Artists And Capitalists

For those that are creative artists, it is freeing and enjoyable to do work that you can practice your art in.  The artist in us loves to delight the customer and get validation from our work in their emotional response.  A job done with excellence and delivering the unexpected has this magical influence.

The other side of the art is business.  We have to make money to support our dreams.  It is the capitalist in us.  Making the numbers work and profiting from our labor.

If the artist overwhelms the capitalist then quality may be extremely high, but at what cost?  Artists can spend endless time refining the last two percent of work thinking it will profit them.  This can work with certain trades.  Musicians that put in countless hours to get the song perfect for millions of fans works.  The economics justify it.

Orange County Choppers does a few customized motor cycles a year and gets top dollar for completely one-of-a-kind concepts.  It’s not the parts, it’s the art.  Get those same characters to run a Harley-Davidson dealership, and the capitalist has to take over more than the artist.  The luxury of spending endless cycles on that last detail don’t pay off.  It’s a capitalist setup.

I have this tension all the time.  I enjoy creating great art in the form of excellent presentation, strategy, systems and customer experiences.  It’s fun, invigorating and much of why I do the work in the first place.  If I am a pure capitalist, then maximizing profit at the expense of quality can sabotage the art and the reason people buy in the first place.

However, if the artist inside of me goes unchecked, then I end up working for free or detracting from the value to myself, ironically.  To make the art work, the capitalist in me makes me sensible.  Packaging, monetization, process, delivery and efficiency matter.  I don’t have all the time in the world nor all the energy nor all the resources to be careless with time and money in my art.  Life is short and there are too many projects I am not doing.

Therein lies the tension.  You can win in service.  You can win in sales.  The sliding scale between the two is different for various situations.  It has to be managed while you change the world.  Be a good business person and a good artist.  That sweet spot produces great reward.

Where do you think you are in the artist to capitalist spectrum?  Feel free to comment.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

One thought on “Artists And Capitalists

  1. Great article! I definitely tilt towards the artist and it has cost me when I am not careful.

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