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How to Feed a Starving Artist


Why do we often associate the performing arts with poverty? In modern society, we seem to associate any form of artistic expression as a death sentence to poverty. If our child says they want to major in music, dance, or media arts, a parent often gasps and subtly offers alternative career paths. Although I majored in music as an undergrad, I agree certain non-artistic elements are required to make any artist successful.

Firstly, an artist must possess some element of economic and business knowledge for market values. Many artists think they have an upper edge in employment or entrepreneurship simply because they have been trained by the best in their field, attended the best schools, or received the highest awards. This is viewing reality through rose-colored glasses. Even the best and most successful artists know their market value for the product and how to sell at a rate that is going to be competitive among others in their geographic area and field of work. For beginning artists to thrive and support themselves, a little background research into the going rate for lessons, performances, and accompanying gigs would boost their attractiveness to employers and consumers. Not to say you have to offer the best good at the lowest rate, but exemplifying how your quality or experience in the field could better benefit the consumer at a slightly higher price.

Second, any up-and-coming artist should consider the geographic location. Although many artists perceive the goldmines for success as being in New York City or California, the contrary actually arises. Because there are so many individuals with the ability to offer the same skills and goods, the market is overrun with starving artists who want their one shot at fame. Although some do receive a shot, the majority are left severely in debt, depressed, and often resort to other professions simply to stay in the big cities. On the contrary, more remote suburbs or rural areas have several middle class families who desire to expose their children to the arts because the local school districts do not fund arts in the classroom. In essence, artists are not tapping into a group of consumers that are not even accounted for in the current demand curve. By using their resources wisely and opening a business in an area with an untapped demand for their good, a previously city-bound, fame hungry artist could be rolling in the profits of his or her own business.

In conclusion, many artists need the business and economic research to accompany the overarching amount of personal talent in order to sustain any income high enough to keep them out of the streets. By doing a little background research and understanding the local market value and going rate for their product, any artist could easily turn their creativity into profit. So next time your child asks to major in any field of art, don’t automatically redirect them to a business administration major. The specialized craft from an arts degree, accompanied by a possible business or marketing minor, will provide them more enjoyment and prosperity in the long term if properly allocated.


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