The other day, I was listening to Nitro Game Injection, which is a weekly radio show devoted to covers of video game music. They were doing an interview with pianist Daniel “Kareshi” Brown, and they asked him for this thoughts about the man commonly billed as the Video Game Pianist. Summarized in one sentence, Kareshi’s thoughts were essentially “[The Video Game Pianist], while very technically skilled, seems to be in it for the glory more than the love of video game music”.
The next day, I reflected on Kareshi’s remarks. I don’t personally know The Video Game Pianist, although I have seen him as a part of Video Games Live, a show which I very much enjoyed, so I don’t know how true Kareshi’s assessment really is. But the direction of my thoughts took me to “If he IS in it for the glory, as opposed to love of the music…why is this bad?”
I took my question and decided to expand it further to the concept of “selling out” in the music world. For some reason, it seems that people who listen to music resent the ability of their favorite musicians to make money. For that matter, they resent said musicians ever getting popular. It happens over and over again–a devoted audience clings to a band at the early stages of their career. Eventually, if they’re lucky, the band will attain mainstream popularity–at which point the early devoted audience will invariably, immediately desert them, decrying them as “sellouts”–regardless of whether anything actually changed in the sound of their music.
Part of it, I think, is the thought that the major record labels are somehow “the bad guys”, mega-corporations concerned with making money above all else, including the welfare of the artists. True as this may be, it ignores the history of music and its creation and performance. Picture this: Your humble site administrator/writer/musician gets a job working for Bill Gates. My job description? Essentially, write music just for Mr. Gates, eight hours a day, five days a week. The worst kind of selling out on my part and the worst corruption of music on the part of Mr. Gates? Before you answer, consider that Johann Sebastian Bach, considered one of the greatest composers in history, worked under very similar conditions for a part of his life, for the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and later for Prince Leopold–music was, literally, his job, and that didn’t seem to stop him from producing great works. And amusingly, sites like Tailored Music are exploring this ancient idea in a 21st century way.
But back to my point. The prevailing attitude today as regards music and money is that they must be mutually exclusive. Furthermore, this attitude must have manifested itself only recently; in times past, as in Bach’s age, this was hardly the case–music-for-payment was practically expected. So what changed? And why is the idea of musicians making money from their work suddenly this taboo concept?
Thoughts? Comments? Exclamations of righteous indignation?