There are all sorts of myths and assumptions surrounding the life of a “starving artist.” It’s not uncommon for people to abandon pursuing their passions for a “real job” with the perception that life as an artist is too difficult, unrealistic and requires mostly luck. Many people believe that you are either a starving artist or a famous rockstar, although many successful artists live comfortable middle-class lives working full-time through their art.
One of the hardest barriers for most artists to overcome is the idea of viewing themselves as a business owner/entrepreneur and their art as a commodity. Many artists have difficulty putting a monetary value on their artwork; it’s understandable that we would have a negative reaction to having to market something that we put our heart and soul into, something that essentially serves as an extension to our own consciousness. However, being a businessman for the sake of your art doesn’t mean you have to be a heartless scoundrel that is only in it for the money.
Making money from anything requires the marketing of some sort of product or service. Unfortunately, the most effective and common way to sell a product is to create or exploit a person’s insecurities or perception of lack in their lives. Before anyone has even purchased a company’s product, they’ve already sold the idea that their consumers are flawed and imperfect, but if they buy “item x” their problems will magically disappear or remedy themselves… We’re implanted with the false dichotomy that we are either perfect or broken: that the future of our happiness, safety and self-worth rests upon this single economic exchange. We see this across the board in many industries, particularly fashion/cosmetics and health/wellness.
This is why having a career as an artist is actually really awesome. When we are marketing and selling our product, we don’t have to stretch the truth or exploit anyone’s insecurities, dole out false promises or fabricate perceptions of lack in the minds of consumers.
All that art is meant to do is reach out and say, “hey, life is really fun and exciting and frustrating and scary, and whatever you might be going through right now, you’re not alone, and I understand you and I see you.” Artists have the privilege of being honest and authentic in all that we do, even in marketing our products. Though the road to building a career as a professional artist may seem long and arduous, the rewards of making a living through authenticity and true connection are great.
As one of my favorite artists Hayley Williams says, “support music every day because there isn’t a day that music won’t be there to support you.”