Can You Be a Creative and a Capitalist Without Selling Out?…
A school of thought exists that believes in order for your art to be pure and transcendent, you must do it for the love of the craft, not the money. If you do things because of money, you’re a sell-out. The idea of money poisoning the creative well is fascinating to me in today’s landscape, namely because of Hollywood’s attitude towards China. Many companies pander to Chinese censorship in order for their movies or TV shows to be played there. Doing so means money. And a lot of it. Many times, the Chinese box office defines whether a film is profitable or not. When you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a creative project, that’s pressure for sure. So you can understand why people succumb to those demands. And so in this episode, I want to explore the question of whether or not you can be a content creator and a capitalist without selling out? Thanks for tuning in.
SELECTED LINKS FROM EPISODE:
-Forbes Article on How Stress Kills Creativity: https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/09/05/employee-brain-on-stress-can-quash-creativity-competitive-edge/#a91c262b3e91
-Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/
-Master Mental Fortitude Non-Fiction Book: http://mastermentalfortitude.com
-Not Twice T-Shirt Campaign: http://nottwice.org
-Adorama Affiliate Link: https://www.adorama.com/?utm_source=rflaid914115
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A school of thought exists that believes in order for your art to be pure and transcendent, you must do it for the love of the craft, not the money. If you do things because of money, you’re a sell-out. The idea of money poisoning the creative well is fascinating to me in today’s landscape, namely because of Hollywood’s attitude towards China. Many companies pander to Chinese censorship in order for their movies or TV shows to be played there. Doing so means money. And a lot of it. Many times, the Chinese box office defines whether a film is profitable or not. When you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a creative project, that’s pressure for sure. So you can understand why people succumb to those demands. And so in this episode, I want to explore the question of whether or not you can be a content creator and a capitalist without selling out?
Let’s first explore why people buy into the notion of money as a creative killer. There’s a number of arguments I could highlight, but here’s one that I have absolute issue with: art shouldn’t be commodified because it’s not a real profession. Mind you, I’m not saying they don’t think people make money on art, they’re saying artists shouldn’t. To them, art is something people do because they’re too lazy to do real work and if they do make art they should freely share it with the world. So many problems in that thinking. For one, being an artist is a profession no different than being a dentist. It takes dedication, hard work, years of learning and practice and so on. Most importantly, like a dentist, art brings value to the world. If nothing else, consider a documentary that educated you about cultures in parts of the world you had no idea about before watching it. So I will not buy that being a content creator isn’t a profession. And certainly those who are I wouldn’t classify as lazy. Many of the successful people I know work extremely hard.
Another reason, and one that I think holds merit, why people think money is a creative killer is because it puts pressure on the artist. Money creates a power dynamic which can dictate certain decisions, much like the Chinese censors can dictate what stays and what doesn’t in films and TV shows. But if we examine things more closely, it’s not just money that creates this power dynamic. The MPAA holds a certain amount of power over movies. If a film wants to be widely distributed it has to get a rating from the MPAA. And let’s say a particular film is seeking a PG-13 rating. That film is then beholden to the MPAA in order to get that PG-13. If the MPAA says there’s 3 jokes that need to be cut from the film in order to get that film from an R rating to PG-13, then the filmmakers have to do it.
We can expand this out further and categorize those power dynamics that are created as points of stress, can we not? Once we view it from this angle, this is where a big truth is revealed because science has proven many times that stress is the killer of creativity. For your benefit, I’ve linked to a great Forbes article where you can read more about this. But trust me when I say that stress does zap creativity. The more stress, the more creativity it takes away.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, doesn’t stress happen at any stage of the creative process and at any point in someone’s career? You’re precisely right, which is why it’s important for all of us to master mental fortitude so we don’t succumb to the stress.
And hopefully by now you can see that it is not money that is the evil in this. Again, being an artist is a profession and you need to see it as such. Your time, effort and ultimately the work you create has value. Monetary value. How much is determined by audiences. But what’s exciting in this time that we live in is, is that you don’t need millions of fans in order to have a career. Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans Theory exemplifies this perfectly. He wrote an article, which I’ve linked to for your benefit, where he showcased that as long as someone has 1,000 fans who are willing to pay $100 a year to that artist, then that artist is successful. Think about it, 1,000 x $100 is $100,000. That’s an income far better than most Americans.
So can you be a creative and a capitalist without selling out? Absolutely. In fact, you should be. The more you have a direct connection with your fanbase, the less you’ll ever have to give into the demands of outside entities. The MPAA won’t grant you a PG-13 rating? Screw it, release it digitally to your fanbase.
See, when people talk about selling out, what they’re really talking about, in my opinion, is that your work no longer has the substance that it once had. That is what you must fight for with your art—to have substance and value. Ironically enough, one of the pillars of capitalism is that you must bring value to your customer in order to find success. The more you focus on that idea with your creative passions, the better off you’ll be because the more people will crave for it.
By the way, there are many wonderful tools and methods to earn money from your art. I explore some of these ideas with Forbes writer Elaine Pofedlt in an interview I did a while back. The link is in the description box if you’d like to check it out.
But while platforms like Patreon and such are great, I caution you to once more to consider your audience first. Bring value and gain an audience before you monetize. Many podcasts I know starting off want to place ads into each show so they can make money. Having creative autonomy is the holy grail and doesn’t come easily. Many times I argue that your podcast is the platform to connect with your audience. Once that connection is established, then you can offer them products and services, which too have to offer value.
I’ll use myself as an example to illustrate. I put out this series for free weekly. I try to give you my best insights because I truly believe many of these ideas I’ve learned from others should be openly shared. I believe this to such a degree that a month or so I realized doing one episode a week wasn’t enough. Since then, I’ve been putting out content each day with various tips to help whoever finds them. It’s a lot of time and effort on my part with no monetary return but the reward comes in other forms. For example, many clients that I work with now find me because of this content and hire me because they need individualized attention. Thanks to these videos, many creatives I respect want to collaborate with me on projects, which is what led me to now shooting a feature film. Also, because of this series, I’ve created a coursebook for creatives to master mental fortitude, which will be available to purchase soon. For details, go to mastermentalfortitude.com. Additionally, thanks to this series, I feel more motivated to do my creative projects which has led me to writing a novel which I am now revising. As you can see, it is these side projects, on top of these lessons, that brings in an income. And I’m thankful because at no point do I ever feel like I’m compromising my artistic vision in any of it. And you too can achieve the same. So go ahead, let me know what projects you’re working on in the comment section. I’d love to know and if nothing else, offer words of encouragement.
And with that, that’s it for this lesson. However, please feel free to click over to any of the numerous lessons I’ve created just for you. I have so many you can check out along with other free resources. All you have to do is go to my website at philsvitek.com. Lastly, a huge thank you to the people that helped make this episode financially possible. If you too would like to support this show, you can either head on over to my Patreon or sport some merch from my store. Links are down below as well. Or you can just tell a friend about this show and we can build a great community of like-minded creatives. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to tune in. I’m @PhilSvitek on social media and I’ll see you next time.