Posts Tagged ‘fundraising’

Composer, emerge thyself!

Can I come out yet?

Now that the smoke has cleared after last weekend’s ginormous recital/premiere extravaganza, it’s time to pop out of the foxhole and see what the past five months of preparation has wrought.

It was a big project. Self produce an evening long concert of new music, all written by myself. It seemed like the entrepreneurial thing for a fledgling composer to do.

For those of you that don’t know, self-production is a lot of work. Assembling the artists, coordinating schedules, finding venues… not to mention marketing and publicity, with a few grant applications on the side (all skills that have very little to do with composition). And then there’s the nitty gritty bits like laying out a program, distributing flyers around town, and buying the right amount of crackers for the post concert reception. And, of course, there’s the small matter of getting the music to sound right.

So how did it go?

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May 2011


Happy monkey is happy (and NOT a hypocrite)

Fantastic news here in Music vs Theater world! The San Francisco chapter of the American Composer’s Forum has seen fit to award me a Subito grant to help produce this weekend’s premiere of my song cycle (and other works)!

This is a huge deal, not only will it make it much more likely that we’ll be able to cover all the expenses (as well as pay the musicians closer to what they deserve), but with any luck, it will pave the way for future grants.

But, looking for the grey cloud behind this silver lining in this particular horse’s mouth, it looks like it’s time for me to revisit my post whining about how hard it is for new-ish composers to get arts grants. After all, can I still maintain that arts funding does more harm than good in the face of this new award?

Unfortunately, I kinda think so. Read the rest of this entry →

Arts funding as psychological torture

Sad monkey. No grants for you.

Does arts funding do more harm than good?

It’s no secret that arts funding is scarce, especially for smaller, unproven, “emerging” artists. I wrote a post a couple of months ago about how competitive it is to become eligible to apply for most grants, let alone to actually win any of those grants. The organizations that evaluate applications are doing their best with the limited resources they have, but they’ll be the first to admit that there are many, many worthwhile projects asking for funding that they have to reject.

As a result, the emerging artist applying for funding is subjected to an awful lot of unpredictable and arbitrary rejection, largely unrelated to the quality of the work they’re making. Imagine a caged monkey subjected to electric shocks at random. Sad monkey. Very sad monkey.

Grant decisions are one of the few bits of concrete feedback an artist gets. It’s hard to intellectualize away such a clear yes/no rejection. Even though your brain knows not to take it personally, it grates at the soul. It takes a resilient, determined, self confident artist to keep producing work in the face of such explicit rejection. Meanwhile, the less assured artist will take it all to heart and their output will suffer.

For any grant awarded, hundreds of rejections go out. That’s an awful lot of bad mojo being spread out. It seems unlikely that the positive effect of the grant outweighs the psychological damage of the many rejections, especially if you look at the relatively meager amounts of the grants (sometimes under four figures.)

That’s a pretty tough conclusion. It seems wrong headed to tell these small grant makers to close up shop, that they’re doing more harm than good. Artists should just suck it up, know the lay of their land, and produce art only if the fire inside of them is strong enough to endure the occasional (or frequent) bucket of cold water.

Anyone got a better idea?


May 2010

Mommy… where do independent operas come from?

Over there on the right side of the blog you’ll see a “tag cloud”. For those of my readers who are not familiar with the blogging world, a tag is a keyword that I associate with each post. Each post can have any number of keywords. And that tag cloud lists all the keywords used throughout the blog, with the size of the font proportionate to the number of posts that have that keyword. And with this post, I’m making the ‘self-doubt’ take a point or two larger.

When I first had the idea to write an produce a solo opera, I figured I’d front most of the money, have faith in my own abilities and talents, and end up making it back during the run. A few back of the envelope calculations (and Jessica Robinson’s fantastic “Boot Camp For Artists” course at Counterpulse) made me quickly realize that the costs of producing even a small solo opera are a considerable chunk of change. Little things like renting a space, building some sort of set, and hiring a high quality publicist, producer, and a director all add up to the “non” in “non-profit”.

Then spend a bit of time figuring out how much money you actually stand to make in ticket sales, even if every single one of your friends and family paid full price to see you, and you realize that breaking even in a creative endeavor is possible, but not likely.

So how do any independent productions get made? What fills the gap between ticket sales and production costs?

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Mar 2010