Category Archives: Art

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 (www.sgae.es), 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!

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