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viability of new art music (reaching folks)

I'd like to weigh in on the subject of the health (or lack thereof) 
of the new music scene, from the perspective of the "new music" 
tradition that grew out of the classical avant garde.

I just had a rather depressing phone conversation with a 
composer/performer colleague whose career as an artist and arts 
administrator spans several decades. In particular, he founded and 
ran a contemporary arts venue from 1975-86 and he founded a record 
label specializing in avant garde music in 1991. The label record 
label now has a catalog of 70 CDs and is well established in new 
music circles as a source of high quality recordings of experimental 
music, yet this past year they have posted a net operating loss for 
the first time. As a result, my friend has decided that there is no 
longer a viable market for recordings of experimental art music and 
therefore has decided to suspend operations.

He also says that from his perspective as a composer/performer that 
support for live performance has also decreased. Whereas in the 1980s 
it was possible for a solo performer or small group to mount a tour 
of art spaces throughout the U.S., playing cities just a few hours 
drive from each other and getting paid an average of $500 per gig, 
those days are long past.

I realize that public arts funding took a big hit from Jesse Helms 
and his barbarian horde, and I've been off the circuit myself for 
more than ten years, but it comes as a surprise to me that a small, 
high quality record label should suffer such a decline. What's your 
experience, and why do you think this is happening? Is this 
collateral damage from the overall dumbing down of American culture, 
or is it a case of a finite listening audience being spread thinner 
by an increase in do-it-yourself electronic music and the 
availability of downloadable music.

Richard Zvonar, PhD
(818) 788-2202