Commercialism and Art: Converging Mentalities in the Creative Industries

Although people in the creative industries generally consider themselves “artists,” success cannot solely be determined by one’s quality of work. Introducing the Creative Industries: From Theory to Practice by Rosamund Davies and Gauti Sigthorsson explains a wide range of aspects within the creative industries that one might not initially expect, highlighting greatly on the commercial side of the art world.

The intrinsically complex system that art resides in requires knowledge of business, marketing, networking, so on and so forth. As a freelancer, branding your company and yourself as one and the same is almost unavoidable. Unlike working for a large corporation, a sole proprietorship is based on an individual’s idea that has been transformed to fit a business model. As radio producer Luke stated, “being a very small company [is] quite identity based,” further emphasizing not only the importance of maintaining a positive image of oneself for the betterment of the company, but also the assumption that the owner must control both managerial and creative aspects of the business (71). That being said, both small and large businesses value teamwork in assuring all aims of a project have been fully reached, since no one can do it all. In a book I read over the summer, The Reel Truth by Reed Martin, the business side of filmmaking was stressed because of its tendency to be overlooked by young, passionate, but inexperienced college graduates. Creating a product itself demands so much time and energy that all the steps required to bring one’s artwork to fruition can be obstructed by the mere idealization of the piece of artwork itself. Prominent film executives, like Jason Blum and Ira Deutchman, from Miramax and Emerging Pictures respectively, are familiar with the process of taking an idea and materializing it onto the big screen. As they have claimed, “making any film is like starting a company from the ground up that is designed to make that one movie [and] as much as it’s a pain in the neck, there are times when writing a business plan is really the only option” to get funding for a film (43). This not only applies to independent films, but any type of project within the creative industries as well, stressing the inescapable truth that art and business are intertwined, not two separate entities. For instance, a sculptor who has a vast portfolio of statues needs to think like a businessperson in order for his artwork to be showcased and eventually sold for a profit; otherwise his talent might as well be considered a hobby, not an occupation.

With that being said, the multifaceted relationship between the aesthetic and commercial is at the core of the creative industries. While the metaphysical qualities of art dominated the Renaissance, people today still view art through this romantic lens, although not to that degree of devotion. As described by Davies and Sigthorsson, in the 19th century, the distinction between these opposing perspectives was at its height, in which people viewed themselves as either “being a high-minded but penniless poet or an unprincipled hack on a newspaper” (37). Currently, there is no room for that sort of outlook; today’s society is based on dialectical relationships. A microcosmic example of this is the connections requirement at Wheaton College, in which students need to take classes that share common themes across disciplines. Evidently, the significance of this idea is to prepare students to approach a problem from multiple perspectives and utilize different skill sets that will become valuable in the workplace. For instance, the “temporary internal secondments” that are offered at BBC are meant to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas in order for workers to gain “social and professional knowledge” (96). The ability to move from one position to another within an organization is another way in which companies guide their employees to master more than one skill so they can become a diverse asset.

All in all, this long lasting battle between “art for art’s sake” and profitability must reach a compromise and the “creative cluster” seems to be the environment for this to happen (89). It is possible to be both financially viable while pursuing one’s own creative aspirations, in Rachel’s case as a versatile writer and a festival curator. The culture industries are nothing if not multifaceted and the importance of viewing art as a business itself can make the difference between success and failure.

Martin, Reed. The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know about Making an Independent Film. New York, NY: Faber and Faber, 2009. Print.

Davies, Rosamund, and Gauti Sigthorsson. Introducing the Creative Industries: From Theory to Practice. London: SAGE, 2013. Print.

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