Tag Archives: Organizations

Peas in a Pod us Artists and Entrepreneurs

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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 ;).

Art+Business – I want that love child.

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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!