Is art business? Are artists entrepreneurs?

A CD Video Disc (playing side) produced in 1987.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a long time since the first article. Although I have finished the course I am busy working in my internship in Telvent, a TIC multinational company.

Artists are after all workers and art is after all a product. If this product is priceless, valuable or worthless it is another question. Whether it is cinema, painting or music it makes no difference, the process always is: Design a product, Do it and Sell it. However unstandardized, complex or abstract the process is. The investment requirements are mainly time and knowledge, together with the expenses of studios, producing and marketing. For these reasons, it seems to me that they are actually entrepreneurs, with their pros and cons.

As any business, there are a lot of ventures and new projects that get started and a few that survive the market. Of course, if they succeed there is an established demand for all kinds of art – specially for cinema and music which are huge – which will give profits to be shared between all the shareholders and some stockholders. In the music industry: producers, musicians, studios, concert halls, etc. Some of them with fixed prices or salaries – normally studios and other workers – and others with variable ones – like the musicians themselves or the producers and record companies. They truly work as any other business in the world, with the supply and demand law.

Focusing in the music industry, it can be considered totally information intensive, therefore supply is virtually endless and the market will be driven by the demand of a certain product to establish its price among other variables.

In Spain there is a significant ongoing debate about the SGAE (, which is the Spanish version of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). This organization aims to manage, charge and distribute artists’ copyrights and intellectual property distribution. It also looks after editors’ interests. It has more than a 100 years, but controversy has come lately as they have intended – and succeeded – to include extra charges for electronic devices. It created a digital canon for all electronic storage devices (CDs, DVDs, USBs, hard disks…) and copying hardware (CD/DVD recorders, scanners, photocopy machines, etc.) on the pretext of systematic illegal copying of music records and other material. This measure attempts or threatens the presumption of innocence as it presumes everyone will use these devices to make private copies – as they call them – of protected material in the first place, and share them illegally in the second place. Controversy about the subject worsened as they have attempted to charge royalties to charity concerts several times and only accepted to return the money after the the public and internet media deeply criticised those decisions. This has contributed to create some associations like “Todos contra el canon– All against the canon – which strongly disagree with the SGAE.

The president of the management board of the SGAE – Teddy Bautista –  has been interviewed by the Spanish financial newspaper “Expansion” and published the 25th of July. The title is The pirates’ most hated man (“El hombre mas odiado por los ‘piratas’ ” in its original version in Spanish) and you can find the article in Spanish in this link. In the interview he says that the digital canon’s purpose is not to give some more money to the popular singers or artists, but to guarantee the minimum wage for local artists. This is contradictory with the public opinion that believes the canon benefits most the popular and leaves very little for the unpopular. But moreover, are they not businessmen? Are they not entrepreneurs risking their resources in order to achieve profit sometime? Shouldn’t they therefore be paid as so? In my opinion, this organization is interfering the market and it is introducing measures that make cultural exchange more difficult. All this with some poor ethical values. What do you think? Vote in the poll and comment about it!


8 responses to “Is art business? Are artists entrepreneurs?

  1. Que pasa figura!? A lot of comments, that’s why I won’t say much. Difficult issue, not being seriously addressed.

    Anyway, I form part of the “youngster-buying music” group -if that exists!

    Está guapo que la página sea con tu nombre.



    • Woow Sepus! Long time no see. (read xD)

      I encourage you to expose your “serious” opinion about it. The main point about the article is that the music industry is changing, and the old ways of selling music are obsolete. There are new ways of listing to music and paying for it (obviously artists should be paid for their art) that are having great success like the mentioned iTunes or Spotify.

      I also form part of that music buying group, but I am not longer interested in CDs and paying that amount of money for it. Nowadays, it makes more sense to pay music a service than as a product, which is really aligned with information intensive products. The same will probably happen with books in the near future, we’ll see.

      Thanks for the comment, I saw you constantly update your music blog, looks really professional, keep the work up!

  2. Hey Marc!
    I don’t think that the “canon digital” is fair. In my case, I buy many electronic devices in order to copy some files from my work and then use them at home…and where is art here? Obviously, there is no art and I pay the f****** digital canon.

    Nice article! 😉

    See the new format of my website!


  3. Marc . . . Thanks for your post. In response to some of your points:

    1. Artists are not “workers” per se–the aspect of creativity invests the artist with something that a mere worker may never bring to the party.

    2. The “process” does not always include “Sell it.” I dare guess that only a small percentage of artists ever make the effort to “Sell,” let alone make consistent efforts to meet the market.

    3. “Unstandardized”–that’s a brilliant perception about the arts businesses. Unique product=unique process.

    4. The uproar about SGAE says more about the current, probably permanent belief in the younger generation of music lovers that music is free, a belief that is as idiotic as it is pervasive.


    • Hi Justin! Liked your comments. Would like to answer:

      1. totally agree. They aren’t workers, they are entrepreneurs, which need creativity, innovation skills, energy…much more than mere workers.

      2. Agree too! Just would like to add that in companies, a lot (a lot) of products don’t get sold either: some of them stop at a developing state, some of them are developed but never reach the market and some of them remain in the shelves unsold for ever.

      4. That argument you use is already a cliche I believe. It is widely known that the music industry has not changed the slightest in the last decade, however the market and society has evolved a lot. Younger generations (which are the biggest consumers of music) are not willing to pay the insulting high price of CDs, nor willing to pay for more songs than the ones they want to listen to (frequently people like a few songs of a record, and do not want the whole cd), nor want to carry uncountable plastic circles and big plastic circle readers (diskmans) everywhere they go (because we listen to music EVERYWHERE), etc. etc. etc. That is why Apple iTunes and Spotify are having so much success: not because youngsters think music should be free, but because they have adapted to the characteristics of the new market. You can look for growing data of iTunes sales or Spotify users to verify what I say.

      thans for the comment Justin! I like some controversy, otherwise it’s boring!

  4. Hi Marc,
    I like your interest in energy and art, a preoccupation of mine, and something I wrote about in “Energy World” a chapter in “Mind-ful Consulting (Ed Whittle & Izod) (Karnac, 2009).

    As an independent consultant and artist it is the creative energy that helps defend against the anxiety of being alone and engaging with the ‘other’: the ‘oneness”: transition and eventually ‘death’. The instinctual drive for creation and the disambugation, vibration of life.

    I look forward to you writing more about this!


    • Hi Kevin!
      Sorry for the delay. I have read through your web and was impressed and a bit confused. I didn’t quite understand what are you offering, but I perceived it was innovative and really useful and undervalued at the same time. Energy and emotions management in every aspect of life is utmost important, not acknowledging that can lead to great misunderstanding of oneself.

      Following your argument, don’t you think that “creative energy” that helps you fight against the anxiety of loneliness is very similar in artists and in entrepreneurs?? I have very little experience, but I have felt alone against (not in the negative sense) the world when trying to develop a business idea into something more. I am also an artist: Musician and poet, and I have felt the same way when I have seen other’s work – business and art – it has frequently inspired me or helped understand the nature of what I am or what I am doing or trying to do.

      Kind regards Kevin! Thx for commenting, I hope you keep in touch.

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