Interview with NYC Musicians Meetup Organizer, Part I

One modern benefit of technology has been the formation of local musician communities that meet online and in person to engage and create music. Meetup is home to the The NY Musicians Group, which claims some 600+ members. Joining the meetup is as simple as filling out an online form, and will bring you in contact with a diverse and energized group of people all exploring music in different ways.

We recently interviewed Phil Robinson, the organizer of the NY Musicians Group, to find out more. Because his responses were so insightful, we will publish them over a few days to let you digest them…

How long have you been organizing the NYC Musicians Meetup?

Two and a half years.

What size is the membership, and how many people go to the Meetup events on average?

Well, our page on the Meetup site indicates that 676 people have ‘joined’ our group.  That means that that’s the pool of people who’ve registered to receive our event announcements and who can RSVP for events.

However, the number of active members who we see in person is much lower; and is probably closer to 30 very active regulars, another 30 once-in-a-while members, and then a large pool, close to 100 who float around and come to our larger events or pop in every once in a while.  Others participate only online for the most part (eg. discussion forums, or respond to group announcements, etc.).

We hold anywhere from 2 to 6 events each month, of all sorts (open mics, workshops, open jams, networking nights, member showcases, etc.) and some are designed to be large events and some are designed to be small.  Our smaller workshops work well with 7 or 8 people present; our larger events, like the Central Park Jam, gets cooking with 40 to 50 people.

In practice, it’s a fairly fluid community.

Are the majority of Meetup members professional musicians or hobbyists?

(To answer your question, I have to introduce a third category.)

If ‘professional’ is defined as ‘primarily supporting oneself financially by playing music’, I don’t think we have too many of those, although there are a few.

Most members of the group have the goal of supporting themselves from their music, and take it that seriously, but are not at the point of being able to completely quit their day job… yet.  However, I’d hesitate to use the word ‘hobbyist’ to describe them, as it implies a casualness or a lack of seriousness or a lack of ambition.

Many of the members of the group (myself included) do understand themselves as engaging in an active career as an independent musician, but also still earn at least a portion of their income through other non-musical means as well.

And then, there are of course, the people who do view it as a hobby.

So, to break it down, I’d say it’s roughly:

2% professional musicians (supporting themselves through music)
48% independent musicians (still doing some non-musical work as well)
40% hobbyists (do it for fun and have no intention of earning a living from it)

What musical styles are well-represented in the Meetup?

You name it, we got it. Popular styles (rock, pop, hip-hop, r+b, punk, singer/songwriter, dance, etc.), more traditional styles (bluegrass, acoustic, folk, blues, jazz), academic styles (classical, opera), electronic, film composers, etc…

Hmmm, now that I think of it, I don’t think we have any country musicians.  Not sure why!

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