A hugely successful composer of musicals was quoted in an interview to say that his most successful show had grossed more from international sales than the world’s most popular movie before Titanic. He wasn’t making the point to be arrogant, but rather to explain that there is no obvious way of determining for certain that live performance would be less lucrative than recorded work. Now that the record business has imploded – due to changes in technology and consumer habits, it is even more likely that live performance is the more reliable source of income, in business terms.
I only mention this nugget of information because there have been many successful recording and film artists who have questioned the viability of committing to live performance through the years. It shouldn’t really matter which medium earns more revenue. What happened to the idea of creating work of lasting value, regardless of its earning potential?
It is sometimes helpful to remember the function of the performing arts in our lives. Perhaps there is something missing in the motivation of many people who produce work nowadays. Some of the distorted thinking could be attributed to the standardised forms of training that young performers go through. Hollywood of the golden age had a charm school for its prospective stars. This idea was borrowed by Rank Studios in the UK and by Tamla Motown in the record business. Was there are more humble mindset at work in those more innocent times?
When I was starting out, I was clear in my mind that I didn’t want to become jaded and cynical as an older performing artist. Now, I can understand why the sense of boredom and ennui can set in. A lot of the malaise is to do with the business side of the work.
These musings are as much a personal memo they are notes as to anyone else. It is easy to forget about the creative energy that initially attracted many of us to the arts or show business. I want to honour that energy consistently, hoping to live my life feeling the joy of it.