I'm not sure I made my point well in the last post so let me give it another shot.
So we have this statement that many artists make "I would produce theatre (or any art) for the rest of my life even if I didn't make a penny from it."
What I'm thinking about is whether that position makes you a better artist or whether that position could hurt your art.
Let's assume for a few moments that one thing audience's and the dollars they bring represent is a "yes" vote. Every time an audience member buys a ticket or enters your gallery they are saying "I like this, I want more of this.
I believe the audience and the yes or no vote they provide can help a person's art become much better.
For example, last night Court Theatre did their first preview of Carousel. At the end of the preview maybe 20% of the audience stayed to give their opinions on the show to the artistic staff.
Some of the more basic opinions that the audience gave i.e. "I couldn't hear Actor X when she sung that part of a song" are going to be the most helpful ones because it will help the director re-block the show in a way that will make sure everyone can enjoy the songs.
I'm confident that by the end of Court's 2 week preview period the show is going to be improve greatly in part because the audience is going to give suggestions that make it better.
So if we accept the idea that audience engagement can improve art then what is one of the best ways to increase audience engagement . . . by asking them to pay for the artistic experience.
As many people have observed, once you pay for something you are now much more invested in the outcome of the thing then you would be if the thing was just given to you.
And that audience investment is vital to improving art.
Alright so what's my point . . .
A statement like "I could produce art and never make a dime from it" presumes you either are:
1. Never making that art public
2. Allowing people to participate in the art for free (which is one sure way of never making a dime from it)
3. Not allowing your audience to be engaged enough in shaping your work ("This is my play, take it or leave it.")
I'm not sure any of those three positions make you a better artist in the long run.
Alright, that's my random thoughts on the issue. Fire away in the comment section.
Once again we take a look at the tricky balance between art, freedom and commerce.
There is a lot in Don's post and some other responses and I don't want to tackle them all, but I will focus on one thing.
Don says in his post that "I would create and produce theatre for the rest of my life without making a single dime from it. Most artists would too."
Part of me agrees with this statement 1000%. If you love theatre, produce it. If you love to dance, dance.
Even if you never get paid for it, love can take you pretty far.
And of course, there is also the fabulous paradox that if do what you love long enough (and well enough) someone will probably pay you to do it one day.
But I think that attitude, if extend too far, can easily become a problem.
Let's consider this. What if I started a theatre company and produced theatre for 10 years. I loved it, very few other people did. Have I been successful as an artist?
By Don's standards the answer would be Yes. I did what I loved for a long time.
But what if the answer were Maybe? Or even No?
If you produce art for a significant period of time and can never convince even a small audience to pony up some bucks for it haven't you, at least on some level, failed as an artist?
A politican with no votes is a lousy politican.
A lawyer with no clients is probably a crappy lawyer.
An artist with no audience is . . .?
I don't have a clear or easy answer to that question but I do believe this, artistry doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in relation to an audience and one way an audience shows their love for something is by paying for it.
I mean I know we don't want to acknowledge this, but in the artistic game money does count for something.
It says you connected with them on a level deep enough that they were willing to do the sometimes difficult act of reaching in their pockets to be a part of it.
If you can't get an audience to do that (even just a little), what does that say about your work?
Whenever I get the urge to complain about my chosen profession of arts marketing I read an article like this and it snaps me back into place.
It is a reminder that no matter how difficult it may be sometimes to market a particular artistic product . . . often the people in charge of raising money (particularly from very wealthy donors) have a much, much, more challenging task.
Read the article and then let's talk a few minutes about free.
I'm one of those arts guys that hate free. I don't mind low cost. But I hate free. So if the choice comes down to giving away a ticket to Carousel or selling it for well below market price, the selection is clear.