Catch Up

It’s spring break here both in the school system and at IUS.  I’ve been spending the week making up some lessons for students since we’ve has some snow days at IUS–and more importantly, I’ve been just playing catch up in general.  Also, the wife is out of town with her father to take care of her late grandmother’s house down in Alabama.

What I really need though, is just a real spring break for me.  Not having to coach at the local schools and do some rehearsals is nice, but teaching does take up so much time.  Having three shows this past weekend certainly hasn’t helped.  Up until now the year has been a light one for shows–probably the lightest I’ve had in years and I’ve gotten spoiled with having so much extra time during the weekends that I just didn’t have last weekend and won’t have this weekend (I’ve got three more shows this weekend as well).


As you folks can see, I’ve also taken a couple day break from the blog as I’ve had so many ideas floating around in this head that I wish I had more time to sort through them but just don’t have that right now.

I will, however, share some more of my thoughts regarding binaries that Elysia and I had been discussing in a previous post as it’s something that came up with, or rather something I thought about, as that discussion at Greg Sandow’s blog continues to slowly grow.

But in creating this dichotomy between “Innovative Pop Music” and “Concervative Classical Music,” which, as I said leaves so much of the musical world out of the discussion.  One part of that musical world just happens to be a subset of the Pop Music world–namely cover bands.

As I said in a recent response:

Also, since the discussion invariably never includes the other large “Non-Western Orchestras” that I mentioned above and that seem to be multiplying at an astonishing rate in the US as well as the other group(s) of underground musicians all we have is one type of ensemble (e.g. Western Symphony Orchestras) within a larger musical field (Classical Music) that we’re using as a measure for the health of the whole [Classical Music] industry and comparing it to a subset of another (Innovative Popular Music) that we’re using for the different whole [Pupular Music] industry (e.g. cover bands and special event bands as a whole probably do better economically–and are far more numerous–than “original music bands” in popular music but are never included as part of the discussion about the so-called “innovative pop music industry”).

If I had a nickel for all the complaints about tribute bands, cover bands, party bands that are worthless because they “make money playing other people’s music rather than writing their own music”…

which is ironic, since the idea of being innovative in a pop music kind of way is often invoked as a remedy for the poor level of sustainability in the not-so-innovative and ponderous Classical Music institutions.  If it is generally the case that cover bands (I’ll just use “cover bands” to represent all the bands whose repertoires consist of primarily “cover tunes”) generally get better paying gigs and make more money that original music bands, then one of the raison d’etre for the argument for sustainability just collapses completely.  All of which I said in the most recent comment at Greg’s blog:

I have to agree about this-the club gigs anywhere don’t really pay that much (witha a few exceptions), so the economic impact or, or the ability to use club touring (or really any kind of touring) as a model for sustainability isn’t usually a wise choice. I think Zoe Keating said it best in her presentation, “Should you quit your tech job and join a rock band?” Unless you’re already a big name, in which case you wouldn’t have to actively tour anyway, then the venues you’ll be able to hit around the country will rarely amount to more than letting you scrape by and as long as your needs are few, it can be enough.

I still maintain that on the average the pop musicians who are making a living (or significant secondary income) from performing are those who are in cover bands. And I daresay that there are likely far more [pop] musicians in cover bands than in bands writing original material. And the two types of bands gigging circuits almost never overlap. So I think that on the whole, pop music is probably not any more innovative than classical music when we don’t just focus on the, as I said, the subset of actually innovative pop musicians and compare them to the subset of conservative classical musicians in the Orchestras.

This is the stuff that straw man arguments are made of, sadly!


5 thoughts on “Catch Up

  1. That was kinda painful to think about (the success of cover groups v. innovative pop music.) Not as painful as Rebecca Black’s Friday of course, which I actually listened to seven times in a row just to hear how awful it was. And yes, this is all related. I don’t have anything to add to the discussion about cover bands, but I was thinking about awful music and then thought of Friday and then that got me thinking about the internet and musical success. Certainly for pop music it seems to have been wildly helpful for some people, but has that ever really happened for either western or non-western classical? The best I can say is how youtube videos have allowed me to listen to music I otherwise would never have heard, but I’ve never heard of anything classical going viral — have you? What’s your take on how the internet can help/hurt classical music?

    As for your crazy busy life — do you have the option to just take time off from teaching or to move things around occasionally to suit you better? My teacher has done this on rare occasions and no one had any complaints and in fact most people wondered why she didn’t do this sooner or more often because they knew how busy she always was. Sure we all missed her, but we also like having a happy stress-free teacher.


    1. Probably the closest thing to Classical going viral is the youtube symphony project. But, eh–I still haven’t bothered listening to any of those myself.

      I don’t really have anything against cover bands, but I guess I’m just surprise I didn’t think of them in the context of this discussion until right when I posted above.

      And I guess I don’t think anyone is being disingenuous by not considering cover-bands in the context of “innovative pop music”–hell, I’ve been playing in something of a cover band (il Troubadore) for nearly seven years now and have probably heard more cover bands in that time period to last me a lifetime!

      No, I don’t really have the option of taking time off–since I’m only adjunct, about the most I could do is not teach for a session as I can’t pick and choose what students I teach. It would be different if I had a private studio, obviously!

      And unfortunately I can’t really move things around much–I’ve already seriously cut back my performing schedule to accommodate the teaching schedule but really need t leave Thursday-Sunday open for gigging. The other three days are low-priority gigging days.


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