Art and Money

I have been fortunate to have known a lot of creative people over the years. I count writers and musicians and many other “creatives” among my friends. In years gone by, I was a partner in a record label and I managed bands. Today, I do a little writing myself, as you may have noticed.

Some of the creative people I know are fortunate to be able to earn a living with their art. Others invest their time and money in their craft knowing that they may never be published or that no one will ever hear their songs. Whatever level of success my friends have enjoyed in the past, and whatever success may come their way in the future, they all put their heart and soul into whatever it is that they do.

To the best of my knowledge, none of them are driven by a desire for great wealth. Of course, none of them would turn away from it either. Rather, they are driven by the need to self-express.

Art is like that. If you have it in you, you need to let it out. If you do not have it in you, you cannot manufacture it. If your art is motivated by a desire for fame, or wealth or anything but the need to express it, chances are you will never succeed as an artist.

Every year hundreds of thousands of books are published and the odds of being published as a new writer are very slim. In reality, 99% of us do not write well enough to attract a publisher or an agent and the remaining 1% of us usually has to be very lucky to be noticed. You have to go into writing with that reality in mind, but that should not stop anyone from trying to write or from trying to improve their craft.

Thousands of bands try every year to “get signed.” Few ever will and most of those few will not earn enough money to cover the advance that their label gave them to make a record. So what? That should not stop musicians from practicing and playing or songwriters from writing songs.

Look at any form of art — writing, visual arts, music, dance, film making, wood turning, and everything else is creative — and the odds of finding financial success as an artist are very slim. Real artists, however, do not care about those odds. They have something to express, something to share, something that they cannot keep inside themselves without feeling incomplete, and so they create, even if it costs them time and money to do so.

Art should not be about the money. The economics of art and its creation will sort themselves out in the marketplace after the artwork has been created. If the artist can be content creating for personal satisfaction, the artist can be content generally.

Are you creative? Do you create because you think you will someday grow rich from your art or do you create because it is part of your DNA such that you would not be you if you did not devote some time out of your day, your week or your month to your craft? Is art without commercial success satisfying?

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4 Responses to Art and Money

  1. Susan says:

    I am trying to find a balance between the two. My art is creating plush, yarn dolls and toys. I create my patterns and am always adding new creations to my list. However, to try to form a business I also create patterns based on client requests, and make multiples of items to sell.

    Sometimes a balance can be found, and I think that for many creatives this is necessary to hopefully turn our passions into viable businesses.


  2. Gail says:

    I create needlework/sewing art for myself and friends. I don’t try to sell it, but I do help finance my sewing by my webstore, where I sell sewing patterns and related items. I feel like I am making things vicariously that way without the stress of wondering if someone will like an item well enough to buy it, especially as most people have no idea what a handmade item costs in time alone much less cost of goods to make it. I also get the joy of feedback from customers who are happy to have finally found an item they have been looking for.

  3. Katy says:

    you bummed me right out

  4. Bills says:

    I’ve heard that some of those painters from “traveling art” shows make a couple of hundred thousand a year doing what they do. Maybe I need a new profession.

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