The Problem With Your Arts Career

This is going to be a bit of a different blog post than I usually write as often I focus my attention on leadership skills and their connection to the arts. Today I want to write directly to those of you who are professional artists struggling to make yourself known and develop a career that is fulfilling AND financially viable at the same time.

I’ve had the unique experience in my career to work directly in the arts AND in marketing/business and what I’ve noticed is a big disconnect between the desire for artists to become successful and earn a living with their art form and how they think about their craft as a business.

A few years ago I used to run a workshop called Overcoming The Starving Artist Syndrome, which was a 3-hour workshop targeted at artists who were looking to learn marketing skills. Many of the artists I worked with didn’t understand that they were an entrepreneur just as much as a dancer, actor, musician or artist. They were very “schooled” in their craft whether it be performing or visual arts, but they had very little reality that it was actually their responsibility to market themselves, book jobs, handle their finances, ensure they were financially viable, create PR, correct issues in their business and find new opportunities to demonstrate their talents. Much of the “business” side of their career was almost entirely missed.

I understand that some post-secondary institutions do offer courses on the business side of the arts, but the reality is that one or two courses is not going to provide the foundation professional artists need to truly find success. One of my business mentors, Meir Ezra, says that you are only as successful as your weakest area. So inevitably, by not learning and applying all there is to know about the business side of the arts you are limiting your success to what you DON’T know.

When you combine the lack of business training with negative self-talk like “earning a living in the arts is hard” you are going down a dangerous path – especially when you listen to family and friends around you who say “why don’t you get a real job”. What you are left with are very opposing ideas that push against each other (I want to succeed in the arts BUT I can’t succeed in the arts).

Unfortunately, when you have two thoughts that oppose one another it creates such a force that it can stop progress dead in its tracks. It almost becomes impossible to push through. So you sit and wonder why your career isn’t moving in the direction that you would like…well these opposing thoughts are one aspect to the problem.

My next few blog posts are going to give you some insights into the business of the arts and give you some actual tangible tools that you can start to implement so you can tip the scale more towards a successful career.

If anything rang true for you in this post I’d love to hear about it. Please comment on the blog post and share your thoughts!