What does ‘Success’ in the world of independent art look like? Why is it VITAL for you to know this? Why should you even care?
All these questions and more will be answered in this blog. I will also tell you why success is like a chair with 3 legs, (why is a raven like a writing desk?) AND I will also impart the greatest, most valuable, and most useful piece of advice I have EVER been given as an independent artist. Ready?…
The idea of ‘Success’ is a slippery beast. ‘Success in Art’, even more so. If you asked one thousand people what their idea of success was, you could very well get one thousand different answers. Everyone has their own definitions. Everyone plays by their own rules.
Does this mean that there is no value in asking the question? Of course not. Definitions are important. Reasons are important, and Targets are important. If you were an archer, then knowing the exact location of your target is what allows you to: evaluate the path your arrows are taking and get closer and closer to the bullseye. Without a clear idea of your final destination you are more akin to an archer who has been dropped from a plane without a parachute. Trying to hit a moving target. Blindfold. In the dark. With no shoes…
My answer to the question: ‘What does ‘Success’ in the world of independent art look like?’ is eminently simple. It is an answer of three parts:
The first, has to do with The Work itself,
the second, has to do with the Audience and the Giving of that work, and
the third, has to do with the Business of art.
(Sidebar: And this is why my conception of success in art resembles a chair. A chair needs at least 3 legs to stand up by itself. Similarly, to stand up and make your way a successful independent artist, all three of these parts need to be fully in play.)
Firstly, success is: being able to live and make the art that I want to make, when I want to make it, for no other reason than the process itself.
This is the real foundation of everything I do. It is fundamental to my conception of success. To me, making art is not a means to an end but an End in itself. To have the freedom to create what I feel, whenever I feel to, and to follow wherever that takes me is primary. This is why I am an independent artist. It is why I do what I do.
Secondly: there must be a way to connect and exchange with the people who find value in what I do / create / produce. (This all presupposes that something of value is being created – I wrote a piece on this, here).
If you want to have a sustainable living and life creating art, then there needs to be some kind of exchange of value. There needs to be: a channel thru which you can give, and there needs to be some kind of bridge that means that you can in turn, receive. Art comes alive in the conversation of it, in the flesh and blood, the deep and real exchange of your own truth with other living breathing sentient beings.
Now Thirdly: The Business. This is the aspect of things that a lot of people make waaaaaaay more complex than it needs to be. In truth, it’s crazy simple. The one benchmark of whether you are being successful in the business of art is… (drum roll):
Does your income exceed your outgoings?
If Yes, then Business = Success. (and also: ‘woo‘).
Which leads me directly into the phenomenally unsexy piece of advice that I alluded to at the start of this post. It is the one piece of advice that I invariably end up giving anyone who asks me how they can move over from: doing a job that gives them little or no real satisfaction, to doing the thing they love for a living. It is the single best piece of advice that was ever given to me, and is vital to know and practice if you want to do absolutely anything of worth. Especially if that thing is: to do what you love for as your living.
Ready? Here it comes…(second drum roll):
Learn to live as frugally as possible.
Wait? What? That’s it? Why is that so Important?
Well, it takes time to be able to create quality work. It takes time to create awareness about that work and, no matter how good your art is, it will take time before you start to see income from the giving of it.
Therefore you need as much time as possible in order to get your thing off the ground. Money can be a great deal of things, and one of those things is: Time. Think about it for a second. If you have massive outgoings each month then you need to spend a commensurate amount of time (and energy) working in order to meet these responsibilities. This is time you could be spending: developing your thing, creating something, or finding and connecting with your own tribe.
If you master the skill of living as frugally as possible at the beginning of your career, and focus on investing the time gained in: yourself and the thing that you truly want to be / do / give, then that time will pay you massive dividends over the course of your life.
Fully unsexy. But also fully True. And powerful if actioned upon. Don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself and feel the force. 😉
So, sally thee forth armed with your New Knowledge. Master the Art of Living with frugality, and you will encounter a success undreamt of, even in your wildest and most incandescent hours.
And Now: Gifts!
Two more albums have been won. They go to:
– Charles Loggins III, and
– Jamie Greening
Congratulations to both of you! 😉
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
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