Ian David Moss, a leading arts blogger and Research Director for the terrific national artist service organization Fractured Atlas, has written a long and fascinating article for NewMusicBox (“the web magazine of the American Music Center”).
Ian speaks some painful truths about how much (borrowed) money so many aspiring artists spend to receive a rigorous education in their artistic field while having little prospect to support themselves from their art, and how little training they usually receive in some of the non-artistic skills of marketing and fundraising and money management that might help them earn and save enough money as artists to spend more time making art.
Of course, financial and business education (and the overall “artist as citizen” worldview that Ian espouses and which I heartily endorse) can only do so much in a marketplace saturated with artistic producers and short on (paying) consumers of independent art. Promoting strategies of self-reliance and business savvy can indeed help particular individuals set themselves apart from the masses of other artists by virtue of their entrepreneurial skills. But what we also need more of are transformative artist-entrepreneurs who can find ways to fundamentally change the marketplace of artistic consumption, creating vibrant new artistic economies and converting vastly greater numbers of people into paying consumers of original independent art, music and craft.
Certain internet-based transaction platforms (SonicBids, Kickstarter, Etsy, to name only a few) may offer a glimpse of broader transformations to come, which we can only hope will improve the prospects of independent artists. But honestly, as much as I admire the artists I work with, I’d still think twice about encouraging my daughters to seek their fortune as artists. Yes, people will continue to pursue careers as artists regardless of the advice they receive from worried parents, so great art will continue to get made. But I hate it that the odds are against them being able to earn a comfortable living even with extremely hard work and dedication to their craft. We need more focus, investment, and innovation aimed at this structural imbalance in our nation’s much-hyped “creative economy,” because the problem is not going away.
I don’t know: do I sound more pessimistic than I need be?