Amazon’s quirky, sexy “Mozart in the Jungle” has been greenlighted for a third season, a testament to the need for many platforms serving the unique viewing palates of TV viewers.  It’s safe to say “Mozart” would never make it to network TV.  The subject–the lifestyle of classical musicians–is a bit too esoteric for the taste of Americans not living in symphony cities.

The series won two Golden Globes for Season 2, and, as Variety reports, “conductor character Rodrigo and the show’s other musicians will head to Europe in the new (3rd) season, which begins production later this year.”

The charismatic Rodrigo is clearly the star of the series, but, like many series and movies, “Mozart” is based on a book. In this case, oboist Blair Tindall’s memoir “Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music.”

Tindall’s 2005 book shines a bright light on the underbelly of the classical music business and lifestyle of its musicians. The author doesn’t spare herself, with the reader living through her ups and downs. Sleeping her way to audition opportunities, but with the same trysts relegating her to second or third chair.

While revered by audiences as they play the classics in their black garb, many of these musicians live in near poverty, frantically networking to pick up side gigs that might pay less than $100.

This is all very exciting for a young person, Tindall was 16 when she started in New York, but as the years grind on, the failed auditions and unpaid bills add up, and the author wondered if she would be stuck as a penniless musician in her old age.  She had no other skills than playing the oboe. Despite musicians supposedly being good at math, Tindall received no training with numbers or anything else at her music prep school.

Tindall’s story is set in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. While most of her life revolved around the dilapidated Allendale Apartments, the Ellis Island of classical musicians, Tindall played all over the world. In fact it was a CitiCorp sponsored concert in the middle of a South American jungle that provided the name of a chapter, and in turn the book and series.

Many of her of contemporaries died of AIDS and the author kept track of her friends who had died until she reached 100, then she threw the list away. A considerable amount of the book revolves around Tindall’s relationship with Sam Sanders who accompanied the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Sam had health issues since he was a child and would end up with two heart transplants. But he dedication to the piano was unflagging and he was a world class player despite his disabilities.

The book’s strength is how seamlessly  Tindall intersperses the history of classical music funding in the United States with her personal story. First came an $80 million shot in the arm to 61 symphonies from the Ford Foundation.  Then, as government grew in the 60’s and onward the budgets for symphonies increased as did the salaries and benefits for musicians. Bull markets in stocks and real estate also contributed to money rushing into the arts.

The author quotes a Nixon-era official who promised that symphonies, ballets and plays would “rid our society of its most basic ills–voicelessness, isolation, depersonalization–the complete absence of any purpose or reason for living.” From there the federal government through the NEA started throwing money indiscriminately at the arts. The number of concerts increased 80 percent between 1966 and 1974 and the number of new orchestras exploded from 58 in 1965 to 225 in 1988.

But with no market forces symphonies continued to go bankrupt. Musicians signed union contracts allowing them to be paid for not paying. They received nine weeks of vacation and were allowed to hire their own replacements. Famous conductors were fetching six-figure salaries and the heads of these non-profit corporations were also taking down outrageous salaries, without playing a note.

Hustling for work was only part of the job. Ms. Tindall spent hours each day making reeds for her oboe, each seemingly with a mind of its own. The oboist tool kit includes “knives, mandrels, pliers, sharpening stones, plus cigarette paper for leaky keys.”After that it was three or four hours of practice each day. All of this squeezed in between imbibing copious amounts of wine and juggling various sexual partners.  “I believed I was a sensational talent,” writes the author, at the time not considering that she was simply trading sex for job offers. “I didn’t care. I was living inside a romance novel.”

While she may not have been all that aware in her musician youth, as an author Tindall makes many savvy points about economics and classical music. “Most performing arts groups were subsidized by unearned donated income, as well as, tax incentives, and therefore did not always have to link revenue to the quantity, quality, or type of product they offered.”

Being a classical musician came to be viewed as a dead-end job, with low job satisfaction playing the same notes night after night. “Only operating room nurses and semiconductor fabrication teams scored lower than these musicians,” who “feel a low-grade depression.”

Near the end, Tindall savages what she had dreamed of doing when she was a girl. “Classical music has built a fortress that alienates audiences and has priced itself out of reach of the casual listener. Many of its performers are miserable, as revealed by mediocre performances that further repel the ticket-buying public. No one has ended up a winner, except for a handful of multimillionaire musical superstars and six-figure arts administrators, many of whom are unqualified to earn nearly this salary in any other business.”

The reader may have realized by now that Ms. Tindall developed other talents (in her 40’s) that make for a happy ending. But her tale is no less a cautionary one for parents who think their son or daughter is the next Mozart and believe classical music will lead to fame, fortune, and fulfillment.  For all but the rarest talents, the jungle will swallow them whole.