So, apparently I over generalized the nature of events (festivals) and event (festival) talent buyers in my previous post “How Do You Define …and why does it matter?” A couple of folks have taken me to task for it, so let me clarify some of my points.
My major point is that labels such as singer-songwriter are inherently vague, overly broad, and should not be used as a means of describing the style of music that an artist does. The connotation of a “singer-songwriter” is as a SOLO (or duo) performer, often accompanied by a single instrument, and is not indicative of the STYLE of music the artist is performing.
I attempted to defeat that bias by my choice of the videos I ended my past post with. I specifically selected singers who also write their own material, and are largely known as singer-songwriters – yet they display a diversity of style and lyrical content – and aesthetic quality. There are (currently) 12 videos …from across Colorado’s history of great music.
The major point I was trying to establish was how differently we define a genre of music, and how those perceptions are applied by those who are listening, and therefore “buying” music – whether a fan, or those who book talent for SOME festival and/or civic events regionally .
There are numerous types of events (festivals) in Colorado. By some estimates there are as many as 1250 event days a year, statewide. Many book a broad diversity of talent – from solo acts to large bands and orchestras – while others are more genre/style specific.
Those who are responsible for putting on many of our regional civic events are (generally) not in the business of music – they typically fill other (more important) roles at their municipal agencies. In other words, their “business” may be city planning, and they may not be able to articulate genres and styles as those of us “in the business” can and (too often?) do.
Many of these folks only know about music as the average person (also not in the business of music) knows about music – from what they see on tv, remember from their youth (pre-24/25), or hear on their favorite local radio station. They can tell you what they like, and they can typically paint broad outlines of “style” or “genre.”
More likely than not, they describe what they like or don’t like by referencing what they already know. It seems to me at least that most people are more likely to say “I like ______________, and I think ____________ “sucks” than to try to describe music with “industry” terminology.
I know one person who works for a city, and is part of the summer downtown festival committee, who can’t name the artist behind a single song she hears on the radio, nor can she name the song. Yet this person knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and can attribute a fundamental nomenclature to the style she listens to — however broad. She can name something as country or pop/rock or metal or rap .. but fails to be able to describe music in much more specific terminology. She calls those who sing solo with a guitar a “folk” artist.
I know another person at a civic agency that puts on a music event, who was unaware of one of the region’s top music publications, and is largely unaware of many of the regions’ top acts, including some our Grammy nominated and/or award winning talents. Still others have a knowledge set limited by other factors.
There are obviously exceptions, and many music buyers I know are incredibly knowledgeable about the scene and what kinds of music our artists perform. As a radio dj over the past 35+ years in Colorado, however, I may call something one thing based on my knowledge of radio formats, and yet describe it using different terms if I’m talking to an artist, or someone booking talent for a civic event/festival.
I used the example of singer-songwriter because of an artist consultation, in which the artist asked me how to overcome the apparent bias inherent in the term singer-songwriter. My point was DO NOT USE THE TERM SINGER-SONGWRITER. It has no specific meaning – it’s too broad and diluted to use as a descriptive term of the TYPE (style) of music you perform.
Confused? You’re not alone. It really is all about the words you use and how you use them – and boy is there a lot of confusion.
Descriptive terminology can be very different from generation to generation, as it is among those involved in the business (or art) of presenting music. New terms (and the understanding thereof) are introduced with each new generation of musicians, fans, the general public, and those who present music to the public.
Who knew there would be HUNDREDS of styles of “rock” when we were introduced to “rock and roll” in 1955. Alan Freed, aka Moondog. would be impressed, I’m sure. (or not)
EDIT: Who knew there would be HUNDRED of styles of “rock” when we were introduced to “rock and roll in 1955 – regardless of who was given credit for coining the term.
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4 thoughts on “How Do You Define… PT II”
Hi Chris- Thanks for the follow up and the clarifications. One thing to note. Alan Freed was not the original, “Moondog.” He lifted that name from the, “Viking of 6th. Ave.” The eccentric, blind, “singer-songwriter”/ composer that originated the name. I think the, “Moondog,” even won a lawsuit over the use of the name? If you haven’t heard Moondog he’s worth some listening time. A friend turned me on to him earlier this year. He won the respect of many in both the modern classical and Jazz worlds. An eccentric genius.
From the Moondog biography:
“Legendary disc jockey Alan Freed was one of the first to pick up on the Moondog sound and found himself losing a lawsuit when he named his spot the Moondog show after the Moondog Symphony. However Freed was later to become the self styled originator of the term Rock´n´Roll.
His jazz influences were cultivated while on the streets, it was there that he met Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker, the latter remarking:
“You and I should make a record.””
Don’t get me started, Goat! I’ve already written this blog but much less eloquent and much more personal.
Seriously thank you for writing that – good but as usual. Love you!
That is truly interesting, Goat. “indie singer-songwriter” was a genre term that we were to scout for back in 2005-2010. But you know how much the music industry changes. Good points