easy for the consumer to be overwhelmed with choice in the digital age, especially when anyone can drop a song. But I’d rather see people follow their passions than throw in the towel because it’s hard to make a living as an artist.
The world is suffering. Countries are attacked. Companies continue to merge for endless results and the world is controlled by a few (even though our individual choices can make a bigger difference than we realize). We don’t need another corporate CEO who doesn’t care about the environment or a disgruntled employee who disappears around the office, in and out until he can say, “Good Friday ! We need people who are passionate about what they do, passionate about the people they connect with, and passionate about music and art. Imagine trying to get through the pandemic without your favorite TV shows, movies, and music. It is what pulls us through difficult times and connects human beings to each other all over the world.
Now, this is not to criticize David Crosby. I love the music he made. To this day, I still get goosebumps listening to the production and harmonies of CSN’s groundbreaking debut album (Crosby Stills and Nash) in 1969. And as an artist myself, I understand that’s frustrating to see his work so grossly undervalued, yet so often consumed. To date, the majority of my compositions, recordings and productions have been done in collaboration with other artists and bands. However, just before the pandemic, I started working on solo material. Although I tracked the majority of my debut LP and several follow-up EPs, I hit a stagnant wall in completing the projects, mostly due to financial hurdles. I’m frustrated too. After all, it’s really hard to collect a fraction of the royalties you should be getting just because streamers decided to devalue your art, especially when your music is streamed hundreds of thousands of times on a TV show all over the world. .
But here’s what I’m going to say. Our society is obsessed with being one thing or another: to do it or not to do it. To become a musician or not to become a musician. What’s wrong with calling yourself a musician or pursuing an artistic life while doing other work? Actually, Crosby’s words made me think of something else too. You don’t really become a musician. Either you are a musician or you are not. If you pick up a guitar and want to call yourself a musician, well, you’re a musician! The amount of money you earn from music does not dictate whether or not you are worthy of calling yourself a musician. You make. You make that choice, and your success as a musician also does not impede any particular income threshold.
I understand that the bills have to be paid, but if your music isn’t paying the bills, what’s wrong with having a job that does, while still releasing music and performing in live? If that’s you, you’re just as much of a success as the 365 Day Touring Artist. And you can still call yourself a musician even if it’s not your main source of income. I myself had some really difficult years. So, during these times of financial turmoil, am I no longer a musician simply because I haven’t paid my bills with music-related income? And for those of you who chose to pursue your musical endeavors but also hit a wall, you don’t have to quit at a certain age (as the cliché story often goes), just because you don’t make money with your art. .
My dad and all of his friends have been making music since high school in the 1970s. They’ve been gigging, recording and jamming, even to this day, well into their mid-60s. I actually just saw a social media post one of them made recently about an upcoming show they’re hosting. They have survived the pandemic and are ready to come back there. It wouldn’t surprise me if in twenty years they’re still on stage belching those contagious harmonies on The Weight. They introduced me to Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and The Band among many other classic bands. Are they musicians even if it is not their main source of income? Do they fit society’s description of what it means to be a musician? How many would consider my dad and his friends did it musically? To me, they’re a better definition of a musician or fall into the category of “successful” than the artist who was once signed to a major label in their twenties but became so disenchanted with the company that he resigned at age. of 35. They rehearse, record, and bring family, friends, and strangers together for a dance party, while introducing people to new music and inspiring others. What more could you ask for?
However, Crosby goes on to say that he makes music anyway, even if he doesn’t get paid for it, because he thinks music is a lifting force, and these are really tough times in which people need a lift. He also admits how he doesn’t want to tell young people not to become musicians. But maybe if we change our thinking a bit and don’t put so much emphasis on the all-or-nothing approach, we can continue to support young artists in a life of music and make them feel good . And remember, streamer revenue is only part of the pie. There are initial sync licensing opportunities, film and TV scoring compensation, and live performances as we move away from COVID shutdowns. Maybe you want to take your music off digital platforms and release physical products again, where people actually have to buy your songs? I understand that it’s hard to generate physical sales when you don’t have a solid following, but it often takes time to build one, and it can happen if that’s what you want. Who knows, maybe if there’s enough hindsight, one day streamers will be forced to compensate artists fairly. But maybe you like working in your cubicle; maybe you like going to the office and making music in the evening. And that’s great too. Don’t be afraid to pursue a life of music if it’s in your blood, because success is defined by you, not someone else’s version. Don’t lose that passion or get discouraged by financial unpredictability. Either way, I’m hopeful, and if more people change their outlook and mindset even a little, I think people can live a life of music, be a driving force, and have the feeling of succeeding, whether the money follows or not.
My name is James Gadon and I am proud to say that I am a musician. If you have a passion for making music, I say go for it, because you never know what the future holds.
Read David Crosby’s previous statement HERE.
James Gadon is Creative Director at Route 84 Music in Toronto, Canada.
Do you agree with James? Let us know where you are at to become a musician. Comments below
Photo of Crosby: Anna Webber/Republic Media