Hello…Is This Thing On?

More Robots
“That small sliver represents the amount of human jobs that remain viable.”

WAY back in 2009 well-known motivational speaker (no not Matt Foley¬†ūüôā¬†) named Daniel Pink delivered a Keynote Address to the good folks gathered for the Texas¬†Music Educators Association Conference.

Click on this image to go to the WMEA site where the full 48 minute presentation is embedded.
Click on this image to go to the WMEA site where the full 48 minute presentation is embedded.

Check out Daniel’s wonderful work concerning all of this and focusing on the right-left brain concept “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future”:

Click on the image above OR HERE to order Daniel's book.
Click on the image above OR HERE to order Daniel’s book.

Daniel essentially had good news for the musicians in attendance at TMEA that can be summed up by saying that we have gone beyond The Information Age and into The Conceptual Age.¬†In other words, as technology advances and replaces human beings, the one thing that will still be in demand is essentially anything that a computer can’t do.

BAM! We artists should be good then right? Computers (and therefore robots) can do so many things extremely well…but improvisation and creativity is not one of them. Right-brained thinkers should be in HIGH demand.¬†But, how is that working out for us?

Well, something that perhaps wasn’t crystal clear back in 2009 was the oncoming devaluation of music and the arts in general. Where are we with all of that? Is it really happening? Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has some thoughts on that:

Steven Tyler screaming some common sense ideas into the air of Washington D.C.
Steven Tyler screaming some common sense ideas into the air of Washington D.C. (Click on the Image OR HERE to read his article: “Politicians: Respect and Protect Copyright”)

So, regarding the good news of Daniel Pink…how are we doing? Are the use of robots and computers replacing humans while¬†not creating new jobs? Is society starting to devalue music and the arts in general? Have artists loss access to revenue streams?

Things could be bleak, or we could be in the midst of some kind of new Renaissance. What do you think? Let’s share some ideas and come up with some good news. ūüôā

Do We Need Back Up?


The great artist Byron Stripling paid a visit to the University of Denver last year and blew everyone away! I HIGHLY recommend that you book this wonderful artist-speaker-entrepreneur for your event, concert, festival, performance, band whatever! He is wonderful on many, many different levels. Indeed, I believe him to be one of the most effective artists who came on the scene in the 20th Century and made the switch to the 21st Century out there. Please go to this site and book him right now: HIRE BYRON STRIPLING!


So, along with helping a friend by hopefully tossing him some work, I wanted to bring up Byron because of something he said to us in his wonderful presentation at DU that hit home with me…and I find it to be a great subject for a 21CA Blog post. So here it is:

Byron looked around the room and asked the students “Is there anything else you like to do besides music?” (One could also put the word “arts” in place of music) Some of the students raised their hands, Byron listened to their answers, then said: “Well you’d better do THAT then! Because music is HARD!”

Mr. Stripling went on to use a phrase I had not heard before (what rock had I been living under!) “Burn Your Boats!” A phrase that comes from the popular belief that the famous Conquistador¬†Hern√°n Cort√©s told his men that they were going to conquer the Aztecs and take over Mexico…there was no other alternative…no turning back…and now you CAN’T because we just sank the fleet! Historians disagree if the ships were actually burned, if they were sunk by another method, if the soldiers were told in a dramatic fashion, or if it was a secret later revealed, but they do seem to agree that the ships were actually destroyed. And of course the brutal destruction of the mighty Aztec empire and peoples are a sad-but-true historical fact as well. (CLICK HERE for a bit of history on Cort√©s courtesy of PBS.) Byron used this well known metaphor to underline the fact that if you want to “make it” in the arts, you need to be ALL in, 100% -NO BACK UP PLAN!

But doesn’t this go against what most parents tell their children? I (and I’m sure MANY others) were told: “You’d better have something to fall back on honey. That music business is TOUGH!” Are these well-meaning and loving parents wrong about that? I think not. I believe what Byron was saying is that YES, the music business (and indeed all of the arts today) is TOUGH! Actually, it’s almost impossible! So you had better commit FULLY.

Indeed if you apply the teachings of my favorite philosopher: Jedi Master Yoda (Ok, full disclosure…I also am a devotee of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Rogers) then you know: “Do or do not. There is no try.”


What does all this mean? Well, there are others who take up this philosophy of “Burn Your Boats” such as successful entrepreneur John Dunham on his blog:¬†Burn The Boats¬†and their is even a blog on “take no prisoner” style entrepreneurship by a young independent Internet technologist (not really sure what that is) called¬†Kevin-Mikhail Man¬≠sour Sin¬≠gara¬≠yar titled “Burning Boats”¬†CHECK IT OUT.

Does this kind of single-minded devoted approach mean that artists in the 21st Century need to be so committed that they starve? Nope. If we stick to the 21CA mantra of ¬†Survive and Thrive¬†then it’s ok to take a part-time gig of some kind so that you can put food on the table while you develop your artistic endeavor. This is also common sense. Indeed, the whole idea of 21st Century entrepreneurship in the arts is to diversify enrich and defy categorization. But perhaps then it is NOT ok to go about the incredibly important and SO very challenging task of pursuing the arts for your life’s work with a “back up plan” or “fall back” option. Does one strive to the fullest if one knows there are boat in the harbor for a quick getaway when the going gets tough?

I believe that the entrepreneurial motivational folk, Byron Stripling and yes: even Yoda are saying that we as 21st Century artists need to approach this whole thing with a spirit of “there is no other option” we are here to stay and we have NO¬†plan to leave!

Is there any other way to go about doing all of this?

Your thoughts please. Think Tank…ASSEMBLE!

Oh….It is SO on now!


When I read media analyst Steve Johnson’s article (featured on our first blog post: “Are We Good Then?“) titled “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” I was struck by two thoughts:

  1. This guy really knows how to gather info and talk STATS!
  2. Hey…waidaminnit….his conclusions don’t reflect my own experience, or for that matter…the experiences of anyone else that I know in the music business. What’s up with that?

Well, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had that opinion. In the article, Steven mentions an organization called The Future of Music Coalition. The “FMC” describes their mission as follows:

“Future of Music Coalition¬†(FMC)¬†is a¬†Washington D.C.-based¬†nonprofit organization supporting a musical¬†ecosystem where artists flourish and are compensated fairly and transparently for their work.

FMC works with musicians, composers and industry stakeholders to identify solutions to shared challenges. We promote strategies, policies, technologies and educational initiatives that always put artists first while recognizing the role music fans play in shaping the future. FMC works to ensure that diversity, equality and creativity drives artist engagement with¬†the global music community, and¬†that these values are reflected¬†in laws, licenses, and policies that¬†govern any¬†industry¬†that¬†uses music as raw material for its¬†business.”

Pretty cool eh? I like these guys already. Anyone who puts artists first has my vote! But back to Steven and his article: in it he refers to data that he got from FMC that helped his optimistic spin on the current state of employment opportunities for musicians. As it turns out, FMC had told Steven that he had reached some questionable conclusions and suggests some edits that never happened. When they read the final article which was published on August 19, 2015, they were not amused. They wrote a rebuttal and the game was ON!

Check it out:

The Data Journalism That Wasn’t

OUCH! (I added the “ouch” part FYI)

A. The Data Journalism That Wasn't

Click here for the rebuttal article from FMC


And of course, Steven Johnson stood by his original article and published a follow up to his original story rebutted by FMC.

Can Data Capture The True Health of The Creative Economy?

C. Can Data Capture The Health?

Click Here for Steve’s Follow Up Article


And FINALLY (for now) not wanting to leave it there…FMC published yet another follow up with the very cool title of:

Musicians are Not Dentists: What Steven Johnson Still Doesn’t Get

B. Musicians Are Not Dentists

Click Here to Read The FMC Article

(As an aside, my former dentist in Texas IS a musician…and a really good one. So…funny title…but not completely accurate. Just sayin’…)


Therefore….who wins this epic back-and-forth? Are the musicians themselves the ultimate losers? Are things as rosy as Steven says? ¬†At the end of the day, it is up to us: the artists, to make all of this right.

At this point I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw:

I hear you say
I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

What are your thoughts? Lets have some more of your wonderful comments and sort this thing out!

Are We Good Then?


Popular science author and media theorist Steven Johnson recently wrote a very provocative and compelling article for The New York Times titled: “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t.”

CLICK HERE for Steven’s Article

What-WHAT?! Did I miss something? Is everything still cool? Are people still purchasing music? Can I write some cool stuff, have a record label sign me and they will pay for the recording, artwork, distribution and marketing and even organize a tour?

Uh….nope. That isn’t what this article (and its some 300 comments!) is all about. We are still in a brave new world, but Steven has a different spin on things.

What do YOU think? Let’s get this party started: give the article a read and give us all your thoughts. Together, we can come up with some cool ideas I believe (as well as facetious ones…hey we are a bunch of creative right-brained folk who thrive on snark after all ūüôā

Let’s talk!

Reference: A cool TED talk by Steven Johnson