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Mason Light

ENC 1102-0M31

10 April 2019

The Differing Discourse Among Musicians

Throughout the entire history of musicians, communication has definitively been

regarded as one of the most important aspects in holding a successful career in the musical

field. However, altering the content delivery platform can massively change the

interpretation and impact the efficiency of the message being relayed. As such, it is

important to understand how musicians utilize different platforms, for example, social

media, conventions, and blogs/ websites and which audiences musicians most effectively

reach using said platforms and methods. Historically, masterclass-esque workshops and,

most notoriously, methodology books such as the infamous “Method of Movement” by

Leigh Howard Stevens were the kings of commutative platforms held by musicians.

The musical world was rocked following the development of the World Wide Web in

1990, as the course of musicians’ discourse has ultimately been revolutionized. Using the

internet, anyone can send a message on a global scale immediately, allowing for mass

communication never before seen in the history of man. The inclusion of this new medium

also allowed for the development of new platforms for instructing, discussing, and sharing

music. Even physical events can be digitized and recorded, such as conventions and

concerts.

Ever since I was a kid I remember being fascinated with music and desperately

wanting nothing more to achieve a career in the musical industry. As such, I wondered how

musicians communicate with varying audiences, what’s successful, and how the platform
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for communication affects the content of the message. Afterall, how would I ever find a

career if I didn’t understand the basis of communication in the field, especially in a field

where communication and ‘knowing a guy’ is the essential barrier to a successful

breakthrough. In my research I am examining how musicians communicate with 3 different

audiences in terms of what platform they use to convey their message.

Perspectives

In order to create the most broad and informationally advantageous scope for this

research I decided to analyze the communication to and from three main audiences: other

professional musicians, amateur/ non-professional musicians, and generalized fanbases.

For the sake of clarity by professional musicians I am referring to people who directly

make money and a career through playing music as well as collegiate level students,

amateur musicians on the other hand in the context of this paper are players who do not

base their career in music and reside at any level of virtuosity. Professional musicians often

collaborate and share ideas and techniques, whilst amateur musicians often serve the roles

of students and thus provide a large market for musicians, fanbases on the other hand, an

audience mostly composed of non-musicians, serve as the backbone for a musical career,

providing support, advertisement, and of course, financial benefits. As such, these

audiences, in my opinion, hold the most substantial impact in a musician’s career and thus

are the most important audiences to analyze in order to successful learn how to most

effectively strive in communication as a musician.

Methodology

For the most part, my research process consisted mainly on scouring internet

sources and scholarly texts on the subject, Google scholar yielded the majority of my
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internet sources whilst the UCF library proved to be exceedingly helpful in providing

scholarly texts. Miraculously, I was also lucky enough to conduct two interviews with

acclaimed percussionists Bobby Blum and Dan Pedroza, both of which were able to provide

many incredibly useful insights and direction for research on both the professional and

amateur scene. Bobby Blum, a revered figure in the world of percussion in Florida, was able

to delve into the professional audience while Dan Pedroza works mainly with students,

thereby justifying his insights on the ameteur scene. As will be mentioned later, I also

conducted a study into the background of the UCF percussion professors as well as several

music performance majors.

Professional Musicians

According to Bobby Blum, “the purpose of communication amongst professional

players is generally to collaborate” as well as to “demonstrate and perfect new techniques”.

Through the course of my research this quote seemed to illuminate and resonate truth

more and more. Through the insights provided via my interview with Mr. Blum, I also

learned that most professionals, at least those in collaboration, also typically simply either

instant message through texts or meet up in person, usually at a personal studio or

collegiate performance halls. Mr. Blum also described the interconnected nature of

professional musicians; essentially all established musicians hold social circles and

relations with other musicians. These circles allow for expansion and new collaboration, as

to quote Blum “music is a game of knowing people”, and once you start to know people you

can in turn get into contact with their colleagues. This networking cycle allows for

musicians to meet other new musicians and in turn produce new and innovative work.
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Conventions however are the largest scale unions of professional musicians with

conventions such as PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention) holding

“more than 120 exhibitors showcasing the latest in percussion instruments, gear,

publications and services”(PASIC) and over 100 of the world’s most renowned

percussionists exhibiting their newest compositions and techniques in 2018 alone, as

displayed in their convention database. While 120 exhibitors doesn’t necessarily sound like

a gargantuan amount, these exhibitors upon further inspection yielded to be many of the

biggest name brands there are in the world of percussion such as Zildjian, a titan in the

cymbal producing industry and Pearl, the largest American drum producers. Through my

research through the UCF music staff, all of the percussive arts department, namely Thad

Anderson, Jeff Moore, and Kirk Gay, are either members or have previously been exhibitors

at PASIC, as well as several of their students. In fact 7 out of the 8 performance majors that

I surveyed were indeed members and returning attenders of the convention.

During my investigation into the background of many renowned musicians, I

happened to have noticed a noteworthy trend; many professional musicians host their own

websites which also serve as a viable platform. These personal websites generally contain

information such as compositions, projects, updates, and usually information about the

artist, exemplified in Ivan Trevino’s and Thad Anderson’s websites ivandrums.com and

thadanderson.com respectively.

Amateur Musicians

Musicians tend to utilize their platforms in order to inform or instruct amateur

musicians. As referenced at the beginning of this paper, amateur musicians generally tend

to serve the roles of students, either literal students under face-to face instruction or
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students under independent study. Dan Pedroza offered many helpful insights towards this

aspect of my research, claiming that “most of teaching an instrument involves the study of

books”. The books references by Pedroza are technique books, colloquially called ‘method

books’ by musicians. Method books entail a series of exercises and Études (French word for

studies) accompanied by basic levels of instruction written by an instructor designed to

progressively teach how to play an instrument and progressively hone in on specific skill

sets. An excellent example of one of these method books is “Method of Movement” by Leigh

Howard Stevens, creator of the four mallet marimba grip known as the Steven’s grip.

“Method of Movement” outlines every core aspect of this grip, providing descriptions of the

hand shape, mallet placement, origin of movement, arm position and much more in visceral

detail, with a picture visual accompanying each scaffolding concepts. This book also

contains 590 exercises, each prefaced with a description on which specific skill set each

exercise is intended to improve. Essentially, Stevens and all other authors of similar books

are directly engaging with their audience, personally communicating the method behind

playing an instrument, and as such are utilizing these books as platforms.

Pedroza additionally highlighted the fact that in today’s world with the modern

capabilities of the internet students are able to find instruction online through platforms

such as YouTube and online music communities. YouTube is a video sharing platform that

allows creators to publish and share content. Most noteworthy in the context of this paper’s

lens, musicians are allowed to take the role as educators sharing instructional videos and

lessons to a digital audience. YouTube’s music community has blown up over the last

decade as hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of videos have been published offering

instruction from just about every instrument imaginable. During our interview Pedroza
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stated that “YouTube is extremely useful as it instructs through a judge free environment

and allows the student to learn at their own pace”. Some students might feel judged and

extremely nervous or perhaps as if their teacher is simply teaching too fast under face to

face lessons. Both of these issues are non-existent under YouTube lessons as the medium

enables the watcher to view the content anywhere and with the ability to pause and rewind

to the viewer’s content. The article “YouTube, fanvids, forums, vlogs and blogs: Informal

music learning in a convergent on and offline music community” also endorses YouTubes

validity stating that “YouTube videos serve a dual purpose, their most apparent and

pragmatic function being useful straightforward music teaching and learning aids.

However, YouTube videos also act as vehicles of agency to promote and engage

participatory culture through discourse in online community, thus also fulfilling a

significant teaching role”(Waldron 4).

Fan Base

Before the digital age, musicians were practically stuck in terms of addressing their

fans; the only real options musicians held to hold discussion with their fans revolved

around face to face interaction, whether it be on stage or on the streets. However following

their release, “social networking services has enabled them to expand their reach from the

confines of their local venues to anywhere in the world”(Sen 22). This addition ultimately

rocked the musical world forever as now artists could not only promote and stream their

music on a global scale, but artists could now directly interact with their fanbase. Social

media has now proven to be the dominant source of communication amongst fans with

almost any artist holding at least some sort of platform.


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Of the platforms Twitter is the most prominent and resourceful for artists in the

digital space. The previous statement is represented in the fact that “81% of millennials

check twitter twice a day”(Blue Corona).. This platform is a powerful tool for the promotion

of artists, as argued in the journal “Beats and tweets: Social media in the careers of

independent musicians”, which claims "social media use is an essential tool in the arsenal

of an independent musician”(Haynes and Marshall 1). Twitter as a platform“integrates

video, images, link sharing, as well as short and long form text posts. So, with it, you can

focus promotions using various kinds of media content toward different audiences who

consume that specific media”(Frost Online). In essence, this platform allows for musicians

to share a plethora of content due to its multiple mediums; artists can post songs, share

videos, announce tours and concerts and so much more. Tweets such as

exemplify the sheer power and efficiency of this platform as in this simple tweet Ariana

Grande was able to announce her tour, announce attending guest artists, and even promote

ticket sales all in under 200 characters and to a global audience, receiving 66 thousand

likes and over 12 thousand retweets, further expanding the reach of this promotion.

Analysis and Discussion


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While researching the various platforms used by musicians regarding their

audience, I realized the multitude of platforms musicians have to be comfortable with.

Realistically, it is easy to understand how communication is regarded as such an important

factor in the careers of musicians, especially considering the modes of communication

embraced. Of the respective audiences, social media, YouTube videos, and conventions are

in my opinion the most fruitful platforms especially in today’s technological age. Over the

course of my research I also realized the impact the internet held in the music industry as a

whole. The internet essentially allowed for musicians to achieve new levels of fame and

success while also allowing for more smaller artists to break through, as artists have been

able to escape the barriers previously placed down by the gatekeepers of the industry,

namingly record labels and advertisers, an idea expressed by Jo Haynes and Lee Marshall,

who state, “quote the power of traditional gatekeepers – most notably the major record

labels – has been significantly weakened by the disintermediating nature of these

technologies”(Haynes and Marshall 5).

This research stemmed from one single question, how do musicians communicate

with different audiences, in terms of what platform they use to convey their message? Now

at the end of this research paper, I believe that I have obtained a formidable knowledge

base on this topic and can confidently assert that musicians definitely use certain platforms

to communicate with certain audiences. Conventions serve the most resourceful in

bridging communication between professional musicians, simultaneously enabling artists

to socialize, collaborate and demonstrate. As mentioned previously, musicians thrive off of

their interconnected social circles and conventions, due to the size and similar interest in

the attendees, these conventions serve as great resources for musicians to grow said social
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circles. I believe that YouTube is the dominant medium right now when it comes to

communicating with amateur musicians as amateur musicians, again, primarily serve the

role of students. With that being said, both my research and my own personal experience

as an amateur musician point me to the conclusion that YouTube is an excellent

educational resource providing a wide variety of content that can be digested and

rehearsed at the viewer’s pace, with the innate bonus of visual assistance through the video

itself. Lastly I conclude that social media is most prevalent catalyst for communication

amongst a musician’s fan base. Social media is one of the most common mediums in today’s

societies and such provides remarkable opportunity for artist promotion. Social media also

creates an active discourse between the artists and their fans directly, allowing for the

musician to directly say essentially whatever they want while promoting a sense of

intimacy with their audience. With all of the information synthesized over the course of this

research project I believe I now have a much more complete understanding of the scope of

a musician’s communication and I’m ready to contribute to the differing discourse among

musicians.

Works Cited

@ArianaGrande. “excited to announce that #sweetenerworldtour w special guests, the

beautiful and talented @normani & my dear friends (and ty next producers)

@socialhousetc ... tix are on sale now ..... http://arianagrande.com/events” Twitter,

5 Nov. 2018, 10:07

am.,https://twitter.com/arianagrande/status/1059507583780704256
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Blum, Bobby. Personal Interview. 1, April 2019.

Haynes, Jo, and Lee Marshall. “Beats and Tweets: Social Media in the Careers of Independent

Musicians.” New Media & Society, vol. 20, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1973–1993.,

doi:10.1177/1461444817711404.

“How Is Social Media Used to Promote Artists?” U Miami Online, 19 Oct. 2017,

frostonline.miami.edu/articles/social-media-to-promote-artists.aspx.

Ivan Trevino. “Ivan Trevino.” Ivan Trevino, ivandrums.com/. Accessed 18, February

2019.

McLeod, Betsy. “100+ Social Media Statistics You'll Want to See (2017).” Blue Corona, 27

Nov. 2017, www.bluecorona.com/blog/social-media-statistics-2017.

Pedroza, Dan. Personal Interview. 2, March 2019.

Sen, Abhijit. “Music in the Digital Age: Musicians and Fans Around the World ‘Come Together’

on the Net.” Global Media Journal, vol. 9, no. 16, 15 May 2010.

Stevens, Leigh Howard. Method of Movement: for Marimba: with 590 Exercises. Marimba

Productions, Inc., 2005.

Waldron, Janice. “YouTube, Fanvids, Forums, Vlogs and Blogs: Informal Music Learning in a

Convergent on- and Offline Music Community.” SAGE Journals, 12 Apr. 2012,

journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0255761411434861.
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