The Craft: How Marketable Are Your Artistic Skills?

Actually, the writer of this article, Jack Albetta, was writing about drumming, a subject with which our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody is a bit acquainted. But everything he says here applies to our own special craft: Writing. Dig in!

In the fall of 2010, I moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles. I expected the move to be a challenge and to find myself in musical situations that were unlike anything I had ever done before. What I didn’t expect was a fundamental change in my approach to the drumset and my musical self-image—the realization that …

Most drumming is not an art; it’s a craft.

Indeed, there are ways drumming can be artistic and there have been many drummers who can truly be called artists. But gigs that allow drummers to really express themselves artistically and stretch their chops are far less common (and often, less lucrative) than gigs that require us to hit a specific target—to recognize what role the drums need to play in a given situation and execute that role effectively. For most drummers, these are the gigs that pay the bills.

There is more money in show-biz than there is in art.

[Some musicians] would rather play any gig, anywhere, any time, any style, with anyone than have to hold down some other job to make ends meet.

LA offers many opportunities to play a wide variety of gigs—recording, touring, and playing for bigger audiences—and most of them are under the umbrella of the entertainment industry. For a lot of musicians here, it isn’t about what type of music they play or the type of production the music is for, as much as it is about the playing itself. I had enjoyed brief periods in KC when all I did was play, but I usually had to supplement my income by teaching lessons or working some sort of “regular” job. If you were in KC between 2003 and 2010, you may have seen me waiting on your table or landscaping your yard. But what I wanted was for someone to ask me what I did for a living, and to be able to tell them, “I play drums.”

This brings up an important point: some musicians just want to play. They would rather play any gig, anywhere, any time, any style, with anyone than have to hold down some other job to make ends meet. This is the camp I fall into. There are other musicians who prefer to be more selective about the gigs they choose to play. Having another source of income allows them to turn down gigs that don’t interest them, and to put all their musical energy into projects that inspire and fulfill them. Far be it from me to say that one approach is better than the other, because at the root of both approaches is the desire for freedom. Some want freedom to choose their musical journey, others want freedom from jobs that aren’t music.

Read it all