Presidential Address, January 25, 2019
By Dr. Marylynn L. Fletcher

Today I have two questions for you to ponder. First, “How do we as musicians adapt and remain relevant?” and second, “How do we as an organization adapt and remain relevant?”

We can review how musicians have adapted through the years by looking at changes in a musician’s revenue stream and by looking at changes in audience listening patterns. One hundred years ago musicians were employed to play live music in concert halls and other performance venues. During those years the audience always came to the musicians. Audience members could only hear music in live performances they attended.

The invention and distribution of radios throughout society changed everything. In fact radio was such a big deal that the U. S. census of 1930 asked households if they owned a radio set. For the first time, audiences did not have to leave the comfort of their home to hear live music. The music came to them if they listened at a specific time. Musicians were now hired by the big studios for live broadcasts. This era from the mid-1930’s to the 1950’s saw the rise of the great radio orchestras such as the NBC radio orchestra. I remember as a child in the 50’s wondering why the Gormong family was allowed to arrive late for church every Sunday. The answer was, “They were the male gospel quartet singing on the “Sunshine Hour” at the radio station every Sunday morning.” By the mid-1960’s, live radio broadcasts of musicians had evolved to radio stations playing recordings of music. The musician’s revenue stream of live radio broadcasts ended.

The availability of phonograph records and record players again changed audience listening habits and musicians’ revenue streams. Audience members could now purchase the music they wanted on phonographs and play them at home or wherever they had players and speakers. Musicians’ revenue stream started shifting to pennies on each record or album, so income was based on the number of recordings sold. Through the years, recorded music has remained strong with advances to 8-track, cassette, and finally CD’s.

With the development of digital sound recording came the mp3 players and iPod. These new audio players allowed the audience to purchase individual titles instead of albums for pennies. For the first time, audience members could play the specific music they wanted anywhere in the world. A musician’s revenue stream was now based on individual title sales, not albums. Innovations in digital recordings also enabled musicians to bypass the sound engineer and recording studio. Many musicians started direct marketing sales via the internet to audience members.

Today we are in the streaming age. Audiences can listen to any music, anywhere they have cell phone service. With streaming audio, there is no limit to storage space so all music is accessible at all times. Musicians are again adapting to a change in their revenue stream. The laws governing musician’s pay for streaming music are just now being negotiated. It will be awhile before this issue is resolved.

Musicians have always adapted to the changing times. My question is “What does the TAMS organization, mean to you?” To me, TAMS means information. It is an opportunity to receive information from colleagues in similar positions across the state informally and also in our round table discussions where we discuss how issues with students, faculty, and upper administration are handled. Often, I learn there are things I need to do which I didn’t even know I needed to do. TAMS provided colleagues who gave me sound advice when I was told years ago, “Yes, you have a doctorate and tenure, but we are cutting the department and we want a band director and choir director.” I might add at this time the choir director had just left my school so they were in the middle of a search. TAMS also provided opportunities for students to audition for the Clara Freshour Nelson Scholarship. On the card I have provided please write one thing you value that TAMS provides for you.

It’s time now to discuss the changes in the revenue stream for TAMS. Like performing musicians, we have adapted. Initially when I joined TAMS many years ago, we had dues and conference fees. Later Steinway agreed to sponsor a Friday night soiree which changed to Thursday night before the banquet about ten years ago. Next, your executive board had the idea to sponsor and monitor College night at TMEA. This created a revenue stream of about $10,000 from out-of-state schools. In 2016 TMEA decided that with the new convention center space, our College night would become theirs. We lost that $10,000. Again, we adapted. Now we have a business who sponsors the Friday luncheon for us and we also had to raise dues and conference fees. This is where your assistance is required. On the other side of your card, please write any suggestions for luncheon sponsors or ideas for other revenue streams you have.

As your president, my goal is to make TAMS a relevant, viable organization for future music administrators and I wish to thank all of you for the contributions you make by being present at the conference.

© 2020 Texas Association of Music Schools