As artistic types, many of us (particularly those in the early developmental stages of our careers) are forced to wear two very different hats on a day-to-day basis. These are the brooding, or otherwise mysterious creative tour de force we all so badly want to be, and the jet-set go-getter marketing guru entrepreneur type. Between these two extremes the similarities are scarce, and conflict abounds. How can we be expected to create meaningful art when we are constantly having to focus on the how the hell we are going to sell it? That, of course, is the big question.
I think the relative solution here is balance (which is pretty much always the case, right?) The problem is though, that balance is, in itself, a relative concept, and will vary from day to day, project to project, and person to person. And balance does not by any means translate to equal parts… occasionally that may be the best route, but it is anything but a rule. In fact, I think much of the time the balance between creative focus and business-mindedness should really weigh heavily in favor of the creative focus. After all, what is the point of tremendous marketing if you don’t have a product that is worth a shit? Of course, this inferred model of selling utter crap very well is the standard model of the mainstream (I hate using that word, but I can’t think of an alternative at the moment) entertainment and art industry. But if we ever hope to shift that paradigm in the slightest we must at least try to hold on to our artistic integrity and focus on a product that we find personally fulfilling.
Now, there is a reason this fluffy, warm, artistic integrity model isn’t the norm in our larger industries: it’s much more difficult. Especially when there’s tons of money to throw around. A simple product with an easily digestible aesthetic can be force fed via gross amounts of money and widely syndicated entertainment outlets all day, and turn a respectable profit whilst making no real statement, idea, or even being all that entertaining. The opposite, however, requires far more work. Not to mention real ideas, taste, and vision. These are commodities that cannot be bought, and therefore do not fit well into any big business model.
There is a big irony here, and that is that honest, idea and vision-driven art has a tremendous, visceral appeal on a massive level once it gets exposure. If it’s good, no big marketing campaign and well trained commentators have to tell you that you like it, or why you like it. We are all humans and we are all very capable of sending and receiving complex humanistic messages, through less-than-quantitative means; i.e. art. That is why I think the creative focus aspect of a project should typically take precedence over the marketing aspect. All that to say, really, if you have a great product that you really believe in, it is much easier to sell. It’s funny that this is actually a basic and well-understood sales principle, yet it so seldom seems to be in real practice.
Of course, eventually, you do have to put back on the jet-set go-getter marketing guru entrepreneur hat and try to get someone interested in whatever you have to say, and that is where my expertise runs pretty dry. I occasionally find some small success in this area, but more out of luck than anything, and I’m not going to try to advise you in this area today. More than any advice in either area, for that matter, I really just want to stress the importance in letting them be separate when they need to be, which I feel is a great majority of the time. Of course the two frames of mind come together, and there is quite a bit of creativity involved in marketing. But between building your product, whatever it is, and “selling” it, there needs to be distinction. Distractions are the enemy of any creative-type, and there are few distractions larger than the thought of “how am I going to convince people that this is good?” Just make it good, then focus on the rest when the time comes.