Arts and entertainment industries are a great area for developing new entrepreneurial projects. Arts entrepreneurs are usually freelancers who are not affiliated with an organization, with a structure or a stable team. They can be: producers, art dealers, impresarios, artists’ agents, project managers and others. Arts entrepreneurs have the special ability to activate the innovative aspects of a project or an organization and to bring an idea from a very initial start-up phase to the commercialization while at the same time they take a calculated risk.
The term “artpreneur” is also commonly used recently-to identify individual artists who develop skills and competences to sell their own work. “Cultural entrepreneurs” are mainly those who work in the sector and together with their ability to elaborate an innovative project and offer it on the market, they also obtain a societal responsibility and stimulate a vital cultural climate in the place they live and work.
Balancing economic and social values is important trait of arts and culture entrepreneurs. Leadership is also a must as the relationship between leadership, innovation and entrepreneurial profile is a prerequisite for success.
Looking beyond local and national markets and seeking international expansion helps arts entrepreneurs to find new audiences and supporters and to enrich the artistic visions of their projects. This is especially important in the era of globalization and increased arts mobility cross-borders.
Below are several advices to emerging arts entrepreneurs as a result of my long years of experience on consulting and developing entrepreneurial projects in the arts:
- Love what you do. Success comes only when your heart is in the business which you wish to develop. Do you love theatre, or fine art, or you are passionate about media art? Do you prefer to listen classical music, rock, jazz or world music? If there is a value and importance for you in what you do, for sure it will attract others. Combine your professionalism with your passion: this is the best formula for a long-term success.
- Be strong enough to work for your vision. Successful arts entrepreneurs are not only dreamers but strategists who know not only what they do, but why they do it in a long-term framework. Even if your vision might sound unachievable, strange, or unrealistic – believe in it, and work for it. It is also very important that you connect your long-term vision with very precise objectives and a step-by-step action plan. The question “Why?” should be well synchronized with answering the question “How?’
- Build up your reputation: slowly but surely. Develop not only the branding of your project and your organization but the branding of your own name. Entrepreneurs are “lonely wolfs” and they have to build up trust, respect and reliance. You can sell easier your products and services only if your audiences and clients know you well and trust you.
- Be focused and persistent. The worst for arts entrepreneurs is when they are obsessed with many ideas at once-start an idea, then do not develop it, and then start another one. The path to success is to elaborate your projects one by one, and not all at once. Be patient and concentrate. Diversification should always come at a later stage of developing of your art business.
- Collaboration, networking and partnership are golden keys in the arts world. Arts entrepreneurs need to be part of professional associations and networks in order to exchange ideas and develop new projects. Meeting people from different countries and working in multicultural environment extends the horizon and brings back sparkles for innovation. Think carefully how to make your competitors collaborators: offer them joined projects, co-organization of initiatives and activities, joined marketing and public relations campaigns. Arts world is in many cases more collaborative than competitive.
- Analyze well the uniqueness of your project and learn how to communicate it to others. Every external group and stakeholder has its own “language of understanding and digesting” of your project. When presenting an idea, learn on how to speak the “language” of others, and to use their terminology, as well as their motivation to become a partner, to invest, to collaborate, to participate in your project. Convince them that your idea is unique, different from all existing in the field, and have a great potential to add innovative features in the future.
- Think about growth. Professionals in the arts often forget that a project or an idea has to develop in time, both in terms of enriching the project, but also-growing in numbers of audience participation, profit, collaborators and supporters. Quantitative indicators are as important as the qualitative one. After the first stage of proving well your business model and making it work, concentrate on the strategy for growth-by expansion, diversification, elaboration of innovative features, partnership schemes, or in other ways.
- Be present at social media but do not overdo it. Be careful and strategize in advance what kind of social media would best serve your project. Prioritize well rather than including randomly your project everywhere online. Consult and learn well the ways for customizing your website via search engines. Advance your blogging abilities – blogs are not about just writing something, but writing it in a structured way which motivates readers to react and respond. Chose online tools which best suit your target audience as well as your idea. Build up relationship with your audiences slowly and progressively – make them feel how important they are, and not how important your project is.
- Build up your professionalism. You might start your entrepreneurial activities with little skills and knowledge-diploma and higher education are not a must to become an entrepreneur. But constant self-development is. Be conscious about your ongoing advancement and learning. Be curious about the changes in your field. Learn from your competitors too. No matter how much you have already succeeded it-always be ready to improve it. Spend sometime every week to feed well your curiosity and develop further your inner capacity.
- Be open to advices. Arts entrepreneurs are in many cases too self-confident and they forget that listening is as important as doing and managing. Ask around: consult and get feedback your colleagues, friends, your audiences, supporters and stakeholders. Do not be shy or resistant for listening comments and criticism. We all learn from our environment, and this is especially important in the arts, as arts projects are open systems-they need audiences and supporters all the time.
- Understand well, motivate and nurture your artists. Find out how to best motivate them and make them understand that art is useless if not seen, bought, and liked by audiences. Build bridges between artists and audiences that will help the strategic success of your project. Always emphasize on the quality of art, professionalism and improvement, as this is the essence of attracting audiences and supporters.
And finally: be aware that being an arts entrepreneur is fun as well as responsibility. It combines the market angle with social responsibility and requires a certain extend of public transparency. Art is not a daily commodity, neither a basic necessity. Therefore creating needs, educating and engaging diverse audiences comes together with, or in many cases even before satisfying the needs of audiences and clients. The social angle should go hand in hand with the market positioning of a project, because art is not about consumption, but about enjoyment, creativity and fun.
Photos are taken at the Open Mind Festival 2011