Illegitimi non carborundum – Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
It seems like an apt way to kick off this post.
There are three incidents/factoids floating around in my head as I sit to write this.
1. My agent dropped me last week after just 8 months because I wasn’t available enough to audition
2. I read a paper “Movie Stars and Box Office Revenues” in the Journal of Cultural Economics (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10824-012-9159-5) which put the value of star actor in a film, over an ‘average star’ to bring an increased revenue of $16 million to the box office. Replace three ‘average stars’ with three ‘top stars’ and increase box office revenue by $64 million.
3. This article in the Globe and Mail, “When Iggy Pop can’t live off his art, what chance do the rest have?’ (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/when-iggy-pop-cant-live-off-his-art-what-chance-do-the-rest-have/article21154663/)
These three incident/factoids triangulate what’s so challenging about being a creative entrepreneur. My agent is unhappy with me because I told him I was not available to work until May of next year. I’m not available to work until May of next year because, like Iggy Pop, I find it difficult to live solely off the earnings of my acting, and the reason why this is a challenge is that producers are under pressure to pack their projects with as many ‘stars’ of various shapes and sizes to help guide their projects to commercial success; which means that actors with lower profiles don’t get seen for things.
Profitability on projects impacts the number of opportunities for creatives to do their work. When there aren’t sufficient opportunities then it becomes really hard to remain solvent and to stay in the game.
The creative entrepreneur in me says ‘then just create your own projects.’ And to a certain degree I believe this is the answer. However the discussion in the comments of the Globe and Mail piece is all about how theft of intellectual property (illegal downloading and sharing of music, films, books) is increasingly making it unprofitable for entrepreneurs to produce these things. It’s all well and good to think, ‘create your own film or record your own album’, but if no one buys it, or a small handful of people buy and the rest steal it from them, then it becomes impossible to sustain this over a longer trajectory.
Time to get smart
I do think we all need to educate ourselves about intellectual property and copyright and take what steps we can to protect our own work. Here’s a starting place http://www.artsyshark.com/2013/06/11/intellectual-property/ or here: http://www.own-it.org
I wish I could offer a simple solution. One doesn’t exist and probably never has existed. The struggle between Art making and profitability has been endured for centuries. All we can do is try to stay rooted in our ‘why’, the reason why we are compelled to express our creativity, and commit to constant learning and experimentation as to figure out business models and practices that can support us. There is always something new to learn and as soon as you think you have ‘cracked’ the business model, it up and changes and you have to start again.
As an end-note, I wonder if this is what has happened to Iggy Pop, the business model has changed hugely in the last 10 years for music, but maybe he’s still trying to make it work like it did in the 80’s? I don’t know but we all need to ask whether we really understand how our micro-industries are functioning TODAY not at any time in the past nor in any utopian future.