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.
While I know it’s bad form to quote oneself, I only do so to entice you into reading all 20 pages of The Artist as Entrepreneur,
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.