Art & Money: Rotten Fruit? Plus, Invitation to Roundtable
"Art & Money: Rotten Fruit?"
"Why Do So Many Gigs Pay So Little in both Money and Fulfillment?"
(Plus, an invitation to a roundtable conversation)
The #1 challenge most professional musicians and artists have is earning enough income to survive and thrive. I know this through my own years of experience as a professional violinist and through talking with many of my colleagues.
Sure, being an artist is great. We get to spend lots of time being creative and it feels good to share our creations with others. But it's often a grind, too. Playing in a wedding band five nights a week, working several weeks on a painting with no assurance it will sell, attending unpaid rehearsals... it can end up feeling like a factory job.
The grind of professional artistry stands in stark contrast to the reason we got into the arts in the first place. This reason we can still feel in our souls: it's the joy of sharing the radiance within. So, why does professional artistry so rarely feel this way?
It's because our economic system can't put a price on the beauty, connection, healing, and aliveness that are so essential to the arts. It instead regards what we do as a function, a utility, a commodity. Yes, art can entertain, and yes, art can be a luxury item - but we all know the true purpose of the arts is so much more than can be captured by a price or a certain number of hours on the job.
To many artists and others, our economic system is like a tree full of rotten fruit. It says, "Do you want to make money? Here! Look at all these opportunities!" But all the opportunities taste sour and mealy. They turn our art into commodities and thereby sideline the radiance within - but this radiance is the whole freaking point of the arts! And without this radiance, artists and audiences suffer.
What do you do when you're tired of scraping by? Do you continue to take the rotten fruit that's already available and let your soul continue to suffer the consequences? Or do you accept penury as the price for artistic purity? Or do you sell out and try to forget how much it hurts?
No. I have a better idea. Right now it's a dream, but I know it can come true, and I need your help in making that happen. Here it is:
- I dream of a world where the radiance within (what I call Soulforce) is put front and center so that artists and their audiences can benefit from its healing and enlivening power. - I dream of a world where artists get paid for their Soulforce, rather than the utility function of their art. - I dream of a world where artists meet the deepest needs of their communities and are richly rewarded for that, monetarily, energetically, and otherwise. - I dream of a world where artists get to fully rest in the knowledge that what they do makes the world a better, more beautiful place.
How do we do this? Here's my hunch: Firstly, we remember the true purpose of the arts, which is to bring the world more alive. Secondly, we need to discover the ways our community members yearn for greater aliveness. Thirdly, we need to create new opportunities that allow our community members to meet their aliveness needs through our art. And fourthly, we need to communicate about these new opportunities in a way that highlights their true value.
No more of the same old rotten fruit. We can make a better tree with better fruit, and I just know that our audiences with LOVE us for it.
Now - I need your help. I will not pretend I have this all figured out. I want us to come together and see if we can imagine this new world of artistry into existence. I want to know your stories, your experiences, your wounds, your joys, your longings. Let's make it real. It's waiting to be born. The time is now.
Will you join me in a series of roundtable conversations on this theme? My offer to you is to record our best ideas in a written document that outlines a path forward. I will then share that document here for any and all to use. What do you think?
Please join me in this first roundtable discussion. I plan to hold three, perhaps more. I will vary the days and times for these meetings so people with different schedules and time zones can participate.
First roundtable discussion: Thursday 8/31/23 12-1:15PM EST Via Zoom (Email me for the link)
See you then!
Photo credit: Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash