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The Arts in the New Age of Entrepreneurship


The once struggling artist may now find success as an artist-entrepreneur

By Tim Alberdingk Thijm, Staff Writer

Before I say anything more than this title, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. I am not an expert in this field, nor am I a career counsellor or a long-time entrepreneur. Rather, I am an observer. Based on the experiences I have observed and the people I have come to know, I believe I can nevertheless shed some light on finding stability in the vast and competitive artistic sphere, a sphere which many young people are coming to consider in the information era.

 Of all the occupations available to people today, few are more often associated with foolhardy hopes and impossible dreams of success than those of the arts world. Artists – be they actors, musicians, authors or visual artists – are often stereotyped as missing their rent, at the bottom of the proverbial barrel, or trying to repay debts by pawning off their work onto unimpressed onlookers. Everyone today is a Vincent Van Gogh – before he died.

To some extent, one can comment that it is simply a case of “supply and demand.” The arts are astonishingly competitive, especially in the modern age of easy distribution, where anyone can be discovered through a video, a song, a poem or a photograph.  When your work is essentially the same as that of twelve other people – sometimes deliberately, other times by random chance – it becomes all the more difficult to be noticed as new or interesting.

One interesting item of note in this world of massive distribution, however, is how the Internet has essentially eclipsed the role of the distributor, putting artists in control of their work in new ways. In a sense, the web has allowed all artists who once were tied to having a publisher, a producer, an agency or a record company to become entrepreneurs. The corporate structure where artists were part of a “stable” or a body of clients for a larger business is somewhat less necessary when artists are able to work independently more easily.

For many artists, entrepreneurship, while challenging, can have valuable benefits. Artists market themselves, advertise their work and can find success without having to rely on a corporate structure that may have certain desires on how the artist should conduct their work. They are independent, rather than someone’s employee. This gives the artist-entrepreneur more responsibilities. The corporate structure provides insight, inspiration and encouragement. An artist working alone needs to be able to reflect, find inspiration, and seek encouragement or advice from friends or peers. Despite the entrepreneurial aspect, artists – and entrepreneurs in general – are reliant on opinions and criticisms which help them to explore their work and achieve greater success.

The fresh new artists of the twenty-first century – who seem to be coming younger and younger – need to find a way to achieve their goals even without support from a big corporation. They are in a massive pool, and with the incredible ease of becoming indistinguishable from anyone else on the Internet, it becomes much more important to use the web and one’s own resources to be recognized online. This is the case for many entrepreneurs: the Kickstarter ads which are well-made and advertise an interesting product are more likely to surpass their targets, as people are drawn to products that do something new or redevelop an old concept – just as in the arts.

Entrepreneurship allows an artist to accomplish his or her dreams by working for him or herself without anyone to control or direct his or her progress, save him or herself.

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