I was watching Mad Men the other day, and it was interesting to see the evolution of the character Midge Daniels who is a struggling bohemian artist. In one of the early episodes, her friends lash out at Don Draper (a high-level, marketing executive) because he works in the corporate world, and creates wants and desires for products with enticing campaigns, slogans and artistic diction. And it got me thinking about The Business of Art…
Well, plain and simple, art is when applied skill and perspective of one person invoke an emotional interpretation through observation from others. It doesn’t matter how skillful someone is at their craft if there is no creativity and risk involved. It doesn’t matter how creative someone is if they don’t understand how to apply their knowledge and application toward deriving an audience response. And it definitely doesn’t matter how emotionally driven a piece is, if there is a loss of perspective and a lack of craft for expression. Art is only art when its creator can vividly describe a sentiment or depiction of a particular moment or group of moments, and yet, still be able to connect to his audience.
This leads me to my point that a successful artist understands business. In other words, if any artist were able to successfully connect with their audience members to the point of invoking want and desire in a multitude of fans; wouldn’t they be considered a prominent artist? Unlike the current contemporary and modern art, the visual art periods of past times related success solely to exclusivity of a particular person’s skill and perspective…the tortured artist role. Only when a painter or sculptor died or became incapable of creation did his work return full circle, and become entirely evaluated for its artistic sentiment. Yet, music was appreciated not only for exclusivity of talent and perspective, but also for reproducibility. It was not enough to be able to create a successful musical piece, but it was necessary to be able to perform it for many different audience members in various venues. Fine dining, scents, etc can also be viewed in some form or another as a particular art form because they, too, have the ability to generate a given interpretation from its audience members, while being created in some specific form by their creator.
Contemporary artists understand that exclusivity, originality and perspective are important for creating incredible art, whether it is architectural landscapes or spoken word, and the ability to connect to a vast audience is what makes art incredibly unique. However, the business of art needs reproducibility. And reproducibility has become a staple for many artists for successfully connecting with a broader audience.
The bohemian thoughts of the past about art should not dictate the path anymore because being an artist is one thing, but being a successful artist means taking advantage of one’s special talents, and branding oneself around that image to make it seem as if the entire package is unique and relatable.
So, the next time someone says that being a sell-out or being mainstream is a bad thing, just remember that art is interpretive. And if there are a mass amount of people who could possibly connect with a particular person’s art, then it would be a shame not to share it with the world.
Be Successful. LOVE your art. But understand the business of it.
Thanks for listening to just another guy trying to tell his story…