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SXSW Music 2013

Who Cares If You Have an Audience?

In 1967, Milton Babbitt wrote a famous article "Who Cares if You Listen?" arguing that modern music had reached such a high level that laypeople were no longer qualified to appreciate it. The ensuing controversy raised basic questions about the artistic endeavor: WHY do we create, FOR whom, and with WHAT expectations?

Today, popular artists face these exact same issues as their predecessors in the avant garde did a generation ago. As music becomes commoditized and acclaim comes in tiny Facebook "likes," it begs the question: what are we creating for?

This panel will examine the state of popular and classical music to see if the audience figures into the creative process in an immediate way; whether tonal language needs to be simplified; the implications of having a part-time artistic class that has dayjobs; whether great artists are owed a living; and what rewards may exist outside of fame and fortune.

To quote Varese: "The present day composers refuse to die!"

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  1. Are artists owed a living by society?
  2. What are the implications of having an artistic class who has to make a living through other means?
  3. Whom are we creating for, if no immediate audience is present?
  4. Why create, if fame and fortune are not imminent?
  5. Is it ever possible or desirable to try to broaden your appeal if your inclinations are outside the present popular artistic debate?



Brian Felsen, President, CD Baby

Meta Information:

  • Event: Music
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Other
  • Track 2
  • Level:
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