One of the reasons why I love independent media and art is because it is made by real people. It is not backed by big companies, or tailored based on millions of dollars of market research. The art and business can be somewhat separate.
We are talking about raw unadulterated output. There is a genuine quality to indie art that cannot be replicated by a corporation. You are seeing the exact result of a creator’s hard work.
However, this does have some drawbacks. Most independent artists do not have the resources to hire the staff they need to get their work out there. A lot of us don’t have the time to tend to the business-like aspects of our creativity.
Making art is awesome. Self expression is one of the most freeing and fulfilling aspects of being alive. Many of us strive to make our craft our full time job. This seems like a daunting process and to be honest, it is very difficult to achieve. However, is it worth not trying?
Working in the field of independent media can be a bit tricky at times. We are not working through large companies and corporations. There are no stock markets to play. It is just regular people making art and doing the best work that they can.
Money Is Not The Best Primary Motivation
When speaking to independent artists, you often hear the phrase “Don’t get into it for the money.” Hell, I have given that advice many times myself. For the most part this is true.
Unless you have the entrepanuerial spirit, building a business just isn’t going to cut it. The content of your work is going to be what keeps you coming back.
This means that you must have intense passion for your craft. Otherwise, you are setting yourself on a course for failure. Even the best creators get tired and burnt out. Imagine having to sustain a career that you don’t care about. It is nearly impossible.
Besides, this is what most of us are already doing. We work our desk jobs while daydreaming about something more. If the paycheck was enough we wouldn’t have the need to create. For the most part I agree that money cannot be the only driving factor.
However, I think that this personal philosophy can be a tad misleading. There is a big difference between prioritizing passion over resources, and having an overall aversion to resource gathering. I have found that many independent artists embody the latter.
Many creators I have talked to believe that caring about making money is a bad thing. They feel that this lessens the quality of the artist’s creations. They have a vision of a money-hungry artist who cares more about a paycheck than expressing themselves.
Honestly, if that were the case, I would be 100% on board with this line of thinking. However, the concept is far more faceted and nuanced than being labeled as a sellout. False dichotomy arguments like this are a big reason as to why indepdent creators fail.
Business and Art Are Not Mutually Exclusive
Think about the last great concert you went to. It was awesome to see the artist that makes the songs you love. Their creative mind speaks to you on an intimate level. No amount of money can replace the feeling you get when you see them step onto the stage.
When we think about this experience, a very simple business transaction comes to mind. We are paying to see our favorite band. However, there is a lot more to it than that.
A business made the instruments the band is playing. A different business made a venue so the band can perform. This goes on and on, all the way down to the workers who excavated the metals that make the eyelets in the lead singer’s shoes.
Those of you familiar with Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil” will know what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t know, Leonard Read was a famous economist primarily focused on the Austrian School of economics.
In the 1950s, Read wrote an essay that described the creation of a pencil in vivid detail. Someone had to create the saws that were used to cut down the trees to harvest the wood. Another person made the mining equipment to harvest the graphite. All of this large and intense projects were needed just to make a simple pencil.
While I am not making an economic argument in this article, I feel that the concepts put forth by Read can be applied to artistic endeavors. I will admit that it is possible to make art out of materials that you crafted with no outside knowledge. However, the vast majority of us choose not to do so. The fact that you are using a computer to read this proves my point.
Our art is more than just our creative and emotional expression. It is a cumulative effort of everyone and everything that came before us. This includes businesses and workers that provide us with materials, influence, and motivation.
At the same time, art has a history of fueling business ventures. Would we have all of this technological prowess without the imagination of science fiction writers and artists? The world would look very different if it wasn’t influenced by great creative minds.
When it comes to art and business, you simply cannot have one without the other.
Money Leads to Bigger Projects and Better Materials
A lot of us are under the assumption that seeking money is equivalent to seeking profit. The profits are then used for our selfish endeavors. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
A friend of mine recently sold his first few zines. He worked hard on them and made them with very minimal materials. It was basically just Sharpies and printer paper.
He ended up using the little money he made to buy a nice laser printer. My friend can now publish zines in the comfort of his own home for less than the price of copies at a local office supply store.
This has increased his reach and capacity for making the art that he loves. His zines are informational, and this new printer gives him the ability to inform and help more people.
Now, I don’t see my friend’s printer purchase as a greedy, profit-driven, or generally immoral decision. He used his financial situation to increase the quality and output of his art.
I know that many of you are attempting to do the same thing. My best advice would be to keep on grinding and make the best decisions that you can. There is nothing wrong with making money to invest into yourself, your peers, and your audience.
It May Feel Impossible, But It Isn’t
The thought of running a business, especially one tied to your emotional expression, can be extremely daunting. You have marketing concerns and financial woes. There is a lot of responsibility to be had, and the thought of making the plunge is scary.
This fear is what kept me frozen in place for years. I am now kicking myself for letting my anxiety get the best of me. Effective Nerd is one and a half years old when it should be close to a decade old. I wanted to make this website for a long time, but the fear of failure got the best of me.
I am not going to lie to you, it is very hard to make a living through art. This is especially true if you are making small and independent art projects. While indie culture and DIY ethics are (and have been) on the rise, big companies still drive the average consumer.
However, it isn’t impossible. Most great bands started in their garage. Hell, Apple started in a garage. A lot of the mainstream art and products we love were once struggling independent ventures.
What do you have to lose? Most of us are in a scenario where we are working a job we hate while pouring our heart and soul into our creativity. To me, that should be enough motivation to get the ball rolling. Let’s try to create our dream jobs instead of perfecting our dream hobbies.
Don’t Fear The Quantitative
Did you know that eighty percent of you are reading this on a mobile device? That is why I do my best to make my website mobile-friendly.
I also know that most of you live in California. Being in New York, this affects my timing. I have to alter my website and social media changes to bring you the articles that you can’t live without.
Jokes aside, I am a very data driven person by nature. It is just the way my brain works. This is part of why I love running my own website. There are hundreds of factors, variables, and statistics that can be tweaked, modified, and researched.
As stated previously, I have noticed a bit of push back when I discuss these aspects with creators. I get the vibe that they believe it is phony to care about what they call “the numbers”. They would rather create something new then research why their audience dropped by five percent.
Honestly, if they aren’t into data then I don’t blame them. However, I will argue that is it both possible and essential to do both. Avoiding data does not make you a better artist.
At the same time, loving data does not make you an emotionless robot. There is nothing wrong with taking responsibility for the quantitative aspects of your craft. It will help you show your art to more people who will like it.
Find A Balance That Works For You
The business-like aspects of your artwork may not be very fun. I will be the first one to tell you that a lot of it is tedious and boring. I think we all would rather be creating and watching our imagination come to life.
Every creator is different, and we all want different things. I would suggest that you do your best to find a balance between your artistic and clerical duties. When it comes to marketing independent art, you are your own best advocate.
What Do You Think About Art and Business?
What is your opinion about the arts and business. Does being an independent creator change the way you view the marketing and financial process? Let me know on social media!