Monday, 15 November 2010

Financial Security for Artists?

Financial security is something that most of us aspire to but, as artists, many of us find difficult to achieve. In fact I read an article recently that suggested that an artist can never be financially secure. And our UK tax system recognises the unpredictable nature of many freelance artists, writers’, musicians’ incomes by allowing us to set off one year’s losses against a later year’s profits.

Of course there are some for whom this is not a problem – if they have an unrelated income from savings or a ‘day job’, a spouse or partner who is willing and able to support them and so on. And a google search will bring up articles and blog posts that give tips about how to achieve financial security whilst pursuing the career that you are passionate about – such as, ‘not putting all your eggs in one basket’. (The young musician above, in Abergavenny High Street, has found a 'basket' that is not so easy for artists - though I wonder what has happened to the 'pavement artists' who used to be quite common in years gone by?)

We all need a certain amount of money to survive and that amount seems to be ever increasing, while for most of us the global recession has made it even harder to sell our art. But this very same set of global financial and economic circumstances has made me question whether financial security is truly achievable for anyone, not just artists and the like.

There is always the possibility of what once seemed like solid financial security being snatched from us unexpectedly through changes in our personal circumstances, such as divorce, incapacitating illness and so on. In the UK public sector employees in the ‘safest’ of jobs are facing redundancy because of ‘the cuts’. Even some of the most solid businesses have failed over the past two years, not because they were built on flawed business plans but because of the difficulties with obtaining credit from the banks, coupled with shrinking demand. So the notion of ‘financial security’ has disappeared from the thinking of an ever-increasing number of people. As Michele Webber commented a few weeks ago, at least as an artist, nobody is going to give us the sack!

But still, this question of financial security is one that haunts many an artist. It is true that there are compensations for this worrying lifestyle.

“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort” – but when the boiler breaks down and needs replacing or the car begins to eat up our limited cash in repair bills, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ‘joy’ or ‘thrill’ in the air!

So we need money as well and Olivia Stefanino’s article  gave us advice on steps we need to take, attitudes we may need to change in order to bring in more money and to dispel the myth of the ‘starving artist’.

However, I believe that there is another side to this question of financial security to bear in mind. This quote from Joseph Wood Krutch and many others along the same lines, sum it up for me better than I could put it into words:

“Security depends not so much on how much you have, as upon how much you can do without.”

It doesn’t address ‘financial’ security specifically but my own experience has proved to me that it can be applied to our finances as well as other kinds of security. I hope you find it helpful.

In case all this talk of insecure finances has depressed you, here's something to lift your spirits!

Karl Jenkins is half-Welsh, half Swedish but has his home in Wales. He started out as a jazz musician but is now well-known as a composer whose works include both 'easy listening' and Requiems - and a great deal more in between! There is another version of Palladio here, with wonderful photography that is highly suited to this time of year.


norm said...

I don't think anyone in any walk of life can be financial secure any more.

The dire financial situation in this country and others makes it harder for artists, be they drawers, painters, digital, theatrical or musical but it has always been a struggle.

Art has never been very financially rewarding. History demonstrates there are very few have been "legends in their own lifetime." There were some but they were few and the obscene money paid for old masters is all the more so in light of the relative poverty of the artist. On balance, perhaps history doesn't report those who were quietly successful but not of "legend" status.

Mass media available today presents myriad new opportunities. For those who are good enough and can gain public visibility there will be a marketplace and the ensuing financial rewards, even in tough times.

Whether the possession of income or money makes someone feel secure is indeed pertinent and your quote from Joseph Wood Krutch is apt.

Similarly whether money or possessions make someone happy may not be too different from the security question.

Someone living simply in a remote place in apparent poverty outside developed civilisations, modern conveniences or luxuries may be the happiest and most secure individual.

Philosophically in the end it is all relative to our state of mind and perceptions of our place in the world. We do, however, live in this country and as such need to live with the situation we are in. Opting out would not be straight forward.

Survival or success in any business is about our ability to monetise and profit from whatever we do. Being "good" or even "the best" is not necessarily enough. Some people are not particularly outstanding but they have the right "mix" to make it work.

It may be that many of us need to have a "day job" (if we can find one)and our art is just for the love and fulfilment it brings.

p.s. I enjoyed both music videos but preferred the linked performance to the embedded one.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Norm - thank you for your thoughtful comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the music. There are various other 'versions' available on YouTube as well as these two.

I think there are two difficulties associated with having a 'day job' to support ourselves. One is that the 'creative' pursuits may then be squeezed into time when we are tired and that can inhibit creativity. The other is that sometimes needing to 'monetise' our art can be a great motivator. But I think this is different for different folks.

Country Mouse Studio said...

I love the comment “Security depends not so much on how much you have, as upon how much you can do without.” it is so true. I have to decide if my art means enough to give up the pursuit of money most times :O)

Jean said...

I feel (dang it..I know it) that your state of "security" is all in your mind.
Visualize Peace and you will experience it.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Carole - something that I've sometimes asked myself is what would do I if I could have all the money I needed but only on condition that I stopped all painting etc.

Jean, I do agree that 'security' is a state of mine - but as you may remember, I'm hopeless at visualising! :)