Market Value

Singer/songwriter Tom Rush keeps his music viable amid industry changes

It's more or less the position Rush is in today, trying to keep up with his audience and bringing in revenue. He illustrates the marketing issue with a kind of simple math that doesn't take long to understand.

"It's a tradeoff," Rush says about being independent versus working with a major label, "but if you figure that I would sell, let's say, a hundred thousand records for [his old label] Columbia and my royalty was 20 cents each; or, on the other side, I could make my own albums, sell ten thousand copies, and make $10 each — which one would you choose?"

Using this model, Rush can still afford to operate — and even thrive — within ever-fluctuating market conditions.

Tom Rush still remembers most of his lyrics.
Tom Rush still remembers most of his lyrics.


Tom Rush performs at 8 p.m. Friday, February 15, at the Broward Center for Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35. Call 954-462-0222, or visit

"Folk music has gone through periods of popularity," he says. "It ebbs and flows, but in the late '60s, folk music became pop music. There was a very steep trajectory on both sides of the curve, because whatever's popular today isn't going to be popular tomorrow. It was no longer pop music, but that didn't mean there was no audience. It just meant that the pop music machine had moved on to something else — disco, I recall. I was hoping folk music could become a fixture in the American music scene, like classical and jazz. And I think that's kind of happened now."

But with such a strong tradition of protest, does the fact that this music appeals mainly to financially comfortable baby boomers mean that it's lost its edge? Isn't there something a little incongruous about folk's enduring leftist image?

"The protest thing," he answers, "was only one dimension. I think social protest is still there, but it's become more humorous rather than vitriolic. Humor is more the bludgeon of choice these days, which I think is a good development."

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