What is Arts Entrepreneurship?
Arts Entrepreneurship classes have grown in popularity over the years, and for the past 5-10 years, universities, conservatories, and art schools have been adding them on a regular basis. It’s the same for minors, certificates, and majors. That’s a good thing because institutions should provide students with tools and methods they can use to apply their art, and make them aware of the variety of opportunities throughout the arts economy.
That said, if you speak with college students, their parents, or even those who teach the subject, a question that often comes up is, “What’s arts entrepreneurship and how does it vary from regular entrepreneurship? It’s a good question, and the answer depends on the entrepreneurial experiences of the person you ask.
If you search online, you’ll find a variety of definitions—some are more focused on the act of creating art, some more focused on business, some split hairs between entrepreneurs and freelancers, and some go granular to define certain aspects of arts entrepreneurship and even identify its specific value. To be sure, there is no consensus.
Andy and I agreed on the following working definition because it’s simple, yet broad enough to encompass the entire arts economy, including the many activities and partners needed to create and distribute art: “Arts Entrepreneurship is the fusion of arts and business. By aligning their artistry, passion, and vision, arts entrepreneurs create and pursue opportunities to capture value in the arts.”
Based on that definition, the following are examples of arts entrepreneurship, and it’s worth noting that the latter in each set of examples are typically not vocations students consider when studying their art: musicians and those who make the instruments and accessories they use; visual artists and the galleries where their art is sold; and actors and the agents who help them negotiate contracts, and the publicists who help them enhance their brand.
For me, the answer to the question of how arts entrepreneurship differs from traditional entrepreneurship comes down to perspective. As someone whose professional experiences have included creating art (performing music in my case), writing music books, designing musical accessories, implements, and instruments, and creating content used to sell items for music making, I can say first hand that you don’t sell art and related items and services like you would sell pretty much anything else. Violins aren’t sold like hammers are sold, nor are paintings or performances sold like grain, delivery services, or medical devices.
In the arts, we focus on aesthetic and intrinsic value because the value of art is much more than the cost of paint, guitar strings, or costumes. Once you treat your arts offering like a commodity, you’ve changed the narrative from aesthetic and intrinsic value to price and utility, which essentially devalues the offering. (I acknowledge there is a utility aspect to fashion, but it’s mainly sold on aesthetic.) If someone balks at your pricing narrative or value propositions, don’t be offended—just realize they aren’t currently in one of your customer segments.
During a podcast episode we recently recorded, I recalled a story I heard, and whether it’s true or not, it’s fitting for this blog post: A woman saw Pablo Picasso sitting by himself in a cafe so she approached him and asked if he was Picasso. He nodded, so she asked him to draw something for her on a napkin. When she asked what it would cost to buy the napkin, he quoted her an exceptionally high price. She exclaimed, “But that only took you 5 minutes?!” He replied, “It took me 40 years to be able to do it in 5 minutes.”
If you don’t value your creativity, why would anyone else?
Thanks for reading,
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