Last month, Andy and I interviewed Colin Currie for a podcast episode that will air in early 2023. He’s the most dynamic and sought-after percussion soloist and performer working today. Beyond playing concerti with orchestras and solo recitals around the world, he’s busy working in other ventures he created: a mixed chamber ensemble, a percussion quartet, and a record label. I know people who have careers in each of these fields, but for one person to build a portfolio career that encompasses all four, and from scratch, is rare. In my opinion, Colin is a serial entrepreneur in the genre of music.
Interestingly though, when I asked if he sees himself as an entrepreneur he said “no.” At first, his response took me by surprise, because I wondered how someone who earns a living and employs people in several arts organizations he created, couldn’t see himself as an entrepreneur. But as the dialogue continued, it became apparent that the artist management companies with which he works look after most of his back-end activities, from arranging performances, accounts receivable, travel, and so on. That would assuredly free up his time to allow him to focus mainly on the activities integral to being a musical artist: practicing, rehearsing, performing and recording. So from that vantage point, I can appreciate how he might not see himself as an entrepreneur.
That made me wonder if it matters if artists see themselves as entrepreneurs. Would it change anything, and if so, what? I can’t imagine there would be any negative outcomes if they did? After all, it wouldn’t take away from viewing their activities through the lens of an artist. In fact, I’d argue it would be beneficial because it would likely sharpen their approach to creating value in their art.
To illustrate, we only have to consider the popular business quote: “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Successful entrepreneurs monitor metrics all the time, and the following questions might be more top of mind for those who see themselves as arts entrepreneurs: Why have my production costs increased?; Why is my art selling slowly?; Am I making enough margin on this sale?; How can I monetize my inventory more effectively?; etc.
Artists will always focus on the intrinsic value and beauty of their art—and I’m not suggesting that those who don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs don’t monitor metrics. I’m simply stating that by seeing themselves as entrepreneurs, artists will increase the likelihood that they can create value through improvements in all areas of their ventures.
If you’re an artist, or work in some aspect of the arts economy, do you see yourself as an arts entrepreneur? If not, how might doing so influence the creation of your art, and how it’s delivered to the world?
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