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Dealing with the Roles of Artist vs. Technician

Art Vs. Money

I love music and have been a musician for a long time – 38 years. I consider myself to be a creative individual. Music is one of the most expressive forms of art. I have a strong attraction to that and possess the heart of an artist. That’s how I am wired – an introverted artist.

I use music as a form of artistic expression in different ways: mostly through composing, arranging, recording, and improvising. I can express myself better performing music that is more harmonically and rhythmically interesting. These are the musical activities that satisfy me the most.

I don’t earn a living as an artist though. That’s a form of expression. I earn my living in music as a technician. What does that mean? When someone hires me for a live performance, they usual want someone else’s parts reproduced. A recording session may require more creative input but, in most cases, what is required is playing something simple that serves the song. I am not discounting that skill in any way because, doing it well is an art form in and of itself.

So, what’s my point? Art and commerce are two different things. When I’m engaged in any of the expressive activities listed above, that’s art. I may make some money doing it but, that’s not the motivation at all. When someone hires me to play in a cover band, on the other hand, that’s commerce. Art vs. Commerce. Technician vs. Artist.

I often experience frustration in the technician/commerce situations. Playing bass typically only calls for very rudimentary musical skill. Play the roots. There’s not always a lot to work with in terms of rhythm or harmonically. I’m almost never provided opportunities to solo or make any type of musical statement. Provide the underpinning so everyone else can do their thing. The artist and the musician rises up looking for some opportunity for musical expression but, it’s typically just not there in the context of the performance.

How have I learned to deal with these bouts of frustration? What’s my coping mechanism? I tell myself, “This is not art. This is commerce. I have sold my skills as a technician this evening and am being paid fairly to do so. Give them what they want and more. Then, when I get home, I’ll go into my studio and make art.”

Comments Section

Thank you, Stephanie! :-)
So good. And timely. Thank you!!

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