Free Music Classes


In the last ten years, musicians have lost a lot of the freedom to play music they choose. It used to be that you could set up a street corner and play without worrying about copyright law. But recently, thanks to the DMCA, you can’t make a CD in your own home and put it on YouTube without incurring a penalty. And because of copyright laws, if you want to teach your kids how to play an instrument or sing, you’re (in some places) required to take them to public school.

Free Music Classes is about how we can return music back from the clutches of big business and give it back to the artist. You can’t make money as an artist unless you are famous; but fame isn’t enough. You need money, but it’s not enough either: fame is just the reward for giving something of value to people who want it.

A musician works hard; that’s why they need money. But what good are a lot of dollars if you don’t have time? How do we get more people interested in playing music?

Two things: first, eliminate costs: do away with copyright laws so that anybody can make music in their own home; do away with teachers’ unions so that anyone can teach; do away

The list of things that people do for free is long, but it’s often hard to tell whether a class or activity is free or not. That’s sometimes because free classes are offered by people who aren’t exactly friends with the idea of charging for them. But it’s also just because we don’t know what free means.

It is possible to teach music for nothing, in the sense that you get no pay at all. But most people don’t learn music this way. They learn it from someone else, be it a parent, teacher, or book. And then they teach other people; this is how most musicians make their living.

In the U.S., though, many musicians don’t charge for their services: they just play in bars and clubs for tips; in Britain they often have “session” fees but hardly any royalties at all (they get paid only when someone buys the piece they played). These things are largely legal, since there are lots of reasons why musicians might not want to charge money and still play well enough to earn a living.

Classical music used to be a much bigger part of American culture than it is now. If I could have one wish for the future, it would be that we could get back to a time when people understood the power of music and knew how to use it.

I enjoy classical music, which is why I started this blog. But I’m also skeptical of it. It’s hard to make money as a classical musician. It’s even harder to make money as a non-classical musician who uses classical elements in your music. A lot of musicians take classical training, but almost all seem to rely on it as an easy way out of being creative and original.

There are exceptions, but they’re not enough to reverse the trend.

There are a lot of interesting questions about how we learn. For instance, it is widely believed that the best way to learn a musical instrument is to find someone else who’s good at it and study with them. But there is also an alternative strategy: to just sit down and practice by yourself.

In 1994 Joseph Kerman, a music theorist at Indiana University, had some students make a list of all the tunes they could remember from early childhood. Students who had studied with other musicians remembered only half as many tunes as those who hadn’t. This result has been replicated many times by different researchers.

In fact, this is not even the most interesting finding about learning from others. It is rarely pointed out that when you have learned something well enough yourself that you can teach it to other people, you have probably also forgotten most of what you ever knew about it yourself.

Music is a tough sell. But it’s hard to see how anyone can make a living at it the way they used to.

You used to be able to make money in music by selling records, or playing live shows.

But today, you can put your music on the Internet and reach millions of people free. The music business was invented so that musicians could make money from people who couldn’t afford CDs. It didn’t work then, but it works now.

Sidewalk musicians are a subset of street musicians. Both are performers who play outside, but only one of them is allowed to do so on public property. Sidewalk musicians play without a license, while street musicians have to pay fees to the city.

The distinction between sidewalk and street performers is an artificial one that more or less fell out of favor in the 20th century. Most people would say that anyone can play in public if they want to; all that’s needed is a good voice and a willingness to perform. But someone who wants to sing on the street has to ask permission, like a store owner renting space on the sidewalk.

For many people, though, the distinction persists: in cities you have sidewalk musicians, and in small towns you have town musicians. I have found this pattern applies even within New York City, where legality of street performance is relatively clear-cut: bars and restaurants and churches tend to prefer licensed entertainment; for example, most people would think Madonna or Bono a safer bet than Bob Dorough or Joe Harriott for putting on a concert on Mulberry Street. But for most smaller events (like weddings) it’s all over the map, from silent disco in your living room to an impromptu jam session at your

The idea of sidewalk musicians is so old it has a name. People used to play instruments on the streets, but they were called “street performers” or “sidewalk musicians” because they played in public places, which back then was considered unusual.

In the middle of the twentieth century things got worse. Live music in bars was illegal; people who wanted to play on their own time had to find other places to do it. Such as their homes. Or in restaurants, where the music wasn’t subject to copyright laws. The only place left for musicians was in public places.

And then there was Rock’n’Roll, and all kinds of new venues opened up: coffee shops, record stores and even more recently, open-mic nights at bars where no one got hurt. And these venues were not governed by any code of conduct or licensing law; they were simply places where you could play with abandon and express yourself without needing permission or getting hit over the head with a guitar.

So musicians started playing in public again. And some of them became famous enough that even children knew who they were: Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Carly Simon and The Beatles. And then there were all those people who just played wherever they felt like


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