Straddling artistic integrity AND artistic sustainability

I received an email not too long ago from a talented young musician who was looking for a way to boost his reach through his art, and to set himself up to have a sustainable life as a working musician. 

He sent me links to his music, filled me in on his process and goals, and mentioned he had hired a manager to help him reach new levels of success. 

His music really is beautiful, and I admired his purpose right from the start, but when we spoke, I noticed a couple of red flags which I believed were keeping him from really embracing his potential for sustainability through his work.  

The biggest one? He was giving away ALL of his music for free with the hope that people would enjoy his work so much that they would donate to him after the fact. 

Now, I hope you all know that I LOVE a good freebie, but you should also know that I am not in the business of encouraging you to give away your hard work and products without reason. To be fair, this artist did have a reason - he wanted to ensure "a lust of money didn't bleed into the act of creation”, and as a result, he was giving away his product for free.

Good reason? I'm not so sure. 

I thought this was really interesting though, because what I saw was not someone wanting to give away their art because it fulfilled them to do so, but rather someone who had decided that he was opposed to creating a balance between income and expenses (both creatively and financially), and he essentially believed that unless the income was donated through joy, it was tainted.  

What I believe he was trying to get at however, was that he didn't want his need for money to affect his art. He didn't want to come across as needy, greedy or desperate (sorry - I couldnt think of a third rhyme)

He had recognized earlier in our conversation the need for income to offset expenses - recording is not cheap! - which was why he was reaching out to me, to get help finding a balance.  We spoke about strategies for marketing and branding, and I wanted very much to help him break through this block of money = bad. (greatly simplified here of course).  

I think most of us have an image of the "big bad business world", with greedy corporate folk in grey suits and giant briefcases full of money that pops into our heads as soon as someone mentions we need to apply a business mindset to our work as musicians. My "ugly corporate business guy" rears his head on occasion when I have to follow up on an invoice or account, and he just LOVES to make it really difficult for me to feel ok about sending those late fees to people. BUT, without a strong business mindset, it is nearly impossible to make your art/music financially sustainable. 

I'm not talking about becoming SUPER rich (unless you really want to), but I am talking about making sure your books balance at the end of the year, and you aren't living off ramen and water.

I found my response to this artist recently and wanted to share it here for you all today. 

I’d like you to consider the idea that thinking like a business person, but not acting like the business person you picture, can actually enable you to straddle both artistic integrity AND artistic sustainability, so you can deliver more to your audiences while you establish your ideal financial and personal situation.  

Keep reminding yourself that you CAN lead an abundant life as an artist and once you embrace your inner business person, there's no stopping you!


Sustainability is what allows creativity to flourish!


What does your "business person in your head" look like? 

How often do you find yourself giving something away because you don't want to sound greedy?

Let me know in the comments below!