So you got into a great arts school, and your head is full of dreams about how awesome it would be to dance or sing or paint for the rest of your life.
Or maybe you just really like to act and you want to get better and learn, but haven’t given much thought to what you’ll do after you graduate.
Either way chances are it didn’t take long for people to start talking about how few people ‘make it’ and how hard it is in the arts world… how you have to be the best to even have a chance of fulfilling your dreams.
Your dreams of turning this thing you’re passionate about … into enough money to live on.
The trouble begins
It’s not that they’re wrong. It is tough to make a living in the arts.
The thing that really burns my tomatoes is that in most situations schools are just focused on training for ONE kind of living in the arts.
For me, in music (opera), it was all about performance – a career singing on the world’s grand stages.
It’s a beautiful idea, but seriously hard to live out. And not because I’m not good enough or special enough (that’s between me and my therapist), it’s just a practicality: there are few stages and a ton of amazing singers.
But somehow, despite these limits, thousands of opera singers work out a way to pay their bills by working in the arts. So where was the talk during our training of the hundreds of other ways THOSE artists monetize their passion?!
What about building a teaching studio? Not just as a way to ‘pay the bills’, but on purpose… because you love teaching.
What about leaning to be a producer and make your own art? Starting your own company? Touring?
The danger of the single minded drive:
The problem with this intense, in my case big-operahouse-performance based, focus is that it sets up the idea of success and failure.
If you don’t succeed at making a living in the arts in that hyper-specific way… you failed. You are not an artist.
Hand in your badge and your gun. You are the weakest link…. goodbye…
Can we all agree that that’s insane….?
You’ve been an artist since your first chocolate pudding painting, and you’ll be one until you die. How you make your living has nothing to do with that.
Also, most artists are CRAZY DIVERSIFIED. We make a little money here… a little money there. Some in the arts … some outside of it.
That’s just reality. But it’s not a reality that our training reflects.
So consequently a great cello teacher can feel a little ashamed because their performance calendar isn’t super full, even though they’re pulling in a great living with a full studio.
A wonderful singer can’t identify as an artist anymore because she works in marketing (even though she spends 5 evenings a week at choir rehearsals or teaching lessons).
To monetize or not to monetize
Making money doing what you love can be great. But it can also come at a cost.
There’s a lot of pressure to be creative on demand. The lifestyle is … non-traditional at best…
But whether you make money as an artist or not, never feel like your ‘artist status’ is on the line.
Making a living is all about finding the right balance for you. Every choice comes with a consequence.
Do you want stability or variety? Lots of money or lots of time? To be a part of a team or to be your own boss?
And if the arts really appeal to you… know that there are thousands of artists making a living in unique ways. Don’t let someone tell you there’s a ‘right’ way to do it. Let that fountain of creativity flow out of the practice room and into the rest of your life.
And create something beautiful (that also, hopefully, pays the bills).
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.