Artists today “must treat their work as a small business, create content that is professionally crafted, invest in marketing and get people to talk about it,” writes Cassia Peralta in this opinion piece. She is the author of Born in Rio, a novel that tells the story of Rita Ray, a Wall Street executive who leaves her high-powered job for Rio de Janeiro, where she learns about family secrets and comes to terms with a secret of her own. Cassia currently lives in Washington, D.C., and works as a consultant and investment officer for the Interamerican Investment Corporation.
Five years ago, I embarked on a journey that truly changed my approach to art and business. I published my own book.
I wanted to tell the story of a New York banker who left Manhattan behind to face an uncertain future in Brazil. While I had been immersed in the arts my whole life, I had always worked in the field of business, having a degree in economics and a Wharton MBA. Writing a book was a life plan, but publishing a novel seemed almost like a dream.
Almost — that’s right. Fortunately, all that changed with the advent of new technology.
To write Born in Rio, I drew for plot ideas not only on my experiences growing up as a Brazilian-born woman in the United States, but also on my business background. I published the novel through Amazon’s print-on-demand Createspace and the e-book through Kindle. Since the start of this project, I handled both the creative and the managerial aspects of the book. For example, I had a goal of writing 700 words a day and kept a spreadsheet with major milestones. Within nine months I had written the story; a couple of months later it was published all over the world; and within a year — in 2012 — I received a Brazilian International Press Award in Literature.
Sure, a key factor in the book’s success was that I believed in myself — and believed, also, that I could write a book where I transport my readers all the way to Brazil in a thrilling plot. But it was certainly not the only one. The fact that I transformed myself not only into the artist, but also into the entrepreneur behind an artistic, venture was essential to the book’s success.
And I wasn’t the only creative entrepreneur to go this route.
“The fact that I transformed myself not only into the artist, but also into the entrepreneur behind an artistic, venture was essential to the book’s success.”
In 2015, I attended the South by Southwest creative festival, as I am working on a screenplay adaption of my novel. I was amazed by the number of musicians and filmmakers who had taken the same path as I had – using their entrepreneurial skills in their art, spanning across industries.
Technology has allowed artists to expand their creativity even further. They can combine their ideas into a powerful message that touches people’s hearts, while also self-promoting and showcasing their talent directly to their audiences. I learned from filmmakers who funded entire movies through crowdfunding and social media. I met upcoming musicians who became YouTube sensations and iTunes hits. They all did this without the help of a music or film executive.
Wearing the hat of both manager and artist is no easy feat. Artists must treat their work as a small business, create content that is professionally crafted, invest in marketing, and get people to talk about it. But the work pays off: Many times, their genuine message resonates through a broader audience, evident from the growing number of “indies” that land on best-seller lists, reaching the point that tips them into prominence.
My work with my book brought to the surface this bond between art and business. As we evolve into an ever more deeply linked and global world, the ability to connect with people across cultures, races and diverse socio-economic backgrounds is highly comparable with the job of artists.
I was fortunate to learn this truth very young as I was born to a mother who is a great artist herself. She instilled in me a passion for the human experience of others, and for exploring my own by constantly encouraging the use of my imagination and creativity. As a child I found my own way of making sense of the world: through numbers and art. Science provided me with data, but it was my ability to frame a narrative around it that made it meaningful, bridging my understanding of difficult concepts. It gave me clarity of thought, depth of analysis, constructive problem-solving and an ease of expression that has lasted me a lifetime.
It is no surprise that those who can imagine the unimaginable and mix knowledge with artistic creativity — bringing the “in” out — thrive. Steve Jobs is an example; he was aesthetically sensitive, while understanding the golden bridge between art and business through technology. He designed products that embraced a wider range of our lives, connecting us on an emotional level, and inspiring us to act. It almost felt like they solved the problem Picasso once posed: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Exposure and appreciation of the arts broadens our perspectives and ideas. It allows us to identify a broader array of options and outcomes. We can process dissonant parts into an organized whole, opening up our power of connection, collaboration and creation.
Aligning Art, Business
Empirically then, what would be more beneficial to us? Is it the art in business or the business in art?
The beautiful answer: It’s both, and they need to evolve together. Technology has allowed this conversation to take place, loud and clear. Our world is intricate and multifaceted; an understanding of the interconnectedness of disciplines can enrich our lives greatly, much like what happened during the Renaissance in Europe.
That period marked our transition to the modern era. Great advances in the sciences took place based on a revival of ancient history, or by connecting the past with the present and future — simultaneously–as art does. The printing press, for example, was developed, allowing for the spread of knowledge and ideas, leading to the Scientific Revolution. The leaders of that time were known to engage in interdisciplinary studies, overcoming challenges with varied perspectives, giving rise to ground-breaking innovation. Interdisciplinary sensibility allows for pattern-recognition in different subjects and the gathering of seemingly unrelated information applied in new ways, which is crucial to creative thinking — a must in today’s competitive global environment.
“I was amazed by the number of musicians and filmmakers who had taken the same path as I had – using their entrepreneurial skills in their art, spanning across industries.”
Imagine what the business world could gain from tapping into to the active listening, intuition, social perceptiveness and coordination skills of a musician? Similarly, imagine the music that would be created from having artists connect with new audiences and genres, bringing more depth and originality through their compositions, building a movement around those fans, performing and recording what both want. If we are open to trying new avenues, we might just experience the world in a more inventive way.
There is no right, or wrong, way to be an artist: anybody can bridge the artist within.
First, one must remain open-minded and embrace novelty. A socially supportive atmosphere helps, but is not always necessary, as one of the main requirements of an artist is to unearth his or her own unique drive. So step back from the daily disturbances and ask yourself the question: What would you like to work on today for your own satisfaction, for its own sake, free from any rewards?
Stay attentive to what moves you. Explore it with space and care. Be hands-on. Allow for failures and successes; frustration can also be very exciting, and creativity survives both. Make connections between the activities you do, the people you interact with and the art you love. The more we connect with our own interest, the more our own involvement will encourage and enable others to resonate and flourish. Continue to engage in a variety of creative initiatives, keeping in mind their long-term sustainability and transcendence into various areas of your life.
Learning to create — and to see ourselves “outside” ourselves — is the cradle of invention and teamwork. As we create and connect with our inner nature, the more self-aware we become, building confidence and inspiring those around us. We are more observant, mindful of details and of our environment. We are able to develop our own ideas and link them to the world, better communicating and expressing ourselves to others on a regular basis. In this way we also become opportunity-makers, joining around each other’s better selves, using the collective energy and group wisdom to figure out solutions to problems together.
As we exercise this creative instinct, ingenuity converts into a habit of the mind. We are better problem-solvers, comfortable with the ambiguous, understanding that there is more than one solution to the same problem. We combine both the artistic and scientific mindsets to enlighten the unknown, allowing for the birth of comprehensive concepts or powerful works of art. The higher the level of domain-relevant skills — coupled with an amplified ability to reassess and imagine — the more expansively we can use our intelligence. Our brains become more receptive to scientific ideas and needs of others, allowing us to create products and services that are both valued and effective. Collectively, we can better tune in with one another, using each person’s strength to collaborate in a harmonious combination, much like in a tango or jazz performance, which is a very meaningful way to invent, stand out and establish a lasting relationship with people.
“As we evolve into an ever more deeply linked and global world, the ability to connect with people across cultures, races and diverse socio-economic backgrounds is highly comparable with the job of artists.”
The Ultimate Resource
There has been a rapid shift in recent years to a more innovation-and entrepreneurship-driven economy. Fortunate are those who can tap into their intellectual interests to create and lead. They have fewer inhibitions, take risks and try new approaches in a constructive way. Opportunities for collaboration and consolidation will continue to emerge as new paradigms are formed. Art enables us to reach beyond our quotidian realities. I often like to think that art allowed me to make the ugly beautiful, and, at times, bring sense into chaos. The skills I learned are timeless, valuable in any career, giving life to any endeavor. Processing the world through an artistic eye is a very practical way of fostering growth.
Success lies in each person’s capacity to find their niche, expand into new markets, captivate audiences, engage with their fans and create innovative content. In my personal experience, the best way has been not only connecting with the world through technology, but also using it to better engage with my local community and to see life through a different lens. My creative pursuits allowed me to punch holes into clusters and venture out into other lives and possibilities. Reaching out to those around me has helped touch people on a personal level, deliver a lasting message, and establish my presence as an artist, a business person and a story-teller.
Creativity is the ultimate resource in human existence and survival. Loving the craft of creating through ever-evolving mediums is what makes us prosper. Therefore, if there is a time when businesses can justify integrating creative techniques into their practices and artists can benefit from understanding business, it is now.