Music Connections and Influence

It’s interesting, at least to me, how early in life music can have an influence on someone.

One of the first memories I have is of my mother singing. It’s was never in a choir, but as she went about her day. Doing dishes or other housework. Along with the radio in the car or even if there was a tune on a program on tv or in a movie. She rarely sang loudly, but sometimes it seemed as if she was always carrying a tune with her.

While I was laying in bed this morning, the clock radio played. The program was a repeat of the “American Top 40” that was hosted by Casey Kasem. In this case, it was the Top 40 from 1971. I was just 3 years old that year and each of the songs I heard were ones I could pretty much recall every verse from. Songs from groups like The Carpenters and even the title song from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Yet also songs from a group called Ocean (“Put Your Hand in the Hand”) and from Jerry Reed (“Amos Moses”). It just struck me how music stays with people, or maybe it’s just me, from a young age.

I can recall riding along with the younger of my two older sisters in her VW Bug. We were driving probably over to Columbus, OH and it was summer. The sunroof was open and her new Paul McCartney and the Wings 8-track tape was playing. (Some reading this may have to look up what an 8-Track even is). I can still recall hearing “Band on the Run” for the first time on that warm day as we made our trip. Every time I hear that song, I recall that trip, at least that part of it.

I often watch movies and sing along like my mother used to do. Funny how it can be a movie from the 1940s or one from my teen years and how easily I can recall the song whether it’s “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”, or “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”, “Symphony for Unstrung Tongue”, or “Don’t You Forget About Me”. Sometimes I’m fairly certain it annoys my wife and children, but I simply can’t help it because the memory is just that strong.

Music is such a powerful influencer on our lives. And, this is where I’ll comment a bit politically and about our society, as music influences us so much, I find it troubling when it’s music programs that are some of the first to be cut in the schools. It makes it difficult to have future musicians and performing artists without music education.

By that I’m not saying that music will end without music education because I feel people who are drawn to sing or play an instrument will find a way to do so. Yet, their exposure to the wide range of music through history is often stymied by the lack of a solid music education foundation. I was fortunate to have a mother who sang and a number of teachers who exposed me to a wide range of music, both historically and in scope from Gregorian chants to classical to blues to jazz to swing to country to pop to rock and even to Broadway and movies. I can see the influences of the older forms upon the newer ones. Some students, even music students, today cannot. Some are left to discover that history on their own and many times after they’ve gotten out of school.

Music, like language, conveys history of humankind. An understanding of that musical history, I believe, can foster unity in our humanity. It can show the influences of the wide range of cultures in our world in a way that fosters a connection between people who might not otherwise see that connection.

And that connection can start at a very early age. Even as a 3-year old sitting on the couch listening to his/her parent singing a tune from long ago.

Value vs. Cost when buying from local artisans

“Oh my, that’s expensive. Can you lower the price?”
“Goodness, you charge so much for this. Can’t you sell it for less?”

I and countless other local artisans and small businesses hear this almost every day. Our prices are not as unreasonable as some people think if they’d stop and look at the reality of it.

I recently saw a meme about if someone buys a gift for some else that costs X amount of money how it should be seen in terms of how many hours they worked to afford to buy that item. So, a $30 gift costs a person who makes $12.50 per hour roughly 2.4 hours of work. It wasn’t meant as malicious, but rather to help people understand that the cost of a gift is more than a price tag.

As a fibre artist, writer/copy editor/baker, it got me to thinking about how people always want to have artisans charge less for an item than the marked price. I recall people griping about prices for my handmade items when I worked craft fairs, including someone claiming she could go to a major discount retailer and get the same item for less. (Good luck with that).

Here’s the thing when it comes to how items are priced by local artisans or even local businesses, it usually costs you less than it should be priced. Most artisans, myself included, do not over-inflate our prices. We have to build in our cost for supplies and, most of us, then add in a cost per hour to make it. That cost per hour is far less than minimum wage. Add to this that we have to collect sales tax for some items as well as pay taxes on what we earn.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you ask for a shawl made in a pricey yarn such as Noro. If I can make it with only one skein, the skein itself costs me $50, plus tax. Here, that’s about $54. It takes me about 15 hours to make that shawl if I’m crocheting it because I hate mistakes and take care in making that shawl. My price to you is about $60.

I’m making about $6. But that’s before I deduct the 8% tax I have to pay the state. Now, that $6 profit is now $1.20. That’d be about $.08 per hour as a wage.

Would you work for $.08 per hour?

Note that I’m not charging you for my time to make it. If I did, and charged the going rate of $12.50 per hour, then I’d be charging you $241.50 for that shawl. In that case, I’d make $168.18 after paying taxes and for the materials. That also makes my hourly rate around $11.21 per hour, less than minimum wage where I live.

Would you work for $11.21 per hour?

I have a craft pricing app and have tried to use it to determine a fair price. I rarely use it because it would also raise my price. Using the same scenario, it says I should charge $243.91 retail for this same shawl. The wholesale cost would be $241.50. So, minus the tax, that’s $224.40. Subtract the $54 for materials, that’s 170.40. My $12.50 per hour is now $11.36 per hour. About the same as my outcome not using the app.

Would you work for $11.36 per hour?

But, you may say, that I’m just sitting around crocheting, so I should reduce my hourly rate. Okay, let’s say I reduce it to $5 per hour. That then lowers the wholesale cost to $129. The retail, at a 1% profit by the way, then goes to $130.29. Which makes my profit $65.87, after I pay out taxes and materials. My hourly rate has now dropped to $4.39 per hour.

Would you work for $4.39 per hour?

Another way of pricing is to take the amount of materials and multiply it by 2, then that becomes the price. In this scenario, the shawl then costs $108. The artist then makes $45.36, minus taxes and materials. The hourly wage is then $3.02 per hour.

Would you work for $3.02 per hour?

Again, I understand everyone wants to get a good deal. Yet, things cost what they do because of a number of factors, particularly the cost of materials and the time it takes to create something from those materials. Plus, is your lower priced item really a good deal? How long might it last? Are the materials of a good quality?

Local artisans and business owners are not trying to make enormous profits. They certainly don’t make profits like big corporations or big box stores make. Most of us are simply trying to pay our bills and maybe have something for a rainy day.

You don’t tell your mechanic or physician what they should charge you. You don’t try to haggle a better price from Amazon or a big box store when you purchase from them. (And even if you do, then they’d likely tell you off).

So, why are you saying something costs too much to buy from someone who takes the time and care to make something for you by hand? And, please ask yourself if what you’re spending in the big box retail or online store contributes to your local economy. Also, ask yourself if the quality of what you are buying matches what you expect. Last, using the scenario of the time the item cost you at work, is the item truly worth the time it took you to earn the money to buy it? Chances are, if it’s mass produced, it probably isn’t.

Just food for thought.

Shop local and at small business/artisans near you and online.

Why Buy From Local Artisans?

Consider this when you look for items to purchase for the people you care about.

When an artist, musician, or writer creates something, they put part of themselves into it. It’s more than just the materials they used. It’s even more than the hours they spent creating it.

Each stitch, each weave, each word, or each stroke of the brush is done with care and love. They create out of a vision.
They create out of more than even a custom order request.
They create because it is not just what they do, but who they are.
They create using talents given to them and honed by them over time.

Yes, handcrafted and handmade items can and often do cost more than the ones that are mass produced by machines.

Yet, they last longer and are far more personal than something for which there are multiple copies.

They are gifts that are unique and imbued with so much more than you think. These items become heirlooms many items. They are passed down to others out of love.

So, please consider buying from your local or known artisans of any type before making a gift purchase from a large company or store.

The gift you give will have a much deeper meaning.