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  Originals and Copies

Greg Vail




Originals or Copies - Pearls Of Wisdom by Greg Vail.

Pearls Of Wisdom


Originals and Copies - Artist Integrity


It is very important that any art form be real. In today's world, it is harder than ever to be true to who you are. The Music Business is defined by a few originals and a vast number of cheap copies trying to bank off the success of the few.

It all starts with two words that don't belong together; Music and Business. Real music is just that; real music. Business is the financing and marketing of music. The business pushes artists to sell. To sell, one must be commercial, which today almost always defies the concepts of originality and art.

Younger musicians come up seeing the success of earlier artist and begin copying that previous art form with sound alike redundancy that sells but eventually kills the original art form due to a total lack of originality or personal creativity.

For instance, in smooth jazz, young wannabe artists have taken an already commercial adaptation of jazz and repeatedly regurgitate smooth jazz sounding songs using elements of selling pop music that has little creative juice in it to rewrite lame copies of a copy of an adaptation of an original.

What do you get? An art form that is selling nothing worldwide, labels dropping jazz artists like the plague and radio airplay that continues to call pop hits smooth jazz, and very little available time on the radio for instrumental pop or smooth jazz as we now know it.

To survive, an art form or genre must be real. But time and time again, short sited business genius sends the artist and the art through the rinse cycle called "Copy and Sell". What we have is a formula and money driving process and junk being produced on a daily basis.

It’s so easy to do the blame game, but I know the business people are not really the problem because they don't understand art and can't be expected to. The problem is ours as musicians.

From my church pulpit, I have heard at least a thousand times that we all come into this world as originals, but most leave it a carbon copy. Blaming the process or just being aware of the tendency does nothing. We have to look within and see why we end up loosing site of where WE fit into the process and make a strong determination to be real and original.

Our culture seems determined to sell conformation. If you look at any group of kids that think they are being original you will find nothing more than a sub culture that creates copies with different rules. Punkers, rockers, the pop preppies, the druggies, geeks, you name it. They all conform to different sets of rules and lack any originality even though they think they are so original because they are fighting the status quo. I see groups of high school friends all dressed the same every day. We are afraid to be ourselves and find comfort in conformity to avoid the risk of rejection.

There is no place for this in art of any form. Socrates said "Know thyself." You can not be true to who you are if you have no idea who you are. Many never even ponder the question.

As a musician, I have had to make a choice to be myself and deal with the consequences of nonconformity. My lack of commercial success and financial duress are directly effected by this.

I spent my early career learning from my heroes and copying much of the music I loved. The music you love is part of who you are and that’s not bad. To copy and become another David Sanborn clone would have been a very short career since he would always be better at being himself and is an artist so he is always growing and changing.

We need to make an effort to know who we are, our music tastes, our influences, our experiences, our relationships, our backgrounds, our life positions, our spiritual journeys, and our personalities; allowing these things to shape our art, music, and playing.

If we are only looking for the quick buck, a cheap copy will do. Every Kenny G copy will tell you it worked great. Funny thing is most of them don't even think they are lame copies because they have bought the success and confused it with artistic validity. Cool thing is, being a real original includes not caring about the success of these lame copies because, I could never, and will never sell myself that short to get on Smooth Jazz Radio again.

I have played with just about every "artist" in smooth jazz and can tell you many of these guys would never have a single CD sold if it were not truly a shallow art form to start with. Much of the problem in pop art forms has to do with the advancement of technology and the lame content of pop music requiring no musical talent, making it possible for people with no talent to appear to be artists. For some, these people ARE being true to who they are because they have no talent, can't write a song, and know someone with a computer with $600 in recording software that they can almost use.

What is an original? A person who knows who they are. A musician that can actually play an instrument well and is always growing in these skills. I know smooth jazz guys that have played the same licks for 10 years now. Art is always growing because artists are always stretching and experimenting, trying to create something cooler and more exciting than the last thing. If you are not improving, you are not growing and have little to offer to the musical voice of the world.

An original hears everything, but listens to their own voice. Maintaining your person gets easier with time because you don’t have to take a survey before you think. You don't have to chase every whim in music genres or styles and second guess every time a new CD sells poorly or a show does not go over well. For me, it is hard to even play games and try to be something I'm not because I actually know who I am. Politically correct became an oxymoron at some point. These 2 words don’t go together and the proof is seen in articles like this; original, real experiences and MY Opinions – not very politically correct.

To maintain artistic integrity, one must not need the approval of others to survive. You need to be driven by the need to be yourself and personal growth, with every new project developing the next step of who you are becoming.

Most lame, artist clones will never change because they can't. YOU have a choice to make. You can be a lame copy or a real contributor to the world with a unique voice, artistic integrity, and personal expression though your music. I know what I choose.

-- Greg Vail














Greg Vail Email Contact -- gvsaxboy@aol.com