Create your Niche, Improve your Odds of Success.

American culture worships celebrities and many young artists have celebrity as their primary goal, in way of career aspirations. However, it should be

Create Your Niche.

noted that this desire is not exclusive to American culture.

This commercial path is a valid path, but achieving sustainable success via this path, is like winning the lottery. People do win the lottery, but very few do and even fewer win an amount of any sizable worth.

One would be considered foolish if they put the majority of their earnings into lottery tickets, in the hope of getting rich. Why do so many artists do the same with their careers and energies? Many, I would argue, do not realize what potential exists, in way of career opportunities and how many ways there are of making sustainable income. In playing the celebrity lottery, a huge amount of artists get stuck in having to have survival jobs—like waiting tables, temping, cleaning apartments, etc. As we only have so much energy and time in the course of a day, these artists lose valuable energy and resources, as they are tied up in paths that have nothing to do with being a creative artist.

The problem lies in part with our culture (and its insatiable hunger for all things shiny) and in part with our educational institutions. Many of our schools are selling celebrity potential in their marketing. In the case of theatre, just open any copy of American Theatre Magazine and look at the school advertisements. There, you will see many schools, projecting a message that “we produce stars too”, regardless of how few stars the school has actually produced over the years and regardless of how the extreme majority of graduates never reach such status.

When artists are putting the bulk of their creative energies towards becoming famous or becoming a celebrity, their primary focus is on themselves. The audience they are serving is that of one. Who benefits? If the artist is working, they do and if the work they do is good, the audience or view does. If not, no person benefits from his or her energies.

If one has a principle focus of serving others and one’s audience is their community and its needs, then the community benefits from the artists’ energies (regardless of whether or not the artist achieves their goals, as they are in the act of “fighting the good fight”) and in serving the communities’ needs, the artist increases their chances of making a livable wage. Why? Because the artist is responding to a need and when one works towards filling a need, one increases their chances of making a living.

My goal as an educator is to do just that–to increase artists’ chances of making a living, to give students a competitive advantage. Entrepreneurial Arts Training, such as is offered at The International Theatre Academy Norway, does this.

One of the best ways to increase one’s chances of making a living in the arts is to perceive gaps in community cultural offerings and to work to fill those. In filling those gaps, one has the potential to create a niche. In creating a niche for oneself, one dramatically increases their chances of making a living and of achieving a sustainable creative income.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway.

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4 thoughts on “Create your Niche, Improve your Odds of Success.

  1. I’ve been reading your blog lately. It seems like you’re only in this for the money? It that really your priority? What about making art that matters? That stick in the audiences head for a long time? Making them think? Whenever I make something, pictures, theater, drawings, music, I do it with the thought of making a difference. To tell an important story.

    What are your intentions?

    • Hi Curious.

      First let me say thank you for reading my blog lately.

      I have been involved in art and the profession of art for a long time.

      Art for arts sake has its place. However, I believe most artists want to and should learn how to make living from their art. They come to school, not only to learn how to create works of art, but how to make a living via their art.

      Money is a vital part of one´s existence and is a reality of the market. Have you spent any time in the market? If so, no doubt you have encountered this basic principle.

      If you do not perceive any value in your art (meaning monetary worth–further meaning money), why should anyone else see value and pay you for it?

      I built and teach at schools that train students to work and make a living in the Entertainment Businesses and you cannot separate money from that process. Part of that process is to train them in how to create works of art (in an effective, highly skilled and meaningful fashion). I marry both a high degree of artistic technique with entrepreneurship.

      The reality of the industry is that business comes first. If you do not understand this reality, you likely will once you enter the market (if you have not already). If you do not understand the necessity of raising money from your art and the importance of knowing how to work with it and the realities of business, I would argue that you have a very difficult road ahead of you. Such limited understanding can lead to artists having to rely on other people for all of their creative opportunities. We, rather, teach artists how to find the middle ground (art training + entrepreneurial training). The result is undeniable.

      The starving artist has been overly romanticized and I think your comment is part of this romanticized notion.

      Artistic training, for too long, has not dealt with this basic, fundamental reality of the business (the necessity of engaging with money) but, instead, has offered an “arts technique only” approach to training, which leads to starving artists and “actors really being waiters”. What a disservice to these artists who pay so much for their training.

      We and I work to change this obvious problem. That is why I built TITAN and what further lead me to create ACPA.

      Thanks for your comment. I look forward to any future responses you may have.

      Take care,

      Jim

  2. Of course I understand the value of making a living from your art. I do know that you have to make money. But art for the money’s sake, is bad art. That is my experience, and believe me, I do know what I’m talking about. To build up a reputation takes a long time, but I’m not there where I can make a living of my art yet, because I’ve been in school, and I still am. But I do understand the value of making art that matters.

    If your art is hollow, people won’t like it. If people don’t like it, you don’t make any money. I do this because I love it, and I will continue doing this for the rest of my life, no matter how much money I make. My goal is of course to make a living of this, and I do know I can make it, if I work hard and never give up. The difference is; I didn’t start doing this for the money. I started doing this because I love it, and breathe it every day. And I refuse to make bad art, no matter what, I refuse to make art that goes against my beliefs and principles, no matter how much money I am offered. Because I want to make things that has value to it. Something new, something brand new. And that is what I do every day. What I live for every day.

    • Hi Curious.

      I do not think we have a difference at all.

      It is my goal to make art that is personally meaningful–to not only myself, but others. Read a little further in the blog archives and you will see testament to this. Dig deeper.

      I do not want to make hollow art either. However, I think we both know that a lot of “hollow art” has made gobs of cash. Look to Hollywood for example.

      My technique, The Hart Technique, speaks a lot about service. Service to others (or your audience). If artists take their thinking off of their own needs and feelings in the act of creating and, instead, engage their audience (translate this to mean whom they commit service towards), you are creating a work that others might find meaningful.

      Regardless of what work you create, the market ultimately determines its value. I urge you to never lose site of this, considering your articulated desire to make a living from your art.

      There is a balance to be found. Why can you not create both for yourself AND others?

      Art for money´s sake is not bad art. We are not talking about selling out. We are talking about selling art. Picasso understood the value of his paintings and painted accordingly, charging huge sums. So did Dali. Are they bad artists for doing so? Is Robert Deniro a bad artist for accepting a film because it will enable him to live his established lifestyle? That is just silly thinking. That is the sort of thinking artists need to get away from–the sort of thinking that leads to the starving artist.

      I applaud your desire to create something new. I teach how to do just that and that, in part, is what TITAN and ACPA are about. I built both schools to address this and other critical needs and gaps in arts training.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. I love receiving comments that are legitimate and thoughtful (there is a lot of nonsense that comes through). Such constructive comments create discussion, which is has a powerful potential.

      Take care and thanks again,

      Jim

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