I have the utmost respect for Eighth Blackbird as musicians and new music advocates. In fact one of my fondest dreams as a composer would be to have them perform my chamber Sextet. But I was very disappointed to learn that the ensemble’s new Call for Scores requires composers to pay a $50 application fee to have their scores considered. While, as one of my colleagues put it, this may convince composers to be ‘a bit self-selective’ in their submissions, it’s also a handy way to self-fund the commission of a new work for the ensemble.

As much as I’d like to have Eighth Blackbird consider my work, I don’t want to participate in a process that feels exploitative.

Thoughts on application fees? The comments section is open!

114 Responses to “20 composers X a $50 dollar application fee = a self-funded commission”
  1. Christian says:

    Hi Ian. Sorry, I actually found a link to your post on a theatre blog, and didn’t mean to misrepresent you. Either way, your essay was enjoyable!

  2. Thanks for the link, Christian (I was just about to leave one here). One thing though, I don’t think I would consider myself a member of the theatrical community! I’m a composer just like all of you, and one of my pieces was even performed at the first S21 concert.

    Great discussion, all.

  3. The sad fact is, contemporary composition isn’t a growth industry.

    Think of it this way. How many hours have you already spent composing your chamber sextet? Have you been compensated for any of that time?

    If you have, then congrats! You’re way ahead of the game. If you haven’t, then the measly $50 entry fee seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the much greater loss of at least $25 per hour’s worth of your time.

    Complaining about entry fees feels a little pennywise, poundfoolish to me.

    No one owes us anything. Not even their attention.

  4. Do we not also pay application fees to get into graduate school, and don’t the competitive places sometimes accept only one student per academic year? How is this different? If you don’t like the odds of this competition, do not enter. Wrong way!

    What 8bb is doing is conforming to an economic model, the one that surrounds them here in the United States. Whether that economic model is good for the future and good for the arts in particular I very much doubt, but I’m glad that someone like 8bb is actually following through with the consequences. It’s a valid reaction to the situation (=dire) of the arts in the age of turb0-capitalism.

    A second valid reaction, admittedly less effective, is to complain.

    A third valid reaction is to set up more generous, more progressive funding mechanisms for things like this, which will always be politically precarious. That is what we do nowadays and could do more of. Precariousness be damned! …even as such band-aids don’t solve the underlying problem.

    All three reactions come to terms with reality in their own way. The 8bb solution shouldn’t be demonized, because it’s one way among many and probably the most effective in helping the ensemble thrive at the level it’s at today without sacrificing its commitment to music that’s difficult to bring to life.

  5. John Kennedy says:

    We have all made our mistakes in navigating how to do our work, but this is shocking. It is the kind of approach one expects from a new ensemble, unfamiliar with the field and working with composers. But then, 8bb has never had particularly strong community interaction, having been guided early on by success-driven agendas. It is very sad though, that a “leading” new music ensemble, one that has been quite rewarded and honored by the field, would set this kind of example for a “Composer Competition”. It is embarrassing, and demonstrates their disconnect with the wider new music community.

  6. Application fees are not at all exploitive. Especially in times like these, when most non-profits and most arts and culture groups are struggling, we shouldn’t expect free admission to contests from which we’ll benefit. In fact, I think Eighth Blackbird’s charging $50 per submission is very smart.

    Sure, we don’t enjoy whipping out the credit card for things like this, but it’s a necessary part of doing this sort of business in this day in age. I recently paid a $45 fee to have my application considered for participation in a program that would help boost my organization’s stature. Did I want to pay it? No. But I knew it was necessary and I didn’t think it was at all unreasonable.

  7. Phil Fried says:

    Dennis, I think the entry fee should be $1000 , for each band member.

  8. Chris Becker says:

    I’m nearly crying – that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day :)

  9. Dennis,

    I hope you get 20 ensembles to apply. The concept is brilliant.

  10. When I pay a fee for a contest I understand that a Lotto ticket might be a better investment, and more likely to pay a return. Contests, for me, have the virtue of a deadline. If there is no performer waiting in the wings for a piece at least I’m writing and have to get the piece completed. It will probably end up in a drawer but I must keep working or lapse into sense of hopelessness. I know that my chances of winning any particular contest are miniscule, I am sometimes willing to pay a relatively small fee for the privilege of a rejection letter. But $50 is far too much.

    As for the honorarium they offer – for most of us the honorarium would be icing on the cake. How many of us would pay to get a performance or recording by an ensemble as well-known and skilled as 8th blackbird? But $50 bucks! Geez! That is certainly beyond a review fee. That kind of fee on a regular basis is for Trust Fund Babies. I hope it’s not the wave of the future.

  11. Chris Sahar says:

    Great discussion.

    If we are going to look at this from basic economics, what composers and performers of new music face is simply an oversupply of music available to perform and hear. We all know this. Unfortunately, many non-composers (yes even some performers!) grossly underestimate the time it takes to write “good” concert music. In fact, as composers we know how often composers in the past recycled their material to meet demand. Composers prior to early 20th century were blessed NOT to have recordings, recording technology and an audience whose general populace were far less literate than our present populace (despite complaints about our falling educational standards in the US at least, the general populace has at least a HS diploma/GED, something that was a luxury over a 100 years ago) .

    To compound the situation our copyright laws reduce the supply of new music through restrictions of availability of scores to study. Granted getting printed scores of works centuries ago could be expensive – but by the early 19th century it was attainable by upper middle income European class and you could always copy the scores. The result is an oversupply of music both available in print and recordings before roughly 940 and an undersupply of new music available in print and recordings after 1940.

    And the above topics have been dissected in a million words and actions have been taken. Has any of this been successful? Too early to tell in my opinion. Will say I am not confident to quit my non-music day job to be a full time composer.

    Denis’ original argument does highlight a point of departure all parties must take: When creating, performing and PROMOTING new music, everyone needs to make a living, a part of which is to have fundamental expenses paid (renting the hall, recording crew, rehearsal time, score prep, etc). The low self worth found in many classical composers and performers does not stem from us internally, rather it is the culture that engenders and inculcates in us.

    My post is not too helpful as aside from endorsing Denis’ strategy and, major revisions in the copyright law, I don’t see much else.

  12. J says:

    As a college student, I wouldn’t apply to any competition that requires an entry fee, mostly because I don’t have a lot of spare money. So, unless the fee is very modest, I probably won’t be involved. Most competitions for younger composers don’t charge, though.

  13. $100 for each piece to be divided among six people. And not sightreading. That had better cover a damn good massage at the end of the marathon.

  14. Phil Fried says:

    naturally one expects more than sight reading.

  15. Phil Fried says:

    On second thought

    Hey there is an opportunity here–why doesn’t 8BB or another a new music ensemble do a marathon reading of every single work submitted?

    Say 100 dollar fee but every work is performed with structured limitations of timing and instruments? recording extra???

    that sounds a least win win!!!

    Phil Fried stressing the positive.

  16. Phil Fried says:

    It’s a pity about all those lonely unsolicited scores, Chris. One might suppose there is another pile for the recommended composers. Anyway I’m not included in either pile. A serial composers chances aren’t very good these days.

    Even with the best intentions: what you seem to be saying is this:

    Your not cool, but if you pay our fee we will show you around the VIP room.

    Philip Fried

  17. Thanks GB.

    Frank J. Oteri wrote an article about our Sequenza 21 application fees “brouhaha” over at New Music Box: http://www.newmusicbox.org/chatter/chatter.nmbx?id=6270

    He also points out an article Molly Sheridan posted a while back on the subject.

    http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=3360

  18. GB says:

    Eighth Blackbird are serial organizers of composer competitions with disproportionate entry fees. Daniel Wolf called for a boycott of a similar competition involving Eighth Blackbird in 2006: http://renewablemusic.blogspot.com/2006/12/boycott-this-competition.html

  19. In case people aren’t aware, 8bb has done a bunch of commissioning in their 14 young years. A short list: George Perle, Frederic Rzewski, Joseph Schwantner, Paul Moravec, Stephen Hartke, Jennifer Higdon, Derek Bermel, David Schober, Daniel Kellogg, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and the Minimum Security Composers Collective. I’m sure there will be more. This competition is in addition to the commissioning they already do.

  20. I’ve been following this fascinating debate and I figure it’s time to throw in my 2¢. First I think it’s absolutely wonderful that this issue has sparked such interest and passion. It almost feels like we are all shareholders in this entity called “new music,” or “nonpop” music, in that so many people take personally what one small ensemble does. In the business world, I would imagine, only the shareholders of a small NASDAQ company would really care about what that company does with their money. This debate shows that we all do feel like shareholders in 8bb and any number of high profile “nonpop” ensembles. Not only do we paying for their CDs and go to their concerts, but they are also figureheads for this crazy art, OUR crazy art, for which we all hold such passion.

    Sure, a $50 fee for a $1k award is over the top. But, hey, I’m not going to do it. I’m too busy trying to make a living making this “nonpop” music. But if some young composer wants to work an extra shift at that restaurant down the street, more power to ‘em. I don’t have a quick money job. I did in my 20s & 30s, but now (as I tell my friends) I’m too busy with my music to make any money. It’s incredibly hard being a composer; you can’t drop the ball for a second and you have to hold on to your sense of self-worth. I just have to figure 8bb know what they are doing and who they are attracting with this $50 fee. I’m sure they will find some gems in their competition, but I hope, for their sake, they find a way to fund actual commissions. Being a “nonpop” composer in this country is not getting any easier. Definitely more exciting, but certainly not easier.

    There was this experimental musician out in Berkeley, CA, who used to turn his living room into a small concert hall for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. He called it Woody Woodman’s Finger Palace and he would have international luminaries play as well as locals. The acoustics were great, the seating was comfortable, the wine was excellent. The tickets (which were fruit) were $10, unless you were a student. Student tickets were $15. “Students have access to more money than I do!” Woody would say.

  21. Must be a trick of perspective. To me, looking at this as just a power equation is too simplistic. To you, my view of the power equation is too simplistic.

    We’re probably both right, for what it’s worth.

  22. Lawrence, if it were that simple, that’s what I would have said. Imagine the power balance flipped, and the kind of nonpop world that comes of it.

    Dennis

  23. Dennis, funny you should mention the idea of composers sponsoring competitions for ensembles to play their music – I was thinking the same thing. Only I didn’t think it was so inappropriate as you say it is. To me it makes sense to ask for what you want. And people can say no, if they don’t want to give it to you.

    By the way, K&D’s reputation is legendary and well-deserved – I’m pretty sure everyone posting here is aware of it. Maybe I shouldn’t say that – one never knows. At least I am well aware of what an amazing service you provided.

    I spent a couple of days with 8bb about eight years ago. At the time, they were listening to everything that was sent to them. Most of it was completely inappropriate for what they were trying to do, but they took the time to listen to and respond to everything. Sounds like at some point that no longer was practical. We might decry the fact that things changed, but things change for all of us.

    For my part, I recognize the power equation you speak of, but I haven’t experienced it as starkly as the men-women, white-black, straight-gay power equations you’ve compared it to. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but the composer-performer equation seems far less life-threatening.

    You are right, fame brings power. It also brings expectations, often well out of proportion to reality. More people want more things from you when you have power. I got into music administration because I thought I could help musicians. I got out of it because I discovered I was hated for being powerful, when I really just felt like I was at everyone’s beck and call. That was just my experience, maybe it hasn’t been anyone else’s, but that’s where I’m coming from.

    In any case, what I thought I was getting from you and others was that this competition doesn’t give enough to the composers. Was I wrong about that?

  24. Lawrence, you’re not getting whatever you’re getting from me. And I was about to let this go away until my name was mentioned in vain. :)

    First, I love performers. They are dedicated and brilliant. Yet they are blind to their discriminatory behavior.

    Here’s the point. It’s not about eighth blackbird. It’s about the avoidance of the power equation. If it were a men-women, white-black, straight-gay discussion, do you think the power issue would be tiptoed around? Never. But the ongoing inequity of nonpop, particularly new nonpop, is a performer-composer discussion still to be engaged. The performer has the power and isn’t afraid to use it. (And that the number of pay-for-play competitions rises when the economy is bad? Tell me it’s coincidental.)

    Let me get one specific out of the way first. Being Grammy-winning is not that hard in new nonpop. You have to play good & look cool & have a great name & a good agent. Grammy winning? Now whose backs exactly did they get there on? Oh — composers. Just to be clear. Composers got that Grammy.

    (Thanks to MJ in pointing out the Kalvos & Damian didn’t demand cash. We got a little here & there — some good amounts from dedicated people — but we ran the show for 15 years as a volunteer gig to the point of dedicating 20+ hours per week listening to thousands of recordings and prepping for our interviews, which now number nearly 300. And we, too, won awards — such as the ASCAP/Deems Taylor. All true. And all not relevant here. But thanks again to MJ.)

    So back to power. Why is this about power? Because ensembles and performers have it and use it. They simply can. A less well-known ensemble wouldn’t dare be so blatant, of course, even if they were “better”. Fame brings power. Let’s turn it around. I have a $50 application fee to look at my scores and then I decide what you can play. Send me $50 each, groups, and I’ll decide which one of you gets to play “Under the Aurora” and you’ll get your fee for the night. And don’t forget you’ll have to re-arrange your personnel to my orchestration. And this will the case every time you want to give a concert. Ever. Feel good? Feel appropriate? Feel like “the normal model”?

    Yes, Chris talked about it being the normal model. The model is broken, being all about competitions, networking/nepotism, or box office — and occasionally about art. You want to reduce unsolicited scores? I’ll make it easy. Publish your tastes and biases on your website. Accept only e-scores and e-demos. Require a cover letter with a brief intro and explanation why the submission is perfect. Then actually look and listen — and learn. I’ve never met a performer or ensemble who hasn’t been surprised the second time around at music they dismissed the first time. Provide feedback to every item received that meets the criteria above. And, finally, open up one day per month where any composer who shows up at the door you will play and play well on that day. Reverse the power equation — if you dare.

    Dennis

  25. Well, I’m all for the MTC commissioning guidelines, and I’ve used them (successfully and unsuccessfully) many times. But commissions are different from competitions. We wouldn’t use the commissioning guidelines to determine guest speaker fees, or teaching positions, or any of the other things composers do to earn a living.

    I’ve outlined a budget, and the funding it would take, to create a more perfect competition in comment 24 on page two of this thread. So now the question that I asked somewhere before that: should an organization that doesn’t have that kind of competition budget ($55,000/year or 1.1 million endowed) be discouraged from sponsoring a composer competition? The answer I am getting from Corey and Alex and Dennis and others is YES – they shouldn’t hold a competition unless they’ve got that kind of money to spend. I disagree, and here’s why.

    I’m a great believer in paying people appropriately. I’m also a great believer in the barter system. 8bb is offering, along with the prize money, several thousand dollars of in-kind services. If my local roofer told me he’d like me to write a piece of music and he doesn’t have enough money to meet the MTC guidelines but he’ll give me as much as he can plus he’ll put a new roof on my house for free – you might say No Way, but I’d be ready to talk instrumentation and duration.

    8bb doesn’t have a month’s living to offer, but along with their prize money they are throwing in their track record of expertise and prestige. You can take their offer or not, but can you really say they shouldn’t make it?

  26. Alex Shapiro says:

    Correction: Until dear Dennis Bathory-Kitsz was kind enough to let me know that this discussion began 50 comments earlier on a now-archived page, I didn’t notice, and presumed Corey’s post to be the first. Mea culpa. Of course, I still agree with all Corey wrote!

  27. Stanley Moon says:

    “When will someone make a Downfall / Hitler Meme video of the 8bb composition contest?”

    Want to try out for the Neville Chamberlain part?

  28. Alex Shapiro says:

    Corey’s comment, number one starting the discussion off, is spot on. He really nails the issue, and has set a great tone that is educating composers about their worth as creators. Thank you, thank you, Corey.

    Along with composers Jennifer Higdon and Stephen Paulus, and attorney/publisher Jim Kendrick, I’m the co-founder of a new touring seminar series that ASCAP is generously funding, titled, “The ASCAP Composer Career Workshop: Things They Don’t Teach You in School.” We go where needed, whether to universities to talk to their comp departments, or to general audience venues in various cities to which many composers would flock. In addition to the usual information about publishing, copyrights, web promotion, social networking and recording/production techniques, one thing we talk ardently and quite openly about is money, as well as something that is too rarely discussed: self worth. Among the many points we have to say on the subject, like Corey, we lay out the “what does it cost you to live per month” concept. So I just love seeing his opening comment, because not enough artists think in those terms. Yes, fees are guided by a “what the market will bear” reflection on a composer’s rate, but the base level certainly needs to reflect that composer’s general living expenses, as well.

    Many of our peers– and I don’t just mean the ones who are starting out at age 24, but those far older– are shocked when they hear the truth about what real commission fees are. They never imagined that they could earn that sort of money. It’s off their radar psychologically, and not openly spoken about enough by those of us who are working. The result is that these composers devalue their wonderful work by not asking for proper remuneration (when doing so is appropriate: let’s not flame out here, comrades, about the situations when it IS ok to give someone a piece). And most damaging of all, is that when a composer works for free or nearly so, they are sending the message to the recipients of their music that music does not need to be paid for. Venues: of course. Instruments: sure. Engineers to record the sessions: yup. Sheet music: okay. Printed promotional materials: absolutely. But what about the actual creation of the content, without which none of the above would be necessary?

    Corey mentioned Meet the Composer, and I want to make sure that all readers here know that a great way to bolster your request for a proper fee is to point the potential commissioner, be they a patron or a performer, to this very helpful chart that MTC offers:

    http://www.meetthecomposer.org/node/95

    For those who are a bit shy about asking for fees, it’s incredibly helpful to have a suggested professional range published by a respected outside source to which we can direct people. When they see it in print, perhaps they will realize just how valuable, artistically and financially, our unique contributions are. And perhaps we all will, as well!

  29. Evan Kuchar says:

    To all:

    This is a tough business and an even tougher genre in which to find success. Anyone who is in it solely for themselves is delusional. They are deluded about the quality of their music and probability of success. Our roles as performers or composers is really spreading the value of contemporary music such that we all have more success, spending less time arguing over minutia and fighting over scraps. Dismissing an ensemble or a composer over such petty matters is counterproductive.

    Weighing in on the fee:

    I believe the fee is completely appropriate, considering the time and money the ensemble will spend. There is no escaping the symbiotic relationship between composer and performer. Depending on the situation – performance, recording, contest – one is more important than the other; rarely is it perfectly balanced. In the case of this contest, we can argue over the perfection of the balance, but at the very least, it seems mutually beneficial – both monetarily and beyond.

    To respond to Mr. Dargel:

    Writing a new piece for a competition and expecting it to pay your rent is ludicrous. Simply winning a performance (and the subsequent recognition) should be prize enough to motivate *serious*, up-and-coming composers to enter – yes, maybe up-and-coming will mean younger rather than older. Fame, reputation, and recordings are sometimes worth more than money, butthe monetary prize sweetens the deal, widening the field slightly to ensure that the winning piece beats out stiff competition.

    And besides, shouldn’t the truly professional composers already have a handful of Pierrot ensemble pieces that they can just dust off and submit? If not, this is an opportunity to write one. If it doesn’t win, you can always submit it to other competitions.

    When will someone make a Downfall / Hitler Meme video of the 8bb composition contest?

  30. Daniel says:

    My first/visceral reaction to a $50 application fee for a competition with a $1000 prize was laughter. When I realized that I did respect 8bb as an ensemble, humor turned to disappointment. I consider myself an average, working-class composer, and coughing up $50 for a $1000 raffle seems unreasonable. The local Catholic charity can offer me a $50 raffle ticket for a Porsche giveaway, and I still won’t buy.

    Is 8bb really behind this decision, or is there a manager-type involved? The contest is too out of balance to justify the fee. I’m sorry, 8bb, you are going to have to explain yourselves to me if you want to regain my trust.

    On the other hand, they can do what they want. I don’t care.

  31. Micah Levy says:

    Phooey!!!! I am so disGUSted, I think I’ll eat some worms. No, here’s a better idea. I’m just not going to send any more of my brilliant scores to the Eighth Blackbird or even the 7th. From now on I’m sending my music straight to the magpies, scores will go to songbirds, works will go to warblers and opi will go to owls. AS for 8th Blackbird, they can eat crow. This music writing business is for the birds!!

  32. Stanley Moon says:

    Well, it *is* our Monopoly money, after all. (I certainly agree in spirit about the aim thing.)

  33. Stanley, I first worked up a low-overhead version, but then I realized I was falling into the trap of insisting that the composer be paid well at everyone else’s expense, which to me is unethical. As a matter of fact, my budget actually underpays 8bb somewhat — if I worked them into the budget at what I believe is their value, it would add another 6-8 thousand.

    And besides, if you aim high, you might hit high. If you aim low, you are guaranteed to hit low. So let’s go for all the marbles.

    To mix a metaphor.

  34. Stanley Moon says:

    Lawrence, as to those budgets, I’d say the original is too cold and yours is too hot, so ask Goldilocks. It could even be a very low-overhead thing with some changes. Obviously, one change would be to not charge a fee and have 8bb donate their score-reading services. Small compromises across the board could make the whole process feel better. There isn’t really one sticking point, just that the sum of the parts made the competition seem less than generous or welcoming.

  35. Thanks, Mary Jane, maybe I’ll be in touch with you. But the $5000 I quoted way above wasn’t so much for the production (although that was part of it), it was mostly for the six musicians. As I mentioned about 50 posts ago, I love paying musicians well, when I can. I hate paying abstract stuff like the mortgage, or the internet bill — love paying things that have concrete value, like musicians.

  36. P.S. Lawrence, if you are paying $5000 to record a piece, I’d be happy to produce a recording for you. Seriously, I’ve produced a lot of recordings, including at the expensive Academy of Arts and Letter, and have never paid that much. Not only that, I have my own space with great acoustics that you can record in.

  37. I’ve been thinking about this, and I think a more apt comparison would be if presenting organizations started to charge fees for performance proposals.

    I think all of us who are in music do work at times that you don’t get paid for. When I ran XI (a cd label), we received proposals. I would try to get to them and send a reply, but truthfully, since we had a specific aesthetic, many could be eliminated quickly. Dennis Bathory-Kitsz probably received piles and piles of cds when he was running regular shows for Kalvos and Damian, but considered it part of what he was doing, and wouldn’t consider charging. I continually get requests for information about Julius Eastman, but I wouldn’t consider charging for it. I run a concert series, but wouldn’t consider charging to look at performance proposals. It’s called being part of a community, also intellectual curiosity.

    Finally, unless you are a performance ensemble that only does a narrow, standard repertoire, there probably is some kind of research that has to be done to find new pieces, so I would consider that part of the whole process. If you’re only performing dead composers, I guess the advantage is that you can’t charge them for looking at their scores. :-)

  38. Adding up costs to create a more perfect competition:

    Let’s say three composer-winners, each getting $8000 in prize money. Open rehearsals and performances with composers in attendance, that’s another $2000 per composer toward travel and lodging. Three days of recording sessions at $500/day for each performer, $1000/day for space rental, $1000/piece for recording and editing. Another $10,000 for administrative costs (you better pay the administrator(s) well, because organizing this kind of thing is a logistical headache and a dreadful bore, and the people behind the scenes aren’t going to get anything much from it besides money).

    These are all ballpark figures – your mileage may vary. But they are based on actual road tests.

    That all comes to a cool $55,000/year. I still haven’t heard of any grants one can apply for to run a contest, and certainly nothing that would come close to that kind of figure. So, if you want to do it annually, you can ask one of your friends with disposable cash to cough $55,000 up every year. Or you can ask them to make a one-time gift to create an endowment that would generate that amount annually.

    A one-time gift of 1.1 million dollars would do it in a decent economy. It would take more in our current recession.

    Honestly, given the limited number of patrons who would line up for this kind of enterprise, it still makes more sense to me to charge a modest application fee. And, now that I think of it, the best way to get a patron for this kind of thing would be to show them a successful track record. In other words, run the competition with a fee for a few years, unearth a bunch of outstanding new pieces, then go to your patrons and show them what their generosity could accomplish.

  39. Stanley Moon says:

    works both ways. having a good patron can give you great, even total freedom, and having your own group can be a ball and chain.

    oh, and bach and vivaldi both had to please church hierarchies, which Bach especially found a real drag.

  40. paul bailey says:

    stanley,

    i can think many composers in the baroque (bach and vivaldi especially) made their living by teaching instead of composing. i guess it’s easier for you to dismiss most of the aesthetic limitations of patronage as the cost of “doing business” and if we are talking about the present day i would be hard pressed many beethoven’s and mad richard’s that have consistently able to rise above the limitations of “working for the king”

  41. Stanley Moon says:

    Disturbing? That’s a good, healthy reaction to constructive criticism! Do you realize you’ve hardly answered anyone’s concerns other than to tell us we have no right to criticize such fine, hard-working people? Most of us, at least, have not attacked anyone’s personal character, but rather critiqued what seems an ill-wrought venture that may not reflect well on you. But I guess you might as well over-react, when you’re not being unresponsive…(well, at least to anyone other than Lawrence.) And your “Oy vey” to S21 sounds just a -tad- condescending (not a personal attack, mind you, just a literary judgement.)

  42. This lambasting of hard working musicians who in general fight the good fight in support of New Music is slightly disturbing. It seems to me that a more constructive response would be “Fantastic! Now, here are some changes that could make this more successful in the long run…” (Some of which we’ve read.) That’s bit more supportive of the general cause (supporting composers and performers of New Music) than attacking individuals’ personal character. This kind of kvetching is exactly why more of these kinds of things don’t exist. (I feel like my Mom saying “This is why we can’t have nice things.”)

    As a performer consistently playing new music, I know how hard it is to create even a small structure that encourages the creation of a new piece. Of course these structures start out with flaws. If they waited until everything was perfect, they’d never have any kind of competition at all and all of those pieces you’d submit wouldn’t leave your house. Of course, you could always create your own structure. Speaking of 8bb as if it’s a corporate machine like the NY Phil or IBM seriously overlooks the fact that it’s just a handful of musicians teaching, playing, paying the rent, and trying to find some good new music.

    Not submitting your work because it doesn’t pass the cost/benefit analysis makes perfect sense. Attacking those people who are out there trying to do something good for what you say is your cause is probably counterproductive.

    (I owe you an email, Lawrence, I know! Soon…Caught up in a very busy schedule at the moment. But apparently I have time to read S21. Oy vey.)

  43. Stanley Moon says:

    hmmm…you might want to look at the history of music and art produced via patronage before you dismiss it as “begging for scraps.” we’re talking most of the western canon up to beethoven, and then there’s that wagner character and mad ludwig. it worked out well for richard. in other words, good patrons can have good relationships with artists and the relationship can produce great works. one might as easily argue that all artists becoming independent sole proprietors can lead to over-reliance on market forces and trends. i think a combination of income streams is best and it can work that way if the composer knows how to make patronage work for him or her. being independent and self-sufficient these days means knowing how to play both sides, having ensembles, doing your own recording and publishing, and knowing how to finesse a grant proposal. that’s not begging, that’s doing business. and of course if you want to write orchestral works, you’re probably not starting your own, so you’ve got to get help somewhere..

  44. paul bailey says:

    as a performing composer who has always had my own ensembles to directly write in and perform with this whole discussion seems sad and archaic.

    most of the time i’m just not interested in listening to commissioned art music concerts or recordings is the music they choose seems to be selected more by outside relationships and commitments of their publisher/record company and how it will forward their career (with the exception of the “fred” album) than by making any strong artistic statement.

    is depending on patronage really the best you all can do? what would people think if radiohead went out and commissioned (insert name of composer here) for their next album? the idea of composers being work for hire (other than opera and theater) i think is directly related to the way they are treated (just like scriptwriters in hollywood)

    at the end of the day patronage from the government or private sector is still not that much different than begging for scraps from the church and king. i know we all gotta do to whatever we can to pay the bills, but i’d rather not beg for my supper.

  45. Stanley Moon says:

    Well, other organizations usually do this by seeking patrons to cover it, individuals, sponsoring corporations or, in the unusual case of Ban on a Can, making a specific fund drive for “People’s Commissions.” Like anything else, the organization’s zeal and passion to get it done (raise money to create new music) is what ultimately gets it done.

  46. Thanks for the serious response, most of which I like. But the part about finding other funding brings me back to a question I asked about 60 comments ago. I don’t know of any grants for competitions. And if they are going to do the things you are suggesting, they will need a heap of funding — unless you are suggesting that the winning composers get no money.

  47. Stanley Moon says:

    Hmmm…don’t follow that logic at all. I think they should definitely have a competition, but they might want to re-think and retool the thing. What they have right now seems a ill-defined. I think they mightd limit the field to composers who have not had major exposure (define that as you may) so that more really new (and I don’t necessarily mean young) people are encouraged. Would be kind of a drag if a well-known mid-career composer wins it. Nothing against the well-known middie but…

    They should find other funding, not have a $50 entry fee, and make the award larger. But also make the event itself larger. As I said before, I think it would be great to raise the profile of the thing more by selecting several composers and having open rehearsals and concerts with audience interaction. Make the whole thing a sort of collegial learning environment. If you’re going to have outreach, you might as well really reach out and effect change while you’re at it.

  48. Sorry if I sounded facetious; You already know those things because you’ve done your homework. It was a compliment.

    I thought I understood that since 8bb was going to perform the piece then the prize should be comparable to a commission.

    I’m seriously trying to follow this line of reasoning, which I don’t yet understand. If an organization doesn’t have the endowment of a Grawemeyer or a Pulitzer, it shouldn’t sponsor competitions?

  49. Stanley Moon says:

    Thanks Lawrence, but as a matter of fact I already knew those things. Don’t you?

    As to your question, whose performance of what?

  50. Good homework, Stanley. So if a performance is involved, it should be categorized as a commission?

  51. Stanley Moon says:

    Yes, the Grawemeyer, which pays $100,000, has an entry fee…of $40, paid by the performing or presenting organization. Individuals may not apply, and I assume few of the applicants are young or impoverished, since they must present the score and recording of an already performed major work.

    And no, the Pulitzer has an entry fee of $50, though I think the prestige of that one offers sufficient auxiliary value. I doubt many poor youngsters are applying for that one, either.

    So neither makes for a good comparison.

  52.