Within a window of about 11 years, I’d worked with and alongside some of pop culture’s biggest names, then some even bigger names over on the concert circuit at the height of arena shows. I’d accidentally run into a few grungy kids who were about to become household names, then settled into a nice comfy spot promoting old music.
Old as dirt.
The dead guys’ stuff from way back before the earth cooled.
Yep, I was high rollin’ in the music dough. The high brow stuff with blue blood and bow ties, at high tea during silent auctions learning all I could about the guys that got this gig rolling in the first place with names like Ludwig, Wolfgang, Johannes, Franz, and Camille.
Still teaching piano lessons and working the Community Concert circuit, finding my way into a world everyone knows a little bit about but doesn’t give a damn. The opera, the symphony — the recital hall trenches.
Very nice folk.
Proper and icy.
It’s the academic side of music that’s only interesting in academia. The professors, their prodigies, and corporate types who needed an easy slot for their tax write offs. It’s the kind of environment where everything must be perfect. The notes were written down hundreds of years ago — and every string player, horn and reed section player from here to eternity — each with an ego as big as Rhode Island — has memorized them all at some time or another. And don’t forget the guy with right arm disease — the conductor. The guy who rolls out austere criticism much like Steve Jobs unveiled a new Mac.
It’s a very bitchy world, indeed.
It snaps, cackles, and pops with every step toward the front of the room.
No one, but no one, believes they can be replaced in that world. But the truth is, people have been replaced repeatedly over centuries, every time a flautist, French horn player or the like dies.
One of my longest acquaintances in this field had a humorous view of it all, remarking, “You have to wonder about people who’ve done absolutely nothing with their lives except play one instrument. It really makes you wonder about their self-esteem.”
Now that you have a good idea of the profile within this community of stiff, starched, and tightly strung — now consider accepting the most thankless job in the world in this environment. Being the booking agent for a concert pianist, trumpet player, and a clarinet soloist. These are people who hold their art in the highest regard while the rest of the world is digging Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, 10,000 Maniacs, Garth Brooks, and Shania Twain.
Young and eager with time on my hands I got a call one day from a woman I had a very loose association with one state away who said, “I can’t do this any more. If you don’t take it over, I don’t know who will help these people.”
Mind you we’re still talking the last part of the twentieth-century at this point. I had a few contacts I could engage in this new enterprise, continue to teach piano lessons, and raise two high-spirited intelligent little girls. I can’t was not in my vocabulary, and getting 15% of a recital hall fee 18 to 24 months after the actual contract was issued seemed very civilized.
Motivated by nothing but fear, I increased the business of this tiny booking agency by 400% in the first year. Then I expanded the roster to include different styles of music — some was even older than the classical stuff. Celtic music was on the rise and Great Scot the Irish rock!
With every new artist added to the roster, I introduced them to my graphic designer, wrote new copy, had new photos taken, and got their story rolling in the right direction. The idea of branding was the new buzz word and building the myth behind a brand was the talk of the music world.
Networking, email, desktop publishing, booking conferences, newsletters, monthly mailings, world music — these were all the rage fueling the music machine just a few years before Napster took hold, and Michael Jackson claimed his music was healing.
Well, if this part of the story didn’t put you to sleep, save a few minutes for the next entry — things do pick up a bit!