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Re: [ARSCLIST] Digital oral history recorders - any recommendations?

At 03:54 PM 1/28/2009, Parker Dinkins wrote:
5. Pay the subject an honorarium when you get the release signed.

Some may think this last item is controversial, but when you are dealing
with professional musicians it's a good idea to approach an interview as
another gig.

But you aren't asking for them to do what they do for a living. They have proven track records as musicians. They might be great for an interview or might be nearly a waste of time. Also, payment may create a "performance" idea instead of a simple factual recounting.

And what about the rest of us researchers who don't have ANY funding for this? I introduced myself to one musician and asked whether he'd be willing to do a brief phone interview and the response was, "What's your budget?" I explained that I was just a person, with no affiliation, no advance, nothing; that I was doing this all on my own time and dime and would likely end up in the red; and that I was just hoping that he would cooperate so that his story could be told - this was met with, "What's your budget?" At that point, I thanked him for his time and gave up.

I think some musicians have heard about this (particularly the very well-paying Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project) and have unrealistic expectations.

Not to paint such a bleak picture, because this isn't the norm in my experience (nor do I wish for it to become the norm). For the nearly 100 interviews conducted for my book, no money was paid. Folks received a copy of the book when it was published and we made them feel that their stories were important and that it was all for a good cause.

We lose more history each and every day. So many of the people that I research are not even on the radar of folks with money so it's unlikely that anyone would fund the work. That's why it's called a labor of love.



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