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Arts Entrepreneurship: A Story, Part I

Admittedly my experience as an arts entrepreneur has been in the not-for-profit sector.  As such I have relied on other people’s money to make my entity a reality.  In fact, as I assessed the viability of each entity I did so based on an intelligent estimate of just what could be raised.  Yes, there was always an element of earned income, and this was estimated as well, but the mix of contributed and earned seemed to provide a certain flexibility.  In other words, if I missed my earned income target I could fill the gap (in most cases) with contributed revenue, and vice versa:  if the entity earned more revenue than projected, more attention could be paid to developing long-term relationships with donors.

So, I have been looking for an opportunity to experience a pure commercial entity creation, and one has come to me; and in this blog I plan to chronicle my experience in several parts (likely five).  Perhaps sharing my experience will be of some use to readers.

As I said, this opportunity came to me.  I did not set out to develop an original idea and build it into an entity.  And, as I read about the experiences of entrepreneurs, this is often how it happens.  So, I had the prospect of a book deal with a major publisher.  The book would focus on the pedagogy of arts entrepreneurship.  I began writing enthusiastically, feeling totally empowered to write a definitive ‘text’ on the subject.   But then, two experiences happened simultaneously.  One, the publisher, who was extremely complimentary about my text, was clearly more concerned with length and format.  In other words the publisher had a financial formula into which I had to fit.  This should have been no surprise to me (as a teacher in part of the business of the arts).  The other experience was more interesting (to me).  After I had written around 30,000 words, I went back to the beginning to reread and edit my earlier work, and found that my thinking on the topic had changed.   Clearly this begged the question of whether I, or anyone, could write a definitive text on this subject, at least now, while the field is evolving so quickly.

In the cloud of frustration with the publisher I explored self-publication.  I mention this because it got me into the world of entrepreneurship.  With the publisher I would have made pennies on each unit sale of the book; with self-publication I would have had to invest around $10,000, then reap returns on future sales, which would consist of publish-on-demand distribution, e-books and personal sales (college bookstores, lecture circuit, etc.).  In talking to others who had self-published, I was astonished to learn that the highest profits were made from the latter category, that of personal sales.  Part of the reason for this is that Amazon demands a huge discount on its hard copy and e-book sales.

Just when I thought I would ditch the whole idea, one of my children suggested the creation of a website, one that would have a membership section for professionals, but also have a free section for students.  This would provide the flexibility of changing thought, but could also be use to program developers and teachers of arts entrepreneurship.  It could also be of interest to students.

bookAnd this is where I am headed.  I have purchased a domain name, hired a web developer, and plan to launch the site in the near future.  In my next blog (soon), I will get into the wild world of website creation and my thinking about content, market feasibility and pricing.



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