Photo Courtesy José Faus
Two business terms came up in a conversation I had with a musician friend who is considering a different career path, and maybe even leaving the field altogether: Sunk Cost and Opportunity Cost. Sunk Costs are resources that were spent and can’t be recovered. They could be for items used in the production and distribution of art, money paid in tuition, or the human capital of thousands of hours spent honing your craft in practice rooms, art studios, or other creative spaces. An Opportunity Cost is the possible return on the spent capital had it been invested in other ways.
Complicating my friend’s decision was the thought of wasting the time and resources spent on learning his craft by moving on, versus staying on his current path. I encouraged him to avoid thinking of the time and money spent on learning as a waste, but rather to apply it in other ways because every time you apply what you’ve learned, you recoup some of the opportunity costs.
I imagine many of us have these thoughts. I came to terms with this many years ago because I’ve always been passionate about teaching, entrepreneurship, and performing. They’re all closely related and I didn’t want to focus on only one. Knowing how to create and perform shaped my thinking when creating and designing instruments and implements. Teaching sharpened my performing and business acumen because those who really know a subject can draw upon experiences and apply them in other ways. Aren’t sales, marketing, and advocacy simply different ways of teaching aspects of your art? My decision was to pursue all three paths concurrently, and the degree to which I’ve worked in each field was based on the opportunities I was presented with, or created, at the time.
My wife was also torn when she had the opportunity to transition from her appointment in piano into administration. She ultimately determined she could help many more students and raise the visibility of the arts in our community from an administrative position—and she has.
A few guests referenced Joseph Campbell’s quote, “Follow your bliss” in their podcast episodes. That’s great advice especially for those in the arts because I personally don’t know anyone who pursued the arts “for the money!” I’m not sure what my friend will decide, but I’m confident in the end he will follow his bliss and music will be a big part of his life, even if only playing for his enjoyment and supporting the arts— which is good news because an engaged patron base is crucial for a vibrant arts ecosystem.
Thanks for reading,