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Monday, January 06, 2014

Optimal Economic Conditions for Artistic Production

 I gladly cop to any accusation that I am "reductionist" in my more esoteric musings about music and business.  The point of my writing in the areas of music business and aesthetics is simply develop my own model so I can then run that model.  Personally, I don't want it to be over complicated/over elaborate- I think that is a common mistake when it comes to theories and ideas, "too complicated."

 I am very interested in the optimal economic conditions for artistic production. The marriage of artistic inspiration to capitalist marketing and sale of art is such a complex and difficult subject, fraught with examples of failure.  There is a conflict between the optimum economic conditions for artistic production and the production of art itself that make any discussion a difficult task simply in terms of finding a common vocabulary to discuss both subjects. At least, on the economic side of the "equation" you have a language for quantification.

 When you are talking about "Artistic Production" you are getting into a grey area, because after all, what is art?  The art I'm talking about is art that has an audience, or art that seeks an audience, by being displayed in public. Privately created art, not avail to any sort of public audience, doesn't count for this discussion.

 The essential exchange here is the artist obtaining money in such a fashion that is sufficient to allow for artistic freedom, without surrendering said artistic freedom for said money.  In other words, the provision of money sufficient to create artistic freedom often requires that the artist surrender that same freedom in exchange for the money.  Take the money, lose your artistic freedom.

  Thus, the optimal economic conditions for artistic production are a kind of riddle.  How do you obtain the necessary funds for freedom without surrendering freedom for money?  The answer is to reduce the scale of the enterprise, so that the amount of money required for artistic freedom, and resulting in a steady stream of sellable products for the artist, is at its lowest possible point.

  An illustration of what I'm talking about, is best framed in the context of the production and distribution costs for an LP.  Starting with production costs, in 2013 those can go from zero to millions.  The optimal condition for artistic production is not zero, but it isn't a million plus either.  Another illustration is the amount that the artist obtains for the necessaries of life, food, shelter, entertainment, art supplies, etc.  Here, we are looking at a number that needs to be something substantially more than zero, but again, where a figure of hundreds of thousand or millions is simply not OPTIMAL to ensure further artistic production.  Quite the opposite: An artist who makes millions from their art can be less likely to produce new art than an artist who is making NOTHING.

  Another plus side of keeping those production, personal living expenses LOW is that it places less pressure on the Artist to appeal to the broadest possible general Audience.  Securing a personal income in the hundreds of thousands or millions REQUIRES appealing to the broadest possible audience.  Trying to make 50k a year, DOES NOT, surviving on 25k a year even less so.  Thus it is a slam dunk that the optimal economic conditions exist at the lower end of the scale in terms of the exchange of money for art, but that there must be an exchange or the risk is that the art will cease to exist because the artist will choose to do something else with their time.  Sad but true. 

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