I am not sure whether people realize the economic role of the composer. The composer is a creator of economic opportunities. A new piece being produced translates into jobs, not only for musicians and performers, but brings X number of dollars for: rehearsal spaces, printers, graphic and web designers, web hosting companies, suppliers, music copyists, recording engineers, publicists, agents, lighting designers, stage managers, stage hands, theater staff, beauty parlors, and even coffee shops, restaurants and bars for the after-concert reprieve, as well as taxis and car services. In other words, the composerâ€™s work creates a plus-value that boosts economic growth. For better or worse, composers are capital-boosters.
However, the support structure is performer and organization oriented. There are hardly any programs that support the composerâ€™s activity directly â€“ even the Meet the Composer Fund requires a non-profit sponsor. The programs support the ensembles, the companies, the organizations that present the work. Finding the right sponsor can be a challenge. The sponsors may have their own agendas that do not necessarily match the composerâ€™s goals.
Is the answer having oneâ€™s own non-profit organization? I have two objections: (1) Because of the capitalistic competitive environment that prevails even in the arts, there is a conflict of interest between the composer and the organization, as it aims to support multiple composers. What I have seen happen is the creation of small factions that protect their territories, just like in any other business, nothing fair or democratic about it. (2) Running the non-profit organization is paper-intensive, it takes over the composerâ€™s life and there is very little time left to practice and compose. This is becoming a leitmotiv: why are we compelled to be business people instead of pursuing our artistic expression, which is the composerâ€™s most basic human right.
Why not support the composer directly and help create that economic-boosting plus-value? A growing number of unsupported composers invest enormous sums of their own money, year after year, often re-oriented from other job earnings, into the creation and presentation of their work, which in turn benefits the various economic sectors I mentioned above. Isn’t this a form of exploitation? Why do we do it? We are not pursuing fame and fortune. We do it because the Work must happen, it must be shared, heard. The reward is in the piece itself â€“ it better be worth it.