The Grammys: a parallel universe’s music industry?

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An interesting look back at a post we ran in 2010, originally titled, “Grammy: That’s not MY music industry.” Do you think this still represents the state of the industry today?

Watching the Grammy Awards tonight I was struck with one thought: they might call that the Music Industry, but that has nothing to do with what I do as a working musician. I have been a professional musician for 15 years, and it’s been my sole job for 9 of those years. But whatever that was on the TV tonight, that’s not even close to my world.

And you know what? Rather than that thought being depressing it is actually quite liberating. Just when I started to get upset about the things I was seeing I realized that the only reason for it to upset me is if it affects me, which it doesn’t. All that pomp and circumstance, all the tuxes and evening gowns, all the money that went into the production, all the out‐of‐tune and/or lip‐synched performances, all the celebrity presenters – that’s a reflection of a completely different world than the one in which I live and work. Once I realized that I actually found myself happy for Taylor Swift when she won Record of the Year. She was the one winner tonight that seemed genuinely surprised and pleased to win. You go girl!

Like most musicians I know, I did at one time have fantasies of someday winning a Grammy. I will admit that when I was a kid I would practice my acceptance speech in front of the mirror in my bedroom, thanking my family and my as‐yet‐unknown record label. But I long ago gave up those fantasies, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change much about my music industry.

Sure, it’d be cool to have my music heard and appreciated by a larger audience. And to make a little more money than I do now. I’d love to have a savings account and a health‐care plan that’s not the least expensive one I could find. I hope to one day buy a house.

But what’s great about my music industry at this moment in time is that all of those things are up to me 100%. No longer do I have to hope for a manager to take notice of me and a PR firm to help spread the word so that a major record label would take a gamble on me and loan me a ridiculous sum of money that I’ll never be able to pay back so that I can make an album that will hopefully get noticed by Rolling Stone and played on the radio and then sell millions of copies just so I can eat for a few years until the next guy like me comes along and takes my place.

Those days are over. Now, I can make the music I want to make, find people all over the world who appreciate it and are willing to support me, and live a comfortable and … wait for it … sustainable life as a musician.

That’s my music industry. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jason Parker is a working musician from Seattle, Wa. He has been making his living in the music industry for 20 years. For the last eight years the majority of his income has come from playing live music. He leads The Jason Parker Quartet, one of the busiest jazz bands in Seattle, and plays in a host of other bands, including Clave Nagila, Water Babies, The Nate Omdal Nonet and more. He has toured with Crooked Fingers and Devotchka, and has opened for the likes of Elvis Costello, Spoon and Greta Matassa. He teaches music classes for The Experience Music Project and The Right Brain Center for the Arts.

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6 thoughts on “The Grammys: a parallel universe’s music industry?

  1. I agree with Marcello. The Grammy’s (or any award show for that matter) has always been about mainstream music.

    I do like the point of the rest of your article though.

  2. All true, Jason, but your article implies that it’s “now” possible to work outside of the mainstream, as if it wasn’t possible before! It’s a widespread perception, but completely wrong. There have always been successful independent musicians since long before the internet — or even long before computers. Punk bands have been doing it since the 1970’s, and before that it was common for folk, country, jazz and R+B musicians to run every aspect of their careers — booking, management, recording, distribution, the works!

    There’s no doubt that computers and the internet have made some aspects of our careers easier, but let’s not pretend that we’re the first generation to pioneer independent music. There were many, many trailblazers before us!

  3. As a former non voting member of N.A.R.A.S. “way back in the 80’s”.I can say they do a lot to help equip musicians, and to teach them about the music business. They held seminars on publishing and how it works and would have actual publishing company reps there. Once they had A&R guys listen to recordings that were dropped in a box from the people attending the seminar, with A&R guys from Major Lables listening and explaining what they were looking for, right there before you. They also had seminars with Radio Stations, Music Attorneys, Music / Band managers all with people who were currently working in the industry. To be a voting member for the Grammys you have to have 6 commericially released works, which could included Producers/Engineers/Musicians etc. So the Grammy’s are voted and decided on by their own peers….
    To become a member check out ……… I hope the best for you and your musical endeavors…

  4. While I don’t work for or represent the Recording Academy, the Grammy organization has a long standing history of presenting, annually, who is big in music. From the looks of things, that history is bound to continue.
    While that is not indicative of the life that Jason lives as a musician, his life is nothing new in terms of a working musician. With the advent of the internet its related social media technologies, it is now, greater than before, to get your music distributed, heard, and recognized WITHOUT, necessarily, the need for a manager, big record label, or a loan for tons of money to payback to anyone.

    These two entities, mentioned in the article, will always exist…and who knows…may converge in a way we’d never imagine….

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