The Road is no longer a viable school for learning music. We all know this. It's sad to see, however, that it is also becoming ever less viable a place for a musician to live or earn a living. This has been well documented in jazz, as we'd expect. But when it is increasingly true in the musical center, in the rock or pop worlds, that portends dire futures for us all.
Like many other folks, I've been enchanted in the last year or two by the Pomplemoose duo, Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn -- a latter-day Captain & Tennille -- who've created catchy, unfettered pop music for car ads and other sponsors. & garnered untold hits on their YouTube page. They were a proudly defiant studio band, and had no interest in appearing live. They spent long hours putting high-quality videos together, and the fan response was evidence that their idea worked.
A year or so ago, they decided that they'd grown enough as artists & as a band to test their commercial musical wings. It was time to appear live. Et Voilà! These industrious folks put together a 28-day / 23-city tour.
Owing to the fact that they clear-headedly saw themselves as business people who made music as the family business rather than, say, open a storefront, they documented every dollar (quickly) going out & each one (not as quickly) coming in.
These talented folks are clearly in that vast middle category of artists somewhere between kid rockers dreaming on their couches & an established label-supported pop band. This tour was a clever, well-planned DIY tour in the purest sense. By most music & career metrics it was a success. However, they've also recently posted a full accounting of the tour's financials online.
While they brought in more than $135,000, their expenses were such that their tour still lost more than $11,000! That's with many full houses & strong fan base.
Here's Conte's article honestly recounting the tour's full profit / loss...
While most indie artists, especially most jazz artists, would not be traveling with a group as large as they, the cost of plying your trade nationwide still is staggering.
And when the successful, business-savvy kids of the pop world not only fail to find the fabled jewels of The Road, but also fail to break even, I fear for how jazz, America's music, can withstand the economic pressures & hold fast at the center of the musical planet.
--E. J. Decker