Why Do Musicians Bother Playing Music?

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

The worst question any musician can ask is, "Why?" As soon as any aspect of playing music transfers from visceral to intellectual, the whole process may seem silly. Having spent most of my adult life performing in bands, I am occasionally asked why I do not play music very often anymore. This made me ask the inverse question: Why does anybody play music? While every musician has different priorities, I propose that there are three main reasons: money, attention and self-expression. Few make music for just one purpose, but most land somewhere in a Venn diagram of the three.


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Here is the Difference Between "Good" Music and "Cool" Music

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The comment that a band is "good at what it does" is a polite attempt to acknowledge the talents of a group outside of one's wheelhouse. But the phrase tends to come off as a dismissive, backhanded compliment, the type of statement a person makes to avoid actually forming an opinion. The underlying element of snark comes from the dynamic between good and cool. Any musician, given enough practice, can be "good"; this is a prerequisite to get the most basic gig. Fewer musicians have reached the vague pinnacle of "cool."

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Better Living: What is the Real Value of Physical Media?

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Art and life cohabitate, informing, imitating and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

When the finish line is in sight during a recording project, I often ask the artist what the release plans are. Very few clients have an immediate answer - this contributes to the local phenomenon of the Farewell/CD Release show. In the soil of that question is a larger one. How important is it for music to be released in a physical format?


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In St. Louis Music, Life Is a Never-Ending Conflict of Interests

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Art and life cohabitate, informing, imitating and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

Two months ago, my wife and I began renting a building in Edwardsville, Illinois, and moved our home studio into a commercial space. I have not written about this life-overtaking process because it could be seen as a conflict of interest. Nobody has directly said, "Don't write about the studio," but I don't think I'm supposed to write about the studio. I don't think I'm even supposed to mention the studio in the context of a sly anecdote about how I'm not supposed to mention the studio, like an Inception version of plugging myself.

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A Plea For The Separation of Music And Music Culture

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

As some of these Better Living Through Music columns have pointed out (and as my nemesis Matt Harnish will certainly call me out for stating), I have become a 29-years-young jaded old man. I type this with a smirk, a winky emoticon rather than smiley or frowny, because I have come to terms with not meeting the expectations of the modern music fan - to actively and physically participate in a community, to be up to date on new releases, et cetera. In my reality, I would often rather listen to Radiohead on my couch than go through the inconveniences necessary to see Radiohead play live. This is because I love music but I do not necessarily love music culture.

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Better Living: When Music Doesn't Fit

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

Last night, I did not attend the greatest concert of my life. Alarm Will Sound, the New York miniature orchestra I wrote about in this week's RFT feature, performed a Radiohead-inspired composition by Steve Reich, my favorite composer, and I did not go. I had no prior obligation, no-last minute emergency; I just didn't feel like it when the time came. The younger Ryan Wasoba would go to any show at any time on any whim, but the older me runs into more and more situations where music does not fit into my life.

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The Great MP3 Compromise: Credits Where Credits Are Due

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

For the average music listener, mp3s are a compromise. Sound quality is traded for portability. For the extremely nerdy -- more specifically, those involved in the recording and production of music -- the iPod revolution stings. As album art shrinks to the size of a Twitter avatar, the technical credits contained within a CD or record disappear. This has not exactly put record producers, engineers and master-ers on the street begging for change, but none of them are happy about being disassociated from their work.

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Undead Format: Dissecting The Cassette Revival

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

My first musical memory involved a cassette tape of Michael Jackson's Thriller. I was in the backseat of my parents' car during a night drive, and I remember hearing the music and feeling lonely, as if there was a party elsewhere and I was not invited. I suspect that part of this feeling sprang from the medium itself, that I reacted to both the music and the sound imparted by a degraded tape played too often. A grassroots cassette revival is occurring, and I can understand why. Sonically, physically, and conceptually, tapes have a built-in aesthetic.

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The Illusion Of Volume: Understanding Compression

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

The CALM Act was enacted two months ago, causing television commercials to maintain the same or lower volumes than television programs. The change is noticeable; transitions between Tosh.O and ads starring toilet-paper connoisseur bears have been greatly smoothed. Most folks are unaware that digital music is subject to a similar limitation, and any sound that exceeds a certain volume distorts and generally sounds awful. This law is governed by science and technology instead of the FCC, and it has caused "compression" to become a buzzword and a vital component to understanding the sound of modern music.

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A Pilgrimage to the Church Of Steve Albini: Is He a Dick?

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Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

Almost one year ago, I crammed my guitar, my xylophone, and myself into a crowded midsize car with half of the local band Humdrum and rode to Chicago. The band was making a record with Steve Albini, and I was "overdub minimizer" (my own title). It was surreal to meet such a presence; in addition to his celebrity status among fellow recording nerds, he is regarded as the beacon of ethics in a changing artistic and technological world.

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