Apples and Oranges

02005-08-22 | Music, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Some musicians think that they will lose jobs because people might sample them. Therefore they guard their performances closely.

In my opinion that is not a logical argument. There is an important difference between using a loop or a sample and using a drummer or bassplayer, guitarist, or any other musician, and that is: do you want creative input from a live musician or do you want to just get a few bars of a certain performance? If you want a steady looped performance you are not going to hire a musician to record that (travel expenses, hotel, engineer, musician – can quickly add up to more than $1,000-3,000) – you are going to buy a handful of loop collections on CD for 10-20% of the cost, right?

I think we hire a musician because of a combination of four traits:
1. expertise – this first one is very straightforward: ability, technical prowess
2. feel – I keep feel separate from expertise because most musicians have a certain feel or groove when they play. Some are ahead of the beat, some are on the beat and some are behind the beat. And, some guys can do any of those feels – those are the studio cats getting the most work… But, musicians can have great expertise, yet not possess the right feel for a given song…
3. creativity – I list this separately because I have found musicians who did not have great expertise, but had an amazing amount of creativity. This makes them very unique and useful in the studio as they can deliver unique approaches to the material at hand.
4. personality – you can have great expertise, feel and creativity, but if you are a drag to be around, the amount of work you will be offered will be limited.

If you are scoring high on these four points, you will get jobs.

Lets look at drums, likely more often sampled that any other insatrument:
I think the amount of work offered to a drummer or percussionist has not changed in the last couple of decades, even though many people thought that the drummachine would put most drummers out of business. What has changed is the amount of music that is being created world-wide. There is so much more music being recorded and released than ever before simply because the process has become easier and cheaper. In the Fifties or Sixties one would have had to use an arranger, a band or orchestra and an expensive studio and engineer to record a song – unless your name was Les Paul and you built your very own multi-track recorder!
Since the Eighties musicians and especially singer-songwriters have the choice of using a drummachine and synthesizers, and in the last decade inexpensive hard-drive recording on your home computer or even laptop has become an option. I would say that anybody with a musical idea can afford to record it nowadays.

The musician’s union in the UK trying to make synthesizers illegal in the Eighties – true story – because they were afraid that orchestra musicians would lose jobs…

A quick search discovers this unofficial item on the net:
1982 – The UK Musicians Union moved a resolution to ban Synths and Rhythm Machines from sessions and live concerts fearing that their use would put musicians out of work.

Can you imagine some of the Eighties music with an orchestra instead of synths? Again – two separate areas completely. The creativity keyboard players discovered with synthesizers is very different from having to write down the music, arranging it for orchestra (or hiring an arranger) and then recording it with a bunch of potentially stiff musicians who can’t swing… and who most likely hate the music you have asked them to play…

Let’s see… sometimes you have a little pain somewhere and looking it up on the web provides you with all you need to know (using samples + loops) and sometimes you need to visit a real doctor because you need that personal experience and expertise (hiring a musician). Sometimes you can look up rules on the net (using samples + loops) and sometimes you need a real live creative attorney to help you (hiring a musician). Sometimes you can use a software app to do your taxes (using samples + loops) and sometimes a CPA is the way to go (hiring a musician). Do you see what I mean? You can’t compare the two.

In the end a musician is hired to play a session because s/he has a certain personality, creativity, expertise, experience and you want that input. If that is not what you want or need, just DIY with a sampler and some loops.

Or, only if you don’t have a good feel, nice personality, creative outlook and good expertise, do you have to worry about losing jobs to samples and loops… because they are like apples and oranges…

Before Jon and I decided to sell our music with a CC license we talked about the subject at length. Besides the argument that nobody would be losing work we also agreed that there is another good reason to allow people to sample our music:
Why do we make music? Certainly it is wonderful if one can be one of the few (probably less than 1%) who can make a living from making music. But, isn’t part of being a musician also that one wants to be heard, that one wants to share ideas, that one wants to take part in the cultural wave of one’s time? Therefore, to have one’s bass line or guitar chord used by another musician, who because of his location or the expense involved, might never be able to collaborate with us in person, is very satisfying.

From the first time we pick up an instrument and feel a sense of the joy and power of music to the first time we decide to share our music via performance or recording, it’s about adding one’s voice to the great choir of our time, isn’t it. And by allowing people to sample and loop our music, we are adding our voice to a larger audience.

I believe that there is nothing to be lost by using a CC License, and everything to be gained.

PS: Jon and I are having a lot of fun rating musicians on the above mentioned lines of expertise, feel, creativity and personality. We are using a 10 point scale for each line and are still wondering who in history might have rated a 40…


  1. milewalker

    I think you are very right. There is something about the whole sharing thing that you don’t see very often in musicians (or for that matter, people in general?) but is refreshingly evident in your person and your music. Thanks for your willingness to be uncompromised in your efforts to give this gift. In my humble opinion, generosity begets generosity, in music and in life, and draws people closer to you.

  2. Eno

    Well said. One of the many reasons I like music is because it’s suitable for any environment. I.e., I could be running and listening to my iPod or be in an auditorium or my car listening still to music (can’t really do that with T.V.). Myself being an electronic musician has lead me to discover that what you (OL) and so many others like you understand is that the more different perspectives on music you have the more the world opens up for musical discovery.

  3. v2or

    You are so right on OL and thank you for putting your words into action and leading the way. I think one of the big reasons folks dont share is fear and that they are scared that they will lose someting so they hold onto it like it is the life we have. Like there life depends on holding on and not letting go and seeing what can happen when we share and give to others with out fear. Agian thank you for shareing your music, ideas, pictures, and your life with all of us. You have been an insperation to many of us.

  4. Carol

    That foursome, expertise, feel, creativity, and personality is a good gauge for not only all the arts, but just about anybody and any occupation or profession…well maybe not CPA’s. It really makes a person run groups and artists through the list. It doesn’t favor any genre really. I like it.


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