Music and the Creative Economy

beachcombing / old Fotolog fav

You can sign up for alerts on topics of interest with Google and they will deliver daily results to your gmail account – like robot beachcombing. One of mine is Creativity in Music Education, and a good one turned up this morning, an article by Harry Chalmiers in the Austin Statesman entitled “Musicians leading the way to alternative economy.” I encourage you to read the whole article, but here are some highlights:

The creative economy is an idea and a working subculture that has been around for ages, created long before authors Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum identified it in their recent book, “That Used to Be Us.” It is a burgeoning force that could set a new model for the way we approach making a living.

…the future of our country is inextricably tied to the creativity and imagination of our people, and this must now be applied to new approaches to income generation. Musicians and their handlers, plus the thousands of others, know the archaic concept of “jobs” is being replaced by a subtly different concept — “work.” In music there may not be a lot of jobs, but there is a lot of work.

While the quantity of jobs might be decreasing because of technology, outsourcing and economic malaise, every day there are new, exciting opportunities for people to take control of their own work life and create new streams of income. It might not come from one source alone, and payday may not be every other Friday, but it can be done, and more people are doing it, especially in music.

…music makers in the creative economy need to — either on their own or in pioneering educational institutions — become smarter about the business of their artistry.”

They need to instill the core values that can be leveraged in any business: accounting, marketing, production and distribution, all aligned with the essential “character-building” concepts of taste-making, entrepreneurship, cultural competency and problem solving.

Unfortunately, creativity is a hallmark value that our educational system and employment model have minimized for decades. Why? Because there’s an historical and legislative precedent for it.

Every time education budgets are cut, the arts and music programs are the first to go. When the success of schools is measured only by standardized tests, no time is left for free-flowing imagination. Under this system, success’ first victim is creativity. And music makers increasingly are rejecting this paradigm.


The times they are a-changin’. Necessity is the mother of invention. The Arts in this country have a tough time in any kind of economic climate, but are always the first to take it on the chin in an economic downturn. We all need to take up our metaphorical torches and pitchforks and bang on the doors of politicians to make them see that what the world needs now is music, sweet music, or rather, creative music. They may be tone deaf to the deep and multiple advantages of arts education, but they do speak economics (too many politicians are businessmen and lawyers – there should be more poets, teachers, philosophers, musicians, artists, writers). The path to recovery is dependent on innovation and creativity here at home, and to have innovative thinkers, we must provide opportunities for all children to think and act creatively from the beginning of their education and every year beyond. The answer is the arts, specifically, the creative arts. Music of all kinds is good, but what is needed now is creative music, not just recitation music (band, orchestras, choirs). And that brings us back to: improvisation.

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