Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Obama's Effect on the Music Scene

How President-Elect Obama''s proposed policies could affect musicians

Editor’s Note: Any perceived political views presented in this column do not represent the views of Premier Guitar, which did not and does not endorse any political candidate.

What an exciting election season we just finished! A new era is being ushered in! No matter which side of the political fence you were on, we have to agree that it is exciting to see the entire world celebrating the change with us. The first African-American president…new feelings of hope…watchfulness to see if the economy can improve…hope for a change from a war-culture to one of productivity and emphasis one environmental/energy issues. It is a revolution in how we see ourselves and how we hope to interact as part of a global community.

The big question for us: What could all this mean for those working in music-related fields? Teachers, part-timers, performers, studio players, local gigging musicians, weekend-warriors, those who deal in new and used instruments, those desiring formal music education—all will be affected, hopefully for the better, by the election results of November 4. The value of the dollar, our health insurance, our taxes, seeing friends and family members go to war, seeking education, and the leisure time that makes more performance opportunities possible are all things on the table that will have a great impact on the music scene and its related workers. If things go according to plan, musicians, I hope, will greatly benefit from the new administration and the new era.

Health Insurance
One of the largest concerns of many of my friends and colleagues in music-related professions centers on health care benefits. Adjunct music professors, full-time performers, studio teachers and small music businesses all struggle with the question of how to acquire (and afford) health insurance. Many people who might otherwise work in music fields choose not to do so because of the problem of acquiring health
benefits for their families. Under President Obama, it may become possible, for the first time, for these workers to more easily acquire health insurance. This alone may affect the number of people who can now consider a career in a music field.

Most of the average working musicians, teachers, and owners of retail stores who I know do not make more than $200,000 a year. For this group, it will mean tax cuts and a lighter burden at the end of the year. This was a controversial topic between the opposing candidates in the election season. If it comes to fruition, the players and teachers who I know will benefit.

Jimmy Carter was the first president to take seriously the question of a need for energy independence. He was ahead of his time and the idea had no traction. Following a clear crisis, the past eight years were lost as well and should have been used toward that end.

Finally, after being confronted with the pressing nature of the issue, it is being taken seriously, and under Obama we may see changes that, before long, will leave us driving to the gig in an electric car.

Will we be singing songs of the electric hybrid car, like we did in the first rock song (Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”)? It may not have quite the same nostalgic appeal.

For those desiring a college degree in music performance and music education, the nature of how one goes about this may be drastically changed. In theory, university and community college attendance will become possible for many, in part, through a plan of trading community service for education. Tax credits and a revamped financial aid process will change how music students will apply for college and how they will pay tuition.

Of huge concern for modern musicians is the future of the internet. The Obama website promises the following: “(We) will protect the openness of the internet: Obama and Biden strongly support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet. (We) believe we can get true broadband to every community in America.” For those who are involved in internet music sales, promotion of bands, and a whole host of music-related internet activities, the future looks bright. The administration’s interest in technology and research can only help those whose livelihood has a connection
to the internet.

Beyond these considerations, the most important aspect of this era of change — something that could potentially and strongly impact musicians — is the general feeling of hope that seems to be emerging. When the economy is doing better, and when our primary focus is not on a wartime culture, the ground becomes fertile for the arts. If people are feeling better and more hopeful in general, they spend more money and they spend more time in leisure activities. For musicians and retailers (vintage dealers, too), this is all good news, since more money is spent on event tickets, concerts, clubbing, instruments and accessories, lessons, DVDs, computers, etc. Contrastingly, when people are fearful, and especially when they are fearful of the financial future, all the ‘extras’ are ended, such as spending money to be entertained by live music. We have reason to be hopeful in the New Year!

Happy New Year, from Jazz Guitar Hardball!

Jim Bastian
A clinician and jazz educator, Jim Bastian is a 10 year veteran of teaching guitar in higher education. Jim holds two masters degrees and has published 6 jazz studies texts, including the best-selling How to Play Chordal Bebop Lines, for Guitar (available from Jamey Aebersold). He actively performs on both guitar and bass on the East Coast.

An avid collector and trader in the vintage market, you can visit Jim’s store at (dealer: IslandFunhouse).