• Jeffrey Nytch

Career Building: An imperative, not an option

Three articles to contemplate this week:

New York musicians finding work getting more scarce

Kim Boekbinder and the 1,000 True Fans Theory

Bringing creativity back to education


These articles were chosen for my weekly newsletter at CU with a specific flow in mind: we start with more bad news about the state of the music business, this time from pit musicians and others in New York City, where the music union’s membership (one reasonable measure of the number of working musicians in a city) has seen a staggering decline in recent years: it would appear, in New York anyway, that many musicians have thrown in the towel and are doing something else. Bummer, yes?

Then we spend some time visiting with Kim Boekbinder, an indie rock musician who speaks frankly about the fears and challenges of being a freelance artist – but who also has forged fearlessly ahead and developed a new way to both engage her fans and support herself – and her art. Hmmm…


Lastly, we encounter a story that might seem like a non-sequitor: an article on how more states are looking for ways to bring creativity and creative expression back into a central role in public education.


What do these three stories have in common? They’re all about the state of not just the arts in our society today, but about the state of creative activity generally. And how we view the state of things in this area has a lot to do with which lens one chooses to look through. If you look through the lens of professional musicians operating under a long-established model of gigging in a major metropolitan area, the picture is pretty bleak. But if you look through the lens of one determined artist you might see a different picture, one where an inventive mind has come up with an innovative way to continue to flourish artistically and create at least a modicum of financial stability. And lastly, we see that educational institutions across the country are beginning to see the value of creative thought, and its importance far beyond just the arts: looking through this last lens, you might even decide there is reason for outright Hope!



No matter which lens you choose to look through, however, one thing is inescapably, unequivocally, clear: the idea that music students in 2012 can aspire to the same old career trajectory that has sustained generations of musicians before them, and ignore the realities of a changing marketplace, is no longer tenable. Living in the past and clinging to old models simply isn’t an option anymore – or at least, it’s not an option if you want to sustain yourself and your art over the long haul. Yes, there are still full-time orchestral positions and tenure-track teaching jobs out there, but they’re becoming increasingly scarce – and even those jobs are likely to require creative thinking and innovative approaches to be sustainable over time. And for everyone else, learning to think creatively about how to develop their careers – in other words, learning how to be entrepreneurial – is no longer an option. It’s an imperative.

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