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Monday, February 28, 2005
Contests, Prizes, etc.

Talk about a political subject... Contests may be inherently flawed, but they can be useful. I enter them when it's convenient and I have something handy, as someone has to win, and I can use the money if I get lucky.

But the big ones--Pulitzer, Grawemeyer, Guggenheim, etc.--require building a political support system and some mainstream credibility and profile, so the decision makers are comfortable. And to be fair, I'm on the outside looking in, so this is largely conjecture. But as someone who makes most of his mortgage in marketing, I tend to look for trends--and for years, many of these prizes were controlled for years by a New York/East Coast establishment, and tended to go to people in that arena.) It wasn't until John Adams shook things up with some public negative comments--he wondered aloud if winning meant the end of his career--that they took a good close look at themselves and their past awards--and opened the door to more "populist" composers.

I don't think this is a bad thing, as different arenas of music build their systems of support as they can. I came to the conclusion long ago that the "mainstream" systems of academia and art music prizes were not made with me in mind, so I built my own support system: a top-flight new music ensemble, a tiny but very high-end recording label, a community of support, and relationships with conductors, composers, artists, and performers that enjoy working together, and very important: ways of fundraising that actually work for us.

I still enter the contests, but it's icing on the cake and a shock if something actually comes up. But win or not, it's a good way to get your music heard by some decision makers outside of your particular arena, and one never knows what may happen in the long term.

On a previous subject, my comments on Ms. Spears were not directed at her abilities, which are formidable. But again, based on what I've heard (most of which I like very much), I still think her content is mass market driven. I understand performers like Madonna and Prince had a hell of a battle retaining any artistic control of their product. When that day comes for her, as it will the day she decides to swim against the current, I suspect we'll hear about it.

So...Any thoughts on the Oscars?


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