I have learned a lot from teaching this recent class (now at the end of the first half of the semester). The students’ projects are superb: in imagination, breadth of subject area and commitment to positive change. However, it was their work in developing their projects that gave me greater insight into how to teach this difficult subject of arts entrepreneurship.
First, asking them to develop their ideas in a stepwise fashion really worked. Asking, what are the next 3 steps (or more) that you would need to take to flesh out or “grow” your ideas gave the students an easy to understand pathway. Part of this process of idea development involved aspects of examining feasibility, but not always. In some cases the development process opened the door to examination of feasibility.
It was in the feasibility stage that I came to understand two distinct aspects. This realization is nothing new, as I have gone back to trusted sources and found what I learned right in front of me.
The first aspect of feasibility is whether the idea can hold up on its own. Do its parts fit together into a whole? Is the relationship between estimated cost and income in the ballpark? Is there artistic talent available to be hired in the community where you envision your program?
In some cases this phase of feasibility involved contacting manufacturers to find out if a particular device could be manufactured, at what cost, in what numbers, etc. In others it involved demographic analysis. It was only after this first phase that students could go to the next phase of market feasibility testing. This is, of course, always very interesting when students interact with potential consumers. In most cases they found deep interest and potential involvement from their interviewed clients, but when they explored price points, they learned so much more: that the product or service they are envisioning may not be feasible from an income v. expenditure standpoint.
I find this learning and understanding of price point to be particularly powerful for artists (in this classes’ case, musicians). It raises so many provocative discussion points, and gives the students a wider perspective about the challenges they will face moving into their various professional worlds.