Selling Out

“People who focus on making a profit through their art are selling out.” 

That’s a fairly common belief espoused by some aspiring artists.  Here are a few other variations:

“Artists who focus on marketing are selling out.”

“Artists who change what they do just to appeal to bigger audiences are selling out.”

As pure and romantic as those viewpoints might appear, I see things differently.  Not making a profit is selling out.  Not marketing powerfully is selling out.  Not considering audience perspective is selling out.  Here’s my rationale…

Artists who don’t prioritize turning a profit probably won’t generate one. And without financial yield, how can they possibly pursue passion projects, invest in the future, or build sustainable careers?  A bankrupt artist on food stamps who is forced to stop creating or delivering art is of no use to anyone.  Now, that’s selling out!

Artists who don’t employ effective and powerful marketing strategies fail to deliver maximum impact from art they’ve otherwise poured heart and soul into developing.  As a result, they reach fewer customers.  This is not only bad news for the artist, but also for potential fans who could have benefited from the experience.  Now, that’s selling out the art!

Artists who don’t consider the audience perspective often wind up turning them off.  This is equivalent to a restaurant chef cooking only food they love personally, regardless of the culinary preferences of guests.  When the audience viewpoint is not revered (or even considered), it’s likely that many will have a less than inspiring interaction.  And that often causes these consumers pause before attending the next arts event.  Now, that’s selling out the whole community!

It is certainly not suggested that you think only about these things.  Of course, your personal voice and convictions are essential!  But for our important work to prosper in the 21st century, we desperately need artists who prioritize earnings, promotion, and audience. 

Truth be told, however, I do hope you sell out. That is, at least if we’re talking about selling out the next event…

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