Excerpts from a Conversation

Here is an outtake from a discussion I had recently that a friend said was helpful to him, and it’s one of those things that I’ve felt but never verbalized, so here goes. His comments are indicated with a >, and mine are the replies.

>Britney Spears serves a purpose other than the enjoyment of music.

Yes, entertainment. In fact the same could be said of all rock and roll – it is by definition a package of music, theatrics, and often dance. Elvis’s hip shaking performances were what separated him from Carl Perkins (arguably the better musician) and made him so revolutionary. Musicians like us tend to miss the fact that the fashion, ideology, and socio-politics of rock and roll are more important to most people than pure music. And that’s fine. It’s tricky for music being an art form and an entertainment form, but insisting that all music should be art is like insisting that all speech should be poetry.

>why shouldn’t a person who has developed musical talent over the years be paid as well?

Because life isn’t fair. Getting paid for something involves things like luck, connections, and responsibility. It involves a lot more luck than most people realize. Just because you build it, that doesn’t guarantee people will come. And getting paid for making music? You’re at the mercy of an audience (the ultimate employer) who have their own interests which probably don’t match yours. To expect payment, you often have to make phone calls, get in front of club owners, sell yourself, promote, bargain, negotiate, compromise, and these are just more things that great artists are not often good at. But entertainers more often are.

>For some strange reason, I really like that song and can’t hear it enough!

I came up with a theory recently after sitting through the top 40 crap they play at the movie theater before the previews start. I actually liked one of the tunes, and that’s when it hit me…

Songs are like children: They can be conceived under the worst circumstances by horrible people whose motives are less than honorable, and yet they can still turn out to be absolutely magical. A great song can be born of complete insincerity and crass commercialism and, despite all of that, authentically move you. Occasionally works of art transcend the limitations of their maker.