music biz

Just for the joy of it



I can’t remember a time when I didn’t absolutely LOVE records – although I confess that when I first began hearing the radio as a little kid, I was under the impression that Elvis was actually there in the WROW studio, performing with the Jordanaires. (He always sang each phrase exactly the same, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they were spinning a record. After all, hadn’t the DJ just announced, “and here’s Elvis Presley, singing DON’T BE CRUEL”?)

As I grew into becoming a musician, I came to love records even more; for one thing, I could listen over and over, to learn a song, or just for pure enjoyment (cue The Beatles. Leonard Bernstein and Paul Desmond). For another, I realized that all I had to do was perform and record perfectly once, and then I’d never have to play or sing that song again!  I wanted to follow Steely Dan’s pre-90s paradigm and release albums without having to tour.


But oh, have times changed! According to many in the music biz, live performance is now mandatory; the only way a musician can expect to see a payday –

and yet “…never has music been less about music. Never have audiences cared less about the actual performances. They watch with their phones and it’s more about “look at me at the concert.”

Which leaves us musicians-who-love-to-make-records exactly where? When a superstar as established as Prince is hurting, what is left for those of us who never were superstars?

While it was never an easy career, there’s ample evidence all over the internet that the recorded music business has mutated into something virtually unrecognizable to anyone older than 40. Now, apparently not even mega-hit pop records receive their financial due!   AllAboutThatBass

An old friend emailed me 10 months ago, “Keep composing and playing and singing – It can be very liberating with no goal in mind. You know, just for the joy of it.”  I haven’t been able to respond to him yet because what I WANT to say is so politically incorrect and sounds so ungrateful. Because I was writing songs “just for the joy of it” 50 years ago. Because I made my living in music, and it stopped being “just for the joy of it” a long time ago, and I began to need to be paid for my music (like anyone else who provides a valued service) in order to live with myself.

Dave Tull apparently agrees:  I JUST WANT TO GET PAID

Being primarily a jazz musician, I never expected to get rich, even long before Napster started giving away the store. Since jazz is such a miniscule percentage of the record business, it now surprises me how many websites have bootlegged my records and encourage their visitors to download my music for free.  I’m pretty sure I could deal with the reality of aging-out of pop culture if I wasn’t aware that my music, like Prince’s, is now being stolen all around the world. (Doesn’t that mean there’s value in it, that it’s worth something to someone, if they bother to post it online?)

Well, it is most definitely worth something to ME!  When I listen to the CDs I’ve completed, I’m inordinately pleased with the final results. Sure, there were some compromises, but the pains that were taken in the writing, production, performances – these recordings come as close as possible to expressing what I intended them to convey, and I’m very, very proud of them and all the musicians, engineers and producers who added so much to what I’d envisioned. Since there’s virtually no pay day at this point, I may not be inspired to create a whole lot more music “just for the joy of it”, but I’m extremely glad to have done what I’ve done to date.

Marilyn Harris Music Clips

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One thought on “Just for the joy of it

  1. Pingback: Things We Do For Lo♥e | Celebrations Of Failure

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