Artists Innovate

The artistic spark lives in startup mode, and dies in business mode.

There’s a very big difference between creating something new and running a business. Creating something new is something you do once. Running a business is something you do repetitively, every day.

Both are good, important, worthwhile. But they’re mutually exclusive. Which is why when artists get the advice that they need to be more businesslike in order to succeed, it’s the wrong advice.

Steve Blank, perhaps the most important thought-leader in the world of startup entrepreneurship, points out that a startup is not a business – a startup is an organization seeking a business model. A startup entrepreneur is someone who has something new that they want to bring to the world, but they need to find the repetitive activity – the business model – that will allow them to deliver that new thing to the marketplace.

Most startup entrepreneurs lose interest once the business model is achieved. They typically hang on long enough to sell their company, but most are excited to discover the next innovation and create the next company. And with this we start to see the similarity between startup entrepreneurs and artists.

When an artist gets into the creative zone, it allows her to create something new. That new work is an innovation. Telling that artist that she now needs to “open shop” in order to sell her art, however well-intentioned, means telling her to get out of the creative zone of artistic innovation and into the business creation zone that focuses on designing repetitive tasks in order to achieve sales.

We don’t think artists need to specialize in business. They need to specialize in innovation. The good news is that this is possible. By adapting and adopting the approaches of startup entrepreneurs, artists can stay in the creative zone and make money from their art, without selling out. Secret Agenda brings the tools and approaches of startup entrepreneurship to the world of art.

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