8/22/08

Dammit, One More Amusement

So the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is going through some tough contract negotiations and, surprise, the piss poor economy is a big factor.

A report a year ago by think tank Rand foreshadowed that such pressures may only grow in a region where two of the biggest funders of arts -- the government and foundations -- are being pulled in other directions, putting more of the burden to raise money from a populace whose numbers have been shrinking.

Wow. And all by themselves. Good work, think tankers! Maybe next year you’ll be promoted to the third grade, where you’ll get to use paintbrushes instead of your fingers!
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23 comments:

Aaron said...

I've often wondered what it takes to be asked to join a think tank. It seems like a dream gig: we pay you to think about stuff. No results necessary.

And often enough, as here, the surprising conclusion Big Think comes up with is ... what any maroon who gave the matter some casual consideration would have come up with.

Sator Arepo said...

Should "piss poor" be hyphenated? Let's call Rand!

Empiricus said...

There are only three piss poor variants, at least three I could find--I can't imagine any others.

Anyway:

1) piss-poor - from the Merriam webster Dic.

2) pisspoor - Ibid.

3) piss poor - from the Urban Dic.

Personally, because of its slangy nature, I prefer the Urban Dictionary's punctuation and would rather treat it as a phrase. The UD's secondary definition--the MWD does not have one--states that piss poor can also refer to someone who is extremely broke. Thus, "piss (as an adv.) poor (adj.)." So, I believe, in a more grammatically correct way, it would be "pissly poor."

But then again, my mother's basement is not a think tank.

cereal_music said...

Government shouldn't fund art. Unless of course the government is nobility.

Then they can do whatever the hell they want to us serfs!

But if you want to get more money to musicians, composers and orchestras- get rid of copyright laws.

Empiricus said...

Good to see you again, Cereal-head. Please explain yourself.

cereal_music said...

It's good to be back!

Our economy is weak for a number of factors. If the public does not see a benefit in investing in a market (classical music in this case), government subsidies will not fend on the inevitable. In fact, they further weaken the economy.

Anyway, if we remove copyright laws, the whole pop music industry falls apart leaving a huge door open for highly skilled musicians. And it increases the demand and value of performances.

Keep up the good work Detriti!

Empiricus said...

I share your optimism, to a point. I, however, think you're thinking "big, big picture." It might be a pipe dream. So, don't count on it. Either way, good luck, senior!

AnthonyS said...

First of all, with respect to composers, the pop music industry subsidizes concert music composers' royalties through ASCAP and BMI. If it weren't for pop music, my ASCAP checks would be PENNIES compared to what they are now.

Think about it: if ASCAP/BMI had to invoice orchestras and new music ensembles dollar for dollar what they paid out to composers, we'd get... well, close to nothing. A new music group I was involved with paid just a few hundred dollars in liscensing fees per year, and we did (of course) all new music, so ASCAP/BMI was paying out hundred and hundreds of dollars more to the composers we played than they received from us. Without being subsidized by the pop music industry, either composers or presenting ensembles would be toast.

Second, I'm not sure I understand why the demolition of the pop music industry would lead to a demand for "highly skilled" musicians? Are you arguing that pop musicians aren't "highly skilled"?

And I disagree about government support for the arts. The argument that public support for X or Y or Z weakens the economy is tiresome. Ever hear of the New Deal (of which music, art, and film were a part)?

cereal_music said...

Anthonys, I don't like unions. I'm a composer, and I am confident that I can argue the value of my music on the free market. ASCAP and BMI shouldn't be subsidizing classical music either, but it's their prerogative as it is a free country. And it my prerogative not to join their clubs.

A thousand pop and classical musicians could cover Beatles tunes well- perhaps better than the Beatles could themselves. The fact that they have "intellectual" rights to 4-5 chords is insane. Imagine if Vivaldi held the rights to minuet form or the da capo aria. I say let everyone have the rights to the music and let the best performers get paid the most to perform it. Many of the great composers were plagiarizers- they made their money ‘cause they could deliver the goods.

Finally, I suppose to that you believe that the government should subsidize failing banks, and the oil industry, and the airline companies, crop prices, and failing schools to name a few. And guess what! I hear there's a great place for people that share your same ideas- I think a guy named Putin runs it. You seem so up to speed you might even be able to avoid "re-education".

Wonder what the perks are for composers there?

cereal_music said...

Oh, and I almost forgot- did I miss something- The New Deal was a good thing? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Housing Administration, and Social Security really, really have helped out our economy in the long run.

Aaron said...

Yes, the New Deal was a very good thing. The fact that generations of Republicans have tried to monkeywrench the best parts of it for ideological reasons does nothing to change its basic excellence as social policy. If you would prefer a more "libertarian" society, please consider moving to Somalia, where there are no enforceable copyright laws whatsoever, and see how well your product fares.

Gustav said...

I'm so confused...why would eliminating copyrights help composers? Music already competes in a free market. Eliminating copyrights only makes it easier for performers to not pay to perform works. Why would you ever go to a publisher for the music when you can photocopy it from someone else (just like, why buy the cd when I can steal it online)?

And I believe this idea that pop music would fall apart without copyright laws is flawed at best. Pop stars make almost no money on cds -- in fact, most bands lose money on them. And royalty money that is paid out goes to songwriters and producers, not the musicians -- most pop stars (and now, even many rock bands) don't write their own songs.

Pop stars of all ilks (no matter how alternative and cool you think they are) make most of their money from live performances and from merchandising, both of which have little to do with intellectual property.

But perhaps I am misunderstanding the gist of the argument.

cereal_music said...

Aaron- a note on politics: Apparently you, the Republicans, and the Democrats all feel that self-sustainability is optional in terms of economic policy. Where's this magic money tree that keeps on giving- I would like to know- wait, no, on second thought I enjoy working for my living. And thanks for the advice, I will put Somalia down on my list of places to market my music. (Interesting that you choose Somalia from a whole list of countries that do not enforce copyright laws.)

And Gustav, Good points. Very good. My premise was just that plagiarism didn't hurt the old guys (to my knowledge). The real point of my argument is I don't want one cent of my money THROUGH TAXES going to subsidize art. I know exactly what I want, and I'll pay for it myself.

Distributorcap said...

i had to pay a visit

and i will admit -- i know almost nothing about music.

Aaron said...

I chose Somalia as among the most lawless places on Earth - one of the few that would allow an apparent libertarian such as yourself the full range of his freedom to do whatever it is he wishes, unconstrained by the social forces that, as in the United States, he unwittingly depends on for almost everything he is and does. Libertarians seem to suffer from the delusion that they are either (or both) independent and self sufficient. Nobody is either of these things, but if you want to use this brand of sophomoric delusion to shape your worldview, more power to you. Try it someplace where it's more true than it is here and let us know how it goes.

cereal_music said...

Aaron, you're way off track here in your assessment of my views. First, I'm not a libertarian. Governments make laws. Naturally, I depend on my environment to live.

Second, if someone takes money from another person without exchanging a commodity it's theft. Whether it's with a gun, knife, or with a vote doesn't make it "right". I don't want to take anyone's money unless I've provided them with a service. You apparently do. I'm sorry you feel this way.

Third, learn how to argue. If I am correct, you jumped over all my arguments, labeled me an apparent libertarian (incorrectly), and then attacked your understanding of my libertarianism as delusional, poorly informed and immature. In case you missed my points, I posited:
1. New Deal programs among others have proven to be unsustainable.
2. Plagiarism didn't hurt the old guys.
3. I believe the gov. shouldn't subsidize art. Nowhere, to my knowledge, have I said the gov. shouldn't subsidize anything.

Perhaps there's a good reason why you choose to ignore these points and jump straight to the ad hominem attack. If you have facts to prove these statements wrong, I will be more than happy to consider you information. Set me straight, Aaron- you seem like an intelligent guy.

Empiricus said...

Easy fellas. (remember music?)

Aaron said...

Second, if someone takes money from another person without exchanging a commodity it's theft. Whether it's with a gun, knife, or with a vote doesn't make it "right". I don't want to take anyone's money unless I've provided them with a service. You apparently do. I'm sorry you feel this way.

This is a classic, and false, libertarian argument against taxation and government generally. Being a libertarian has nothing to do with not following laws - that would be an anarchist, which isn't quite the same thing. Whether you describe yourself as a libertarian or not, you're (perhaps unwittingly) using libertarian arguments. And the idea that you don't get anything from the things that taxes are spend on is, yes, sophomoric. Taxes pay for the roads you use, the police that protect you and your things, the education that allows people to make the the things you use (and in your case at least, to appreciate the music you compose), the system of laws and rules that permit a complex and interdependent society to function. To claim that the money is being stolen from you because you get nothing in return for your taxes is not a good argument.

Aaron said...

Third, learn how to argue. If I am correct, you jumped over all my arguments, labeled me an apparent libertarian (incorrectly), and then attacked your understanding of my libertarianism as delusional, poorly informed and immature. In case you missed my points, I posited:
1. New Deal programs among others have proven to be unsustainable.
2. Plagiarism didn't hurt the old guys.
3. I believe the gov. shouldn't subsidize art. Nowhere, to my knowledge, have I said the gov. shouldn't subsidize anything.


1. Most New Deal programs no longer exist - things like the WPA, for example, went away a long time ago. Their sustainability is beside the point. Those that do survive - Social Security most prominently, but also the Tennessee Valley Authority, FDIC, and FHA - all not only survive, but contribute to the sustainability of modern American society. Banks are more stable, and people are more willing to use them, because of FDIC insurance - insurance that is rarely called upon. The TVA helped electrify a good part of the South, without which its economic development would be blighted today. Social Security is sustainable on its own terms - the only problem it suffers from is a tendency among Congressmen and Senators to raid it for funding other projects. Even so, at most it requires some minor tweaking - possibly raising retirement age a year or two, or means-testing it so that the very rich (who don't need the benefits) don't get it. Those are the facts.

2. I believe Gustav addressed the copyright point.

3. Reasonable people can differ about what the government's proper role in funding anything is. It's worth noting that in Europe, where many governments do subsidize art, there is a far greater appreciation for (and market for) art music (and art generally) than you find in this country.

A note on "learning how to argue": if you're the sensitive type who doesn't like being told that someone thinks your ideas are ridiculous, perhaps you should refrain from telling people that their support for public funding for the arts suggests that they would be comfortable supporting a police state. It keeps thing more polite.

AnthonyS said...

Argh, I've been in faculty meetings for five days and totally missed all of this.

In any event, what Aaron said (nicely played, sir).

cereal_music said...

Much better, Aaron- thank you.

If you all may be so kind to entertain for a moment longer this slightly off-topic quarrel (I’m just trying to keep debate honest), and let me respond, you wrote, Aaron, in response to my “moral” hypothesis concerning taxation/theft:
This is a classic, and false, libertarian argument against taxation and government generally. Being a libertarian...
Do you have a reason why this is false or is it "just because?” And I must point out, without giving a reason you divert to a different subject, “spending of acquired tax money” which is distinctively different from the “morality of taxation.” But I will try to follow your argument.

Yes, it would be sophomoric if I said that we don't get anything from taxes. Many of the things you list we all support here, but there is a point were taxes are used unwisely and are unfairly administered. I'm not saying I know where that line is in every instance, but certainly we have the right to reach a consensus in this republic by majority rule about these issues. Is there a point were a government can steal from us through taxes? If not, then Robin Hood should be a boring story. Out of curiosity, should the government fund popular music? Why or why not?

Next you say concerning the New Deal Programs:
Their sustainability is beside the point.
NO IT IS NOT! It is precisely on that premise that I set my argument upon. At least, Aaron, you can try to dismiss this premise. Excusing it again, "just because," is poor debate, and this is two counts in the “Learn How to Argue” column. Tell us why monetary sustainability is not important to government programs, please.

Anyway, yes, Gustav argued well the point about copyrights and I agree with him (before and now). And I agree with your statement, "[r]easonable people can differ about what the government's proper role in funding anything is." I would guess that government funding of arts in Europe is simply an extension of a richer music tradition. The tradition of investment and interested in classical music existed well before “socialist” funding in the last century. That this funding is sustaining interest may be possible and at the same time be open to argument (I would argue against it in Europe as well- but I ain’t European ). That funding created the interest in the culture at large is probably not the case.

Finally, I'm not sensitive about my ideas. I'm just as ignorant as the next person from a postmodern perspective. Perhaps by your same argument you should refrain from suggesting that people in support of reasonable and restricted taxation (determined by "reasonable people') should live in an lawless (anarchist) states. I’m willing at this point to agree to disagree.

And AnthonyS, sorry we missed you- this was well played only if we were playing dodgeball!

Aaron said...

CM:

I think you're misreading my response on a couple of key points.

First, regarding the tax issue: Unless I'm misunderstanding, you claim that

"if someone takes money from another person without exchanging a commodity it's theft. Whether it's with a gun, knife, or with a vote doesn't make it "right".

This is not what taxation is; you yourself concede that the things I enumerated that we all get from taxes are things we all support. Taxation is not theft because any part of the community decides it doesn't like how the taxes, once collected, are spent by the government. They're logically distinct issues. Arguing about how much the government should collect, or on which programs the money should be spent, are not related to the question of whether taxation is legitimate in the first place. You concede that it is legitimate for some purposes. So taxation is not theft. Even if you don't want what the government provides with your tax dollars, you're still getting it. The taxes aren't being taken from you with you getting nothing in return.

Second, you misread my description of New Deal programs. My statement that "Their sustainability is beside the point" goes with the previous sentence regarding all those elements of the New Deal that are no longer in effect. Because they are not being funded, the sustainability of those parts of the New Deal aren't really part of the argument - and you could argue (as some economists do) that the value of those programs far outweighed whatever their cost was to the taxpayer. I never argued that "monetary sustainability is not important to government programs" - in fact I explained that the major pieces of the New Deal still in place are sustainable.

I mention the Russia thing because you started off the (arguably) as hominem argumentation; complaining about receiving the same treatment you dish out is, at best, poor form.

If you're interested in continuing this discussion - with apologies to SA and Empiricus, as it's really pretty far afield from the DR subject matter - I invite you to reread more carefully what I wrote and respond to what I actually argued, instead of taking a few sentences out of context to claim that I'm arguing something completely different.

cereal_music said...

Sorry, sorry, sorry SA and E for this, I will keep it to music in the future. I've started a thread on this at cerealmusic.blog.... Aaron, if you wish to continue. Your points are all taken here. Again, DR rules and I love the new layout! Thanks for your all your hard work.