The Business of Art: Shape Your Creative Voice or Risk Being Forgettable
People advise you to be yourself, develop your own unique voice/style in your work. But other voices tell you that if you want to get paid, you need to conform to industry expectations and what is “hot” right now. These “other voices” are usually business executives. They often see you through stereotypes and preconceived notions of how they expect you and/or your work to appear. Why? Because they are tending to the commerce of art.
What they’re ultimately looking for is the response you generate in others. This is true for actors, writers, musicians, visual artists – people buy art (and what we are all creating is art) when it generates an emotional and visceral response.
But there’s a fine line to walk as artists.
Business wants what has been proven to sell because it minimizes financial risk. Artists want to create what is yet uncreated.
Both are valid and necessary.
What is ironic in this, is that audiences respond the deepest to artists who are unique and individual – but overall they tend to buy art that is predictable. Art in all mediums is purchased because of its ability to move people emotionally – for the Story it tells, the feeling it evokes, the dream it inspires, the beauty it endows.
This is just as true for films as for novels, paintings, sculpture and music albums. It also makes the business of art unpredictable because every human being responds individually to art and artists.
So we have this tension between the business of art and artists themselves. We are each responsible for ensuring that our part of the whole succeeds. As artists, we need to keep in mind what it is that business executives need from us and our work, as we both serve the audience.
But we also have to develop our unique creative voice. If we do not, we risk being forgettable. And being forgettable means you haven’t touched people emotionally. Not good for any artist’s ability to sell.
The good news is that when you stay true to your own creative voice, you retain the power to move people. When business can package and present your art in a form that has the comforting ring of predictability to it that audiences pay for – you have the conditions to surprise people with your unique voice in a medium that can sell.
So, should you consider what will sell when you create or develop your art?
Yes. And. No.
Yes, in the sense that you need to be aware of the business side of your industry, you need to know and meet the professional standards of your industry and you need to remain conscience at all times of the response you intend to evoke in an audience.
No, in the sense that while you have all this business “noise” in the background, you are the ARTIST in this industry and you need to bring and create what is fresh and unique in voice, style and content.
So be conscious of what the business folks need, but don’t let them decide who you are. And always, always, always put your soul and yourself into your work.
The most memorable art is art that touches the human spirit in ways we didn’t expect it would. That connection to spirit comes through only when the artists involved stay true to their unique voices/styles and the business side of art is willing to take a chance that that connection will drive sales. Oftentimes, they’re very pleasantly surprised.
Why? Because as much as audiences are proven to buy what’s predictable, the human spirit craves art that connects, inspires, and reminds us of our humanity in a way that blesses.
That’s what makes art and artists unforgettable.
Tips to Shape Your Creative Voice:
1. Listen to credible mentors, but make decisions based on your own inner guidance.
2. The best way to connect with your unique voice is to allow yourself to connect to vulnerable emotions. Feel it.
3. Stay true to the Stories and Themes that mean something to you.
4. Make your art personal, bring all of yourself to it, every time.
5. Own your art. Take responsibility for your work, your style, your voice, your purpose.