Tag Archives: Business

Value$

Standard

We’ve had a couple of very interesting and diverse posts recently – however I do think there are some convergent ideas.

Quil4 had just written her first blog post ever (hooray!) and had mentioned the difficulty in defining ‘self-expression’ and the differences in the utility of different types of writing (how the skills of some arts will be used in non-art endeavours – for instance writing for academia vs. creative writing)

Micpen2 has made a great  point on the Artists and Entrepreneurs post about how artists should do not need to feel insecure about being paid for our work – all professionals are paid for their time, talent and skill.

Self-expression is absolutely necessary – I firmly believe that self-expression and the ability to self-express in a safe environment can play an important role in our overall attitude towards life as well as our physical and mental health. But we generally have a tendency to express when something has made an emotional or intellectual impact: new loves, new loss, old love, old loss, haunting, happiness, pain, sadness, joy – you get the idea.

Artists – and those who consider themselves professional artists – differentiate ourselves by being able to create and produce even when there isn’t a gut wrenching emotional response to a particularly intense period or set of events. Of course, professional artists are also moved by such great and tempest like times in our own lives – that was what made us want to initiate in art to begin with!  However, professional artists will also learn aspects of the craft or forms that are related to their own vision or art that allow the overall quality and intention of the message be delivered clearly to the audience.  Also – professional artists are willing to exhibit, perform, publish – they are willing to share.

Many people suggest that in order to be truly considered a professional artist, you must be paid for your works. I’m not sure if I buy that entirely (no pun intended – hahahaha).  I do agree with MicPen2 – if we are going to make our art and works available to others for sale, we need to learn to appreciate our own skill sets! We sometimes forget that not everyone has the ability to do what we do – even if they had the capacity they haven’t put in the time.  Our works have monetary value and we should slowly understand that our audiences (aka consumers) are willing to pay fair market prices for our works (you pay unfair market prices on things everyday and don’t even think twice about it!).

However –the quickest way to lose your passion is to start getting paid to do it! There comes this bizarro veil of resentment once you attach monetary value to work that has inherent intrinsic value.  Scott Belsky (CEO of the Behance Network) puts it brilliantly, “ Your challenge is to maintain an organic relationship with the craft that you love.  The expectations and rewards imposed by others will only compromise your passion if you rely on them as the source of your interests…..stay motivated by the means rather than the ends.” (Making Ideas Happen, Penguin Group).

Money makes it SEEM as if the value of the work is tied directly to the amount of dollars someone external to the artist is willing to pay – that is not the real value of the work;  the real value of the work and subsequently the value of the artist is the consistent, persistent and determined way in which we love, love, love the process of creating.

Money and Value are not synonymous – however both have their place in the life of the artist – it’s just a matter of you creating the right balance between the two – what works for you? what fits? what feels right? There are no right answers and fortunately there are no wrong answers either.

Peas in a Pod us Artists and Entrepreneurs

Standard

In my last few posts I’ve been obviously obsessed with combining the ideas of art and business.

Do art and business always go hand in hand? Of course not!  But there are times when they do.  Everyone should have the ability and a safe space to self-express and business has little to do with that.  (Self-expression is not exactly the same as being an artist or creating art – if you want to argue with this please feel free). Business is really an exchange of goods or services – forget the dollar sign if it makes you uncomfortable.  Think of business as a way to fulfill a need that you have (instead of a want which is what we do in consumerist culture). Cool?  Cool.

Artists and entrepreneurs share similar characteristics and our work has similar properties:

  • We both have great passion
  • We move from initial concept through stages of development to a final product or work
  • We are constantly looking to explore and learn
  • We have to deal with a lot of constructive (and not so constructive) criticism
  • Financing or Funding our dreams is a hefty aspect of our work
  • We find what we do very satisfying
  • We are willing to invest emotionally, physically and financially into our projects
  • If we fail (or deem something a failure) we will eventually get back up and try again or try something new
  • We are risk takers (even if the risks seem small)

If you are a CEO or a COO or a HR Manager or a Team Lead (essentially someone who is allowed to make final decisions) you should consider hiring more artistically inclined people to your teams.   Artists aren’t sensitive – we are critical and analytical. We synthesize great amounts of information and see patterns and themes in disparate ideas.  Business leaders always tell their teams to think outside of the box and then put them in a closed bare walled boardroom to brainstorm.    I have no idea why so many brainstorming sessions (even in creative industries) take place inside of board rooms – this is brainstorming not contract negotiation.  You would actually have to be a very skilled artist to make use of a blank space like a boardroom to create  brilliant ideas without external inspiration- and let’s be honest the vast majority of your staff are not creatively inclined.  Alternatively you could provide time or encouragement for your team members to express their creative sides or propose ideas which are tangent to your business.

Artists – we need to be more business saavy – the world of the record label, large gallery, movie studio or television network, essentially the idea of big media business currently is in pieces and in future will be replaced by the Apples’, Googles’ and Yahoos’ of the world. These companies are not made for artists – they are entrepreneurs – they use art, music, literature to further their businesses – but they are not in the business of art. Google is not really interested in meaning – they are interested in information – these are very very different ideas. And in practice Apple is not interested in creativity – they are interested in facilitating creativity.  Now of course, inherent in the Apple process are aspects of art and design – but they use these as tools for their software business (as discussed by Colin Gibbs in the post “As Always Mobile Music faces Uncertain Future” Jul 17 2010 on GigaOm.com).

The profitable and meaningful media future will require a hybrid  in the media industry.   A hybrid company that has the brains of a technology based corporation and the heart and soul of a community based artistic organization.    Any thoughts on building the foundations or staples of the a sustainable new media ecosystem or the real ticket – the business model to support that ecosystem?  If you have the monetization aspect down – I’d love to treat you out to coffee ;).

Prickly pear of the sea

Standard

In preparation for my twilight years – when I will unceremoniously drop – and later, without rhyme or reason, unabashedly pick up the telling of a story again…I will now continue my tale about inspiration. (see last week’s post entitled The blue lizard…excellently crafted moment of self-promotion…check!).      

Picture it, Sicily 1931…OK…had a Golden Girls moment there for a sec. (twilight years and all, see)      

Inspiration, she’s a tricky bugger. The hunt, the capture, the grossly self-indulgent gloating afterwards is made effortless by the subject matter at times. When the world you inhabit is filled to the very brim with dazzling colours, shapes, jazz-hands! (hehe…figuratively speaking of course)…and yes critters…it is nigh on impossible to suffer a bout of photog-block (kinda like writer’s block…but it rhymes better).      

The first 18 + an additional 4 years later down the road of my life were spent in paradise. At my doorstep I had at my disposal, a veritable cornucopia of fauna and flora…jewel-hued sugar birds (humming birds) performed aerial stunts outside my diningroom window over breakfast, whales splashed and whooshed plumes of air and spray into the star-filled sky, lulling me to sleep at night. Following their own mysterious and at times inconvenient schedule, the baboons would descend upon our garden, leaping from the tall, peaked roof in reckless abandon into the fig tree’s laden branches…sending my dog into an indignantly undignified and futile frenzy.      

What's purple and yellow and potters around on millions of suckers for feet?

 

My playground was dotted with sea anemones, nodding in rockpools like agreeable crayola flowers, and spiny starfish and punk rock sea urchins decorated every nook and cranny of the fertile and salty seascape.  The sky was huge and deeply blue, the waves resounding and frothy white.      

Parading on a rock ledge, the urchins gleam like predatory brooches

 

Gosh – notice the past tense up there?? To reassure you…it is all still there…this rose-tinted Utopia of my youth…I am the one in past-tense (no…not dead and blogging from beyond the grave…just across an ocean).      

So…whenever I have the occasion to make my much-anticipated pilgrimage back to the homeland…I capture even the most pedestrian detail of life. I suspect my folks reckon my brain has been irredeemably addled by lack of clean sea air and an over abundance of snow and smelly city…as in years gone by, I would never have gone sprinting for my camera bag at a sighting of a green grasshopper on the patio. I would simply have greeted him politely and implored my late, great cat to kindly refrain from making a snack of the poor fellow.      

Gorgeously green grasshopper graces...patio? Crap...lost it at the end there

 

I see you!

 

Now, today I make my home in an equally majestic place…but decidedly more subdued in terms of its local critteridge (nice…rather proud of that mangled word-ly creation). Few things come spiny or bright purple (of their own volition) in the animal kingdom here. But, to my delight…the birds dress up like Michael Jackson – sporting red shoulder patches! The hornets resemble sharp corner chevrons on the road (am I speaking foreigner again?…many apologies), and the larger beasts sport comically bulbous noses and outsized furry tiaras on their proud heads.      

The fact is though – as in a family with two offspring – one being the loud-mouth clown who dances a lively jig on the furniture of an evening, and the other being the nice sprog who vacuums its own room and thanks you for the clean clothes – the clown gets the attention.      

Therefore, the task at hand is: Look harder, be open to the possibilities, and sprint like the blazes for the camera bag when the MJ birdies parade across the lawn! And the dastardly snow and frost…is made beautifully ethereal and oh so photogenic by the rays of the rising sun.      

The autumn sun burns the frost away, leaving bedazzled blades in its warming wake

 

Project of the week pour moi…with a spot of luck I will furnish you with delightful captures of aforementioned feathered pop-star impersonators and any manner of lovely things.

Art+Business – I want that love child.

Standard

This is what I was really working on during my  island escape from the city:  an artist business plan.

For artists  ‘business’ is a bad dirty word -it’s quite a taboo subject for some.  So let’s talk dirty – let’s do something naughty, let’s  just do it –  we’re going to create the the love child of Art + Business.  Oh yeah.

Everyone is a business, whether you like it or not. You earn money you have expenses money comes in and goes out and hopefully at the end of the day there’s a little bit left over for savings and rrsps and ice cream.

I’ve been busy reading the usual creative + entrepreneurial blogs: The 99%, GigaOm, TechCruch, FastCompany, and  following up on Toronto + non-Toronto  based entertainment + tech entrepreneurs (Kunal Gupta, Gurbhaskh Chahal*, Zark Fatah*,  , Uniq Lifestyle’s Nitsa Tsoumaris* – one of the few female entertainment leaders I’ve come across).  Amazing people working on very different ideas that all intersect in parallel industries.  I’ve been mulling over their accomplishments, and comparing and contrasting their businesses with the smaller non-profits that I have worked for.

For-profit or non-profit organizations start the same way:  someone has a great idea and starts gathering people and resources to execute their vision.  However the trajectory for the for-profit start-up is very different compared to the non-profit  start-up which seems to have a much more difficult time finding partners for growth even if the ideas are sound.  Whereas for-profit start-ups seem to be able to gather capital even if the idea is inherently risky.

With a VERY broad brush – here are my thoughts:

The non-profit organization model is somewhat like an older woman with maternal tendencies:  steadfast, dependable, self-assured, resourceful and willing to make whatever sacrifices it takes to her own material wealth to ensure the health of the family unit. But this model has inherently been neglected by investors because of the lack of financial return (obviously).  Growth becomes difficult without capital.

Whereas the for-profit model is much more like a young man in his prime with an adolescent swagger: well connected, brand-conscious, self interested, status driven, willing to risk whatever it takes to be recognized by his peers as number 1.  Investors have always loved these kinds of organizations – venture capitalists salivate at the thought of the financial potential gain – but I wonder if they recognize how many for-profits are inherently neglectful of the very communities that are supporting them.

I want to be both a mom and an alpha male.

The non-profit world does so much amazing work – the people are incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and educated, but  overworked and underpaid. In many instances the non-profit worker is without health benefits – which makes them vulnerable.  You shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty to help your community.    On the other hand, the corporate world has the incredible ability to raise huge amounts of capital in short periods of time; but does so at the expense of common or community goods and values.

Hence my business plan – where I’m trying to manage, or rather mix, both cultures into a third more holistic business culture – the Social Enterprise.  Cultural Careers Council Ontario has been a huge help.  Many people, including MaRS in Toronto,  are working on these ideas and  my own works are a small part of this experiment.

If you were going to create a business plan for your own life – which model would you be? For Profit? Non-Profit?  Social Enterprise? What kinds of ways would you be comfortable making money?  What material assets could you not do without?

Try to build your own basic business plan for your own lively hood – it’s daunting, daring and a surprisingly fun.  Here’s a great PDF primer for artists (but it’s useful info for everyone)  from the Cultural Human Resources Council: AMYC-Chapter1-en

*I have a TON of respect for these guys – they are all self-made, they’ve worked like crazy to get where they are, they run successful businesses which are all highly recognized – but what’s the deal with the dark backgrounds and shiny pics?  Have you noticed how similar the aesthetic is between all of these brands- even Mr. Chahal’s brand  even though he  is actually a tech entrepreneur?   Intriguing – needs a thesis I think – something along the lines of male dominated industry + night time pursuits with inherently dark imagery to evoke the mysterious exotic aspect of their brands…..I struggle with this idea with my own branding – I think this is another post in the making.  Meggy Wang and I have had great conversations about this topic – I think it’s going to be my next post.   Any thoughts?
PS: My interview with Manu Sharma from The Natural Capital Project will happen in the next week! Keep an eye out!