By Jim McCarthy Sep 28, 2010 0 comments

Make it For An Audience, or Don’t Have the Nerve to Charge Money

Yesterday, I tweeted Derek Siver’s insightful post he called “Valuable to Others, or Only You?”

In short, he describes the “starving artist” problem: “When someone creates something that is really important, powerful, and valuable to them, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not important, powerful, and valuable to others.”  This creates a problem for those who feel passionately about their art (whatever it may be) but can’t understand why it’s so hard to make a living at it.

And being the fine fellow that he is, Derek offers two solutions:

1.  Make your “art” more interesting to others, OR

2.  Do it for your own satisfaction and don’t worry about making any money.

Good stuff, and this is advice I’ve been giving for a long time in talking about being “audience oriented” as a live entertainment organization or entrepreneur.  For those who want to be in the business but don’t want to be audience-oriented, I’d strongly suggest you take option 2.  It sorta takes nerve to expect people to pay for something that’s really for your own amusement.  It’s a free country, so if you have the time, resources and inclination to wrap yourself in cellophane and chant the phone book on a stage to whoever wanders in, by all means, do.

If you expect people to pay (or worse yet, expect people who aren’t even there to pay in the form of government support), it’s really pretty cheeky, don’t you think?  If people dig the Cellophane Sonata, terrific, but the chances that more than a handful of friends and weirdos will like the first thing out of your head seem pretty skinny.  That’s ok, because if you’re willing to be audience-oriented, you’ll get better.  That’s what being a professional really means.  If, on the other hand, you want to be a fun-loving amateur and suit up in plastic wrap for anyone who’ll stop and gawk for a while, that’s ok too, but it’s probably wise to assume that it’s not going anywhere, career or audience-wise

Unless you’re very, very lucky and people just instantly love what you do.

You (like me) probably aren’t very, very lucky.

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