With today’s dysfunctional families you need to do things different,” Xvala stated, “so instead of making useful furniture and meaningless art, I made meaningless furniture and useful art.”
One of the artist’s most well-known works is the recent construction of “The Brangelina,” a 4,000 sq. ft. house, covered in graffiti and hosts the ceiling piece, “Brangelina Forever” by sculptor Daniel Edwards.
I do not know why I did not think to post this earlier, but due to popular demand and some of the great commentary my recent post received on Brazen Careerist, I’m posting one of my graduate essays on the topic of The Artist as Entrepreneur. This is something I have tried to impart to my students as a private voice teacher and something that inspires me both as an artist and an economist. There are ample examples of commercially successful artists throughout history. Learn from them.
As an artist studying economics, I’m often met with exclamations of incredulity when someone learns of my academic pursuits. Comments usually have to do with the misconception that artists are not of the mind to bother themselves with matters of economics and money – they must be too busy creating, inventing, and dreaming…While many artists I know also think this way, I aim to show that to be a successful artist, in addition to holding a certain level of artistic competence, an artist must develop the business and finance skills that lead to successful careers for artists and non-artists alike. The ability to market oneself, take advantage of economies of scale, utilize commercial dissemination of one’s work, and career skill set diversification are critically important to long-term fiscal viability. As any entrepreneur will tell you, taking risks can increase career reward, and artists are often known for taking risks creatively and in their careers. However, there is a difference between risks that can lead to growth, and risky professional behavior that does not lead anywhere.
The story of Salvador Dalí is one of many examples of artists throughout history achieving commercial success during their lifetimes…Because Dalí welcomed the popular demand for his style of work in the market and promoted it to gain profit, he was eventually ostracized from a community of surrealist artists he associated with who felt he was straying from their cause. Artist Mark Vallen quotes the following passage from Philadelphia Museum’s Dalí exhibit catalogue,
“[Art critic Andre] Breton had long thought Dalí’s art had become too commercialized and that Dalí’s growing fame threatened the unity and agenda of the Surrealists. His growing disgust with Dalí’s financial success as an artist led him to dub Salvador Dalí with the anagrammatic nickname ‘Avida Dollars,’ describing what he perceived as Dalí’s greed for money and fame.” (Vallen, 2005)
Other [commercially successful] artists include: Rubens, Tiziano, Rembrandt, Lenbach, Stuck, Picasso, and Beuys. Composers and musicians include Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Wagner, Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras, and Callas. Authors and playwrights include Shakespeare, Goethe, Dickens, Hauptmann, Brecht, Thomas Mann, and Jane Austen. All of these artists became wealthy due to commercial success during their lives (Frey, 2000 and Cantor, 2006).
There is no panacea that will solve the many difficulties of pursuing a career as a creative artist. Though author Miguel de Cervantes is well known for his work Don Quixote, he struggled to find commercial success during his lifetime and was poor for most of his career. However, his quote from Don Quixote, “It is the part of a wise man to keep himself to-day for to-morrow, and not to venture all his eggs in one basket” is apropos when thinking about one’s career or investments. The approach to diversify and mitigate risk that has served great commercially successful artists and private sector entrepreneurs can serve today’s artists as well.
In the discipline of finance, it is common for investment professionals to speak of portfolio diversification, which is a method of allocating one’s investments among a variety of styles and vehicles based on an individual’s risk profile or tolerance in order to choose investments that match an individual’s willingness to bear a certain amount of risk. “The principle of diversification tells us that spreading an investment across many assets will eliminate some, but not all, of the risk” (Jordan and Miller, 2009)
In the paper I elaborate on all these ideas and more! There are pictures too! There might be typos (I’ve already caught one, can you?)! Mainly, I hope what I’ve written can serve as inspiration for artists and fodder for debate on this important topic.
A preliminary analysis of our 2007 MySpace dataset shows the MSAs whose Hip Hop and Rap bands have captured the most fans on myspace.com. Atlanta’s urban artists and groups have the third-most fans in the country – 6.4 million – behind only Los Angeles and New York. This is roughly 7.5% of the 83.7 million fans of the two MySpace genres, which, incidentally, are the most popular genres on MySpace.
Atlanta is an elite producer of one of America’s most widely consumed cultural products: radio-friendly rap and R&B. Atlanta is indeed a skilled city. But it is doubtful that the proportion of four-year college graduates is much of an indicator of the songwriting, arranging, and performance skills that some of Atlanta’s most successful entrepreneurs practice at world-class levels.
Oops, the free market did it again. That is, made goods cheaper due to competition and innovation. Why we think this model only works in the music industry but not in others is beyond my comprehension, but hey, apparently it should make you think twice before downloading full albums on iTunes.
The Universal Music Group could rewrite U.S. music pricing when it tests a new frontline pricing structure, which is designed to get single CDs in stores at $10, or below.
Beginning in the second quarter and continuing through most of the year, the company’s Velocity program will test lower CD prices. Single CDs will have the suggested list prices of $10, $9, $8, $7 and $6.
For those of you who like to watch “Big Business” squirm, check out competitor reactions,
On March 16, executives at the other majors were nervous about the UMG move, calling around to accounts for information on the move. Privately, some appeared annoyed by the move. “Why does Universal feel the need to get below $10?” a senior distribution executive at a competing major asked.
I’d ask him, “When was the last time anyone bought a physical CD other than because it wasn’t available for immediate download for less?”
We know art school grads are trained to have expensive taste, so why ask them to compromise when everyone else has to? Check out the nouveau hedonism for today’s poor epicure, from Salon’s Hipsters on Food Stamps,
In the John Waters-esque sector of northwest Baltimore — equal parts kitschy, sketchy, artsy and weird — Gerry Mak and Sarah Magida sauntered through a small ethnic market stocked with Japanese eggplant, mint chutney and fresh turmeric. After gathering ingredients for that evening’s dinner, they walked to the cash register and awaited their moments of truth…
Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.
“I’m eating better than I ever have before,” she told me. “Even with food stamps, it’s not like I’m living large, but it helps.”
Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else. About half of his friends in Baltimore have been getting food stamps since the economy toppled, so he decided to give it a try; to his delight, he qualified for $200 a month.
“I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing,” he said, fondly remembering a recent meal he’d prepared of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes. “I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it’s great that you can get anything.”
What are these so-called artists learning in art school? How not to make an honest living and how to mooch off others? Apparently, I should not be so judgmental, and assume these highly-educated artists are entitled to this support because of their creative output.
“At first, I thought, ‘Why should I be on food stamps?’” said Magida, digging into her dinner. “Here I am, this educated person who went to art school, and there are a lot of people who need them more. But then I realized, I need them, too.”
I’m really quite appalled at her rationale. Even from a graduate just out of school, I might understand, since this is the worst economy in decades. But these people are just a few years older than I am, plenty of time post-graduation to realize they might need to diversify their potential streams of income. I’m also an educated person who went to music school. Once I realized that I, too, was unwilling to eat ramen to make ends meet, I did not seek ways for others to subsidize my chosen career path. I found additional work and education that allowed me to support myself and my family while maintaining a level of artistic output I am happy with.
Am I totally alone in thinking other (admittedly) able-bodied, educated artists should find honest work, even if not in their chosen field – and save the food stamps for those who really can’t afford to live?
In a move sure to make many in the arts cheer, Prime Minister Brown launches a new program to help arts “graduates break into showbusiness“. According to BBC News, “The Creative Bursaries Scheme is designed to help graduates secure what would otherwise be unpaid internships.”
So, what is it that will keep these talented artists in fiscally viable positions once their paid internships run out? Does the availability of government-sponsored internships have any historical correlation to the availability of long-term life-sustaining work in an artist’s chosen field? As I’m sure we all know, talent is no guarantee of a payoff in life or in the arts. I’m sure any of us can point to dozens of supremely talented colleagues that have not yet gotten the lucky break they deserve so much. At the same time we could point to supremely financially well-off artists whose level of talent leaves much to be desired. (A coloratura who pointed to the ceiling each time she hit a high-E in a Michigan Opera Theatre production of Die Zauberflote comes to mind.)
Could these paid internships be sending the signal that a life in the arts is not only super fun, but more affordable than it really is?
I would say so. As I argued in my recent post, subsidizing an otherwise already desirable activity means you will get more people wanting to do that activity, not less. Even subsidizing less desirable activities (like low income home-buying) means you’ll get more of it (and more of the supposedly unforeseen and unintended consequences). This is public policy 101.
Furthermore, compensating differentials ensures the arts market will always be flooded with shiny, happy, eager labor – subsidy or not. Just ask any dozen or thousand fledgling sopranos looking for work if they would like to sing at Covent Garden for free. Don’t you think they would all beg, borrow, and steal to make sure they were on that stage? Do you think they would consider themselves as being exploited? Perhaps after a certain amount of time, but the evil, evil market would ensure that at some point, no soprano would be willing to sing for free forever. That is, unless she was Florence Foster Jenkins.
A. Do people always choose the highest-paying occupation open to them? No. “Man does not live by bread alone.”
B. Conversely, does everyone refuse to do the truly miserable jobs (like garbage man)? No.
C. Easy to analyze this using S&D: the funner the job, the more labor supply increases; the more horrible the job, the more labor supply decreases.
(And yes, this is the theoretical textbook effect, and yes, this is keeping all things constant.) So when subsidy is thrown into the mix, i.e. Fun Job with Higher Wage Than What the Market Demands – everyone gets really excited about it and compensating differentials ensures a steadily increasing stream of labor to the newly subsidized arts market.
As far as I can see it, there are roughly two sides of the argument. One says, “Good for the artists that get the jobs and the government probably should subsidize more. No worries about the other effects, as long as some people are better off.” The other, “A life in the arts is hard. That’s about it. No amount of subsidy will permanently change the labor market. The more you subsidize, the more enticing it becomes, and the steady stream of unemployed artist hopefuls will just keep rising.”
We all know Detroit housing is cheap and artists need cheap rent, but can it live up to this Huffington Post prediction about being the next big arts metropolis by 2025? Laurie Lyons covers The Armory Show and more.
To illustrate just how big this unresolved debt threat has become, Lanchester (along with others) estimated that the total cost of the financial system bailout in the United States is bigger, in inflation-adjusted terms, than the combined cost of the Louisiana Purchase (in 1803, by President Thomas Jefferson), the New Deal (the 1930s), the Marshall Plan (1948-52), the Korean War (1950-53), the Vietnam War (1961-75), the savings and loan crisis (the 1980s), the invasion of Iraq (2003) and the entire NASA program, including the moon landings.
Sometimes I just don’t get the time to blog about all the things I would like to. So I’m going to start doing what all the cool kids in the blogosphere do, just post the links and let you guys do the hard work.
…2005 was a peak of its own in the three-year trend coming out of the steep post-internet boom recession of 2002. If the art market can consolidate above the 2005 level at is trough, the hypothesis that the art market has entered a new, global phase that offers much greater expansion in terms of both volume and price has some value.
High profile fair use fight over art. Images of the Korean war memorial depicted on a US stamp vs. the actual sculptures of the Korean war memorial.
Even higher profile arts smackdown: China out-arts France. What could it be? Could it be…mmmm, Satan? Or just the associated evils of capitalism?
“While outright global demand was weaker for luxury collectibles and consumables, there has also been a shift in luxury purchasing habits, as many HNWIs looked to secure their wealth in assets with long-term tangible value,” says the report. “This has worked strongly in favour of the art market, with art now recognized as a viable alternative investment asset.