Artist's path a challenging one 0
The life of an artist isn't often all about glamour and achieving success as they grapple to make a living like most people. Today especially there are added challenges and more ways they need to check in to make sure they are making a profit at the end of the day, say some musicians hailing from the Central Plains and Manitoba.
Portage la Prairie's Johnny Dietrich eyes his trusty guitar like an old friend that might hold a few secrets. He has been performing for the past 30-some years and acknowledges it's a tough profession to be in.
"It's really hard," he said with a knowing chuckle, of what it's like for artists trying to make a living these days.
For musicians who used to earn money performing in bars, many have lost business because fewer bars are hiring them.
"It's really hard to get a place in a bar," said Dietrich. He added for gatherings, people often prefer prerecorded music.
"It's much cheaper than a band, and they have a 5,000 song repertoire, and a band doesn't," he said. "It's all automation."
The power of the internet also has it's pros and cons for musicians connecting with their audience.
"It helps you in one way -- it sure gets your name out there, but it's not like it used to be," said Dietrich. "It used to be word of mouth, posters and getting a CD out, but now-a-days, everyone has access to that stuff."
With the current technology available, most people are able to make their own CDs. As a result, the market can become more saturated with product making it rather difficult for an artist to break through the clutter to find an audience.
And Dietrich concedes more people can access music on the internet.
The internet itself seems to be a bit of a conundrum for musicians, offering them a lifeline to their fans, but with conditions.
"(And) it's all free ...," Dietrich said.
"If you want to get your music out there for people to hear it, you have to be able to download it, otherwise they are not going to listen to it," he added.
"The music business today, you have to work it much harder than you did before ...," added Dietrich. "People want to be entertained, they don't want to just listen to a song."
A difficult choice for full-time musicians is also having to tour so often. But Dietrich is happy to be a part-time musician with another business to help pay the bills, so he can have a balanced life and enjoy his family.
McKennitt, originally from
Morden, has her own company to manage her music.
"There is no question that the music industry like many other industries is and has been an ecosystem of many suppliers or independent contractors -- they could be musicians, engineers, supporting staff ...," she said. "It's always been a very vast ecosystem ... Technology has moved so far and fast ahead of our society to understand it or a politician's ability to respond with the appropriate kind of legislation or regulation."
McKennitt is looking forward to a new copyright bill coming out to better protect not only artists but the supporting industry also.
During a recent interview, she said she has been able to develop a strong audience through her years performing, but it is not easy for emerging talent looking to make a living. She also has concerns about illegal downloading on the internet and how the artists and the industry suffers as a consequence.
McKennitt lamented many people in the business don't even meet the poverty line these days as a result of the stresses on this particular ecosystem.
"It's not just the musicians," she added.
Manitoba Music, a non-profit membership-based industry association, helps artists connect in the business and directs them towards granting options for financial support. It currently has 750 members in the province.
It's an interesting time for new artists trying to make a career out of music because much has changed in the past 10 years, said program manager Sean McManus.
"The good news and the up-side of it is, it is an industry that is really open to independents," he said. "It has moved away from more concentration around major labels ... So the key for artists today is to get out through their own live playing and touring, and their own online presence to find their audience, and to build up that audience to the point where the companies and the established industry takes note."
For young local fiddler Kelsey McLennan who regularly performs in the Portage area, the music business offers some possibilities, but she wants to leave her options open.
She was originally considering focusing on music production in university, but has since changed her mind.
"Production seems to not have as many open doors for me," she said. "Seeing I wanted to go into education anyway, it seemed like a better choice."
She is now studying theatre-education at University of Winnipeg.
"The end goal is to teach music and theatre," McLennan said. "I'm focusing on theatre now, and I'm thinking of doing
For musicians getting started these days, she sees the internet as a kind of mixed blessing.
"It's good that you can get yourself out there to more people and to a wider audience," she said. "But, getting free music and not being able to make money off of it can be difficult."
In any case, Kelsey said making music to her remains simply "a joy" today more than anything else at this point in her life. She isn't tackling the bread and butter of the business for the time being .