Economics at the New Music Gathering

I’m doing it again. I’m going to a conference full of composers and new music freaks to talk about the inflation curve.

I love the New Music Gathering. It’s a great event full of love for the music, and for the people who make it. It’s fantastic. And this year it’s coming to my alma mater, Peabody Conservatory (January 7-9), which is even better. I get to go back, see a bunch of people, meet the new administration, and, of course, talk about inflation a lot.

OK, so, really, why? Because there are a lot of ‘arts business’ and ‘arts entrepreneurship’ courses out there, and most of them (mine included) are about giving artists individual skills. Here’s how to plan a budget, here’s how to found a 501(c)(3), here’s how to run a Kickstarter campaign. Sometimes you get practical experience, sometimes you don’t. But at the end of the day you’re still on your own, learning about your own work in isolation.

The ridiculous rate of change affecting the whole arts sector isn’t happening on the individual scale, though. It’s happening across all of the arts, and across the whole economy.

I wanted to make some tools for artists to use to understand their own work in that broader context, and to plan for the changes that are coming in the broader economy over the course of their lives. That means doing some actual economics, instead of just skills-based training. In particular, I believe Baumol’s Cost Disease (oft-maligned in the arts) is the key economic force for the arts to understand. It’s a simple observation about the economy with some subtle implications for the arts.

I gave the first version of this talk last year, and this year I’m looking forward to giving an enhanced version. If I do the job right, the composers and musicians in the room will leave the room not just understanding the economics that’s messing up their careers, but better equipped to evaluate new opportunities, and to plan for the future.

Being an artist is really hard, and I want to make something that can help make the job a little easier.

So come on down to the New Music Gathering, and if you can’t make it, please back the Kickstarter. You’ll help some awesome things happen.

Leave a Reply