Actor Charlton Heston once said “The trouble with movies as a business, is that they’re an art; of course, the trouble with movies as an art is that they’re a business.” Thus has been the dichotomy of the art world for centuries. Back in the day (way back in the day) artists depended on the patronage of wealthy families or the Church for their livelihood. That was fine to a point but can you imagine what the likes of Michaelangelo and da Vinci could have or would have created without the yoke of the Catholic Church or the Medici family?
There was a time in the music business when art was created with minimal constraints of commerce but as in all artistic endeavors, once left brain thinking people realized music’s commercial potential they began to put pressure on artists to conform to the realities of the marketplace. Don’t get me wrong, there is a balance. All artists desire a larger audience and the way to get the larger audience is to produce works that a larger audience will consume monetarily. Artists can and do follow their muse and be true to themselves without “selling out”. We don’t remember Beethoven as being a gifted piano teacher or a particularly virtuosic performer but that is how he supported himself while he wrote the music for which he is remembered.
The problem in our modern society is the fact that the film industry, the music industry, and most artistic concerns have been overrun with Harvard MBA types who only look at the bottom line of an artistic undertaking. Art cannot be judged by the amount of dollars it brings in. That stifles creativity. Often times, progressive art movements flounder economically before they are finally accepted and revered.
One question I have always struggled with is this: does marketing respond to the public or does it create the market. American Idol is a hugely successful television show and by all accounts, the singers it has produced should have had a tremendous impact on the music business but that impact has fallen woefully short, Carrie Underwood notwithstanding. I am reminded of Thomas Kinkade who was probably the most successful artist (monetarily) in history but reportedly suffered from depression because his art was not viewed as seriously as he had imagined it should have been in serious art circles.
The balance both for artists and businesspeople is a delicate one and once the pendulum swings in one direction or the other, either the art suffers or the ability for people to profit from it does.
We leave you with this quote and welcome your comments.
“When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree.” --William Blake