The artist and the day job

Yesterday I linked to The ARTrepreneur, a website “Helping artists with the art of success.” The site features articles on topics ranging from career planning to marketing to debt management. I found this resourceful online repository after further contemplating my own future in the arts earlier this week. I was immediately reminded this morning of my intent conveyed in yesterday’s LinkLuv to write more about the business of art by a TechCrunch article. The article talks about the music industry attempting to impose a “music tax” to curtail its flagging profits. The following paragraph caught my attention in particular:

    If this [tax] happens, it will put an end to the endless creative/destructive energy that is reshaping the music industry today. Good musicians will always find a way to make money. Others may have to follow their passion as a hobby and (shudder) get a day job to pay the bills. But if a music tax is put in place, that innovation will die, and with guaranteed revenues and profits, the need to innovate, market and compete will also die. A music tax is a sure fire way to destroy an industry that is just beginning to really blossom.

I’m not certain if author Michael Arrington’s “(shudder)” is sincere or in jest; perhaps it’s a bit of both. It seems to me that a bit of both may be the most appropriate. On the one hand, most artists have a burning desire to be able to make a living doing what they love, but on the other foot I’m not eager to see the tactile arts become an “industry.” Industries are driven by profits and business models that hinder, if they don’t completely quash, the creativity that is the hinge-pin of the arts. This has been seen again and again in the music business, where the labels guide, to be euphemistic about the process, the musician’s sound and lyrics.


One of the ARTrepreneur articles most relevant to my own thoughts from earlier this week is titled This is Just my Day Job. It starts out by faulting our culture for its obsessive labeling: “‘I am a dancer. I am a writer. I am an actor. I am a painter.’ It’s as if we don’t exist without the label . . . Yet, in reality, you are not the label. You DO these things. You EXPERIENCE these things. You INTERACT and PARTICIPATE with these things, but you are not these things.”

I can certainly see the detriment to such thinking in our society, but labels do serve a sound communicative purpose when they aren’t tied to such obsession. In the context of my own art, I refer to myself as a mixed media sculptor, simply because that is the most succinct way to convey my work. I don’t, however, identify myself by this title. I am, as the article points out, more than what I do, experience and participate in.

The article then proceeds to debunk our common ideas of what is supposed to make us happy. As aspiring artists, we often think that if we’re able to quit our day jobs and just make art we’ll be happier. Not necessarily, ARTrepreneur claims.

The website also links to a quiz, titled Should You Quit Your Job for Your Art?, that you can use to determine if you’re ready to dive into full-time artistry. Results are divided into three categories: Stuck, borderline and what are you waiting for?

I took the quiz but it wasn’t conclusive; looking at my answers and their suggested results I’m probably borderline at this point in time.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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