By Mark G. Auerbach
Over the years, I’ve worked with many artists, craftspeople, musicians, actors, and dancers who have incredible talent, potential, and a unique quality that ought to set them in the marketplace. Yet they struggle with the “business” part of their art, and ultimately, their art suffers.
Part of their problem is attitude or mind-set. They consider themselves artists first, and business people second. The most successful artists understand that their art is a business, and they have to work in business mode–budget their work, keep track of their expenses, and market themselves. Smart artists align themselves with a good financial person, a good publicist or marketer, and network with people who can get their art or craft noticed.
All artists and craftspeople share one unique quality about their art: It’s something that can’t be automated, mass-produced, or regulated. A painter can’t program robots to recreate his or her “Mona Lisa.” A violinist can’t program a laptop to play in a chamber music quartet. So, with that in mind, an artist needs lots of time to practice, rehearse and create, and even more time to audition, develop promotional materials, price their art, and sell.
Over the last forty years, communities have discovered the economic impact of “the creative industries” and more and more resources are becoming available to help those creatives strengthen their business acumen, network with resources who can help them grow, and build the business side of their art.
Local chambers of commerce and economic development groups, including BIDs, or business improvement districts, may welcome creatives into their ranks. Some chambers of commerce offer reduced health insurance plans for their members.
Here in Massachusetts where I am, the state has an exemplary creative industries program under its Department of Housing and Economic Development. No doubt your state has something similar.
State and regional arts councils can connect artists with networks on the local scene, and occasionally offer educational programs, seminars, and workshops for creatives. The National Endowment for the Arts has a list of State and Regional Arts Organizations.
The Vermont Arts Council, for example, offers an annual “Breaking Into Business” two-day workshop for artists and craftspeople, which assists in developing business plans, and marketing and development strategies.
Colleges and universities often offer arts management, arts administration, or arts-oriented business programs for creatives. Start with a list of programs, and search within them. A good resource is: Association of Arts Administration Educators listing of Arts Administration Programs.
The University of Massachusetts Arts Extension Service is well-regarded. I’ve taught public relations workshops for them over the years, and worked as a consultant, when they signed on to help an arts organization.
The University of Connecticut at Storrs offers some online programs of note.
Crafters should make note of the Arts Business Institute, which has presented workshops in North America for over 16 years. They bring a team of experts in marketing and development to work with individual artists and craftspeople. Their curriculum includes marketing, wholesaling to shops and galleries, product development, cash flow and financial practices, pricing artwork, and more.
To succeed as a creative, you need to surround yourself with business and marketing support, so you can concentrate on your art, but be sure to stay involved and interactive with your team, so you are a part of the business world and can make the best decisions that protect and nurture your product–your art.
Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.