There seems to have always been a tension between art and business. The business world considers the stereotypical artist to be lazy, self-indulgent, unprofessional, undisciplined "dreamers." Creativity is usually shunned in the workplace. Just do your job! While artists consider the cliché business person to be vile, lifeless, oppressive, only caring about themselves, searching for profit at the expense of others. Agents, salespeople, producers, studios, publishers, record labels – the business people – seem to have a less-than-positive brand in the world of art, music, film, authorship, etc. This negative branding probably came from as early as the industrial revolution, when pioneers like J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Edison, James Hill, and Henry Ford worked to build their empires and personal wealth by forcing employees (who were already working in terrible conditions) to work longer hours for less pay in order to maximize profits. J.P. Morgan was the first to use this tactic and because he was the most powerful, wealthiest, and most respected pioneer in the world – having conquered the stock market, the business world, and the industrial revolution – other business leaders followed his example. Capitalism is the reason why unions were created. These capitalists only cared about their own personal gain, working to destroy the competition in order to conquer the world by the forces of greedy monopolies.
For example: when Edison launched a smear campaign to destroy Westinghouse’s reputation, or when J.P. Morgan threatened to bankrupt Westinghouse by bleeding him dry with legal fees in a huge patent lawsuit. Just look at a portrait of J.P. Morgan – he looks so rotten! While artists like Ford and Tesla focused solely on making quality products, innovating, pushing the world forward. Tesla even sacrificed his own patents and gave them up to Westinghouse just to keep the company in business. Ford revolutionized the labor industry by offering $5/day wages at his factories – that was twice the going wage rate at the time. Now look at a portrait of Ford – he looks so angelic!
The story of the capitalism and greed of the industrial revolution has not been portrayed any better than in P.T. Anderson’s There Will be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis as the infamous Daniel Plainview. It’s an incredible film based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, about how greed and power twisted and corrupted a wealthy oil tycoon to the point of abandoning his own child. Upton Sinclair’s novel, though a fictional narrative, is based on Edward Doheny, the real-life oil tycoon who was involved in the Teapot Dome scandal and accused of offering a $100,000 bribe to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to lease large government-owned oil stockpiles to private oil companies at discounted rates, so the portrayal of the book is very real. Before the Watergate scandal, this was the most famous scandal of all time.
The two worlds of art and business do seem to come from almost opposite locations – art from the heart and emotional body, business from the mind and ego; there’s a left side of the brain, and a right side of the brain. Though the end goal of both artists and capitalists may be the same (to be the best, make the best, get rich and famous), their priorities and motivations seem to be opposite. Artists focus primarily on the PROCESS of being completely in the moment in order to create the highest quality piece of art. Businesspersons focus primarily on the RESULTS of marketing, reaching the most people, and making the most profit. If these two personalities can work together harmoniously in a partnership, success can be the only result. But if these two personalities can work together harmoniously within a single individual…. Now that’s a “game changer.” It is very difficult, there have been very few who have successfully embodied both characteristics: Michelangelo, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Seth Godin, Francis Ford Coppola, Elon Musk… Anybody else?
But I say: Let’s get rid of all this stigma! To me, business is just another way to be creative. I come from two generations of marketers. Both my father and grandfather owned and operated their own marketing companies – advertising, corporate identity/branding, photography, layout, and design for clients like Coca-Cola, Encyclopedia Britannica, Skilsaw, the City of San Diego, Upper Deck, Schubach Aviation(private air charter). It’s in my blood, so I followed suit by doing the video marketing for clients like Girl Scouts of America, EF Tours, and Vector Marketing. Pitch packages, marketing plans, business plans – these are all part of my creative process. I encourage all you artists to think creatively about business; classically trained as creative thinkers and risk-takers, we are more prepared for the world of entrepreneurship than most who majored in business. I also encourage all you business professionals to think creatively in your work, or at least carve out some time during the day to work on creative endeavors. Sales is the best because it requires you to improvise and think creatively when met with an objection, an angry customer, or a canceled appointment.
In reality, everybody has BOTH a left and a right side of the brain! It’s not like some people have a bigger left side of the brain while others have a bigger right side of the brain. The only reason people are oriented to one side or the other is because they have only exercised one side or the other. We have the capacity to use BOTH, but we choose not to, or we are conditioned to believe we cannot or should not. The most successful people in the history of mankind, the ones who CHANGE things, have both skill sets because they have exercised BOTH sides of the brain.
Today, business is indeed an art. Every problem has a unique solution. Every single product has a unique personality of it’s own, a unique target market or end user, and therefore a unique way it could/should be sold and marketed to reach the most people and make the most profit. Every business has a unique culture and life of it’s own, and therefore a unique way it could/should be run. Every potential customer has a unique psychology. It is up to the artist within us to paint the path to the sale. It is up to the artist within us to not only think up these new products/services, but also to creatively market and sell them. Especially now that advertising is dead, it is up to the artist within us to think differently, get our message out there in new ways, and get people’s attention by standing out. Vector Marketing could have designed a sales method to put Cutco cutlery in stores like every other cutlery, but they chose NOT to! They decided that this product deserved something creative, unique, and DIFFERENT. Apple could have sold Macintosh computers in stores like PC’s, but they didn’t! They decided to open their own stores. It wasn’t until after Apple became so popular that other electronics stores began to BEG to sell Apple products – and now there are Microsoft stores, simple and white just like the Apple stores.
Here’s an interesting story... Apple’s original board from the 1980’s continuously told Steve Jobs that the personal computer was not a viable product. Who would ever want a computer in their homes? That was a stupid assumption! Those “capitalists” were only interested in pleasing the shareholders and getting richer, and they were not creative enough to imagine the possibilities: instant digital mail, dishwashers that could talk to you, fridges that could e-mail you a grocery list, homes that could heat themselves, laptops that gave you the ability to edit film, and handheld devices that could communicate with anybody on the planet – basically Star Trek in real life. They were literally too dumb to see it – these people DO NOT belong in big business. It wasn’t until Steve brought in John Sculley as the new CEO, that the business people of Apple’s board were finally able to work TOGETHER with Steve’s creative side to create a personal computer and sell the IDEA of the personal computer as a tool for the mind to free us from the analog world of paper, typesetters, photostat machines, and typewriters. That was in 1984, when the infamous 1984 Macintosh ad, directed by Ridley Scott, aired during the Superbowl. The rest is history…
Actually, the business people ended up realizing that they could NOT work with Steve’s creativity, Steve was fired, everything went to shit, Bill Gates and Microsoft took over the market with terrible software called “Windows” (a ripoff of Mac OS), and we lived in the dark ages until Steve was begged to come back in 1997 as a consultant. It wasn’t until 1998 that Steve infiltrated the board room, assumed command as CEO, organized a hostile takeover, fired the entire board, and finally had complete control over his company again. THEN the rest was history – he changed the world. But Steve could not have done this without the business-savvy, left-brained, analytical capitalist within him.
There are many instances of art and business working together successfully. It’s about time we embrace the differences, learn how to use both sides of the brain, and make change. Let’s take the first step towards repairing this dichotomy by changing our vocabulary. Consider the words “art” and “business” to be synonymous. Let’s just use the word “entrepreneurship.” This word is great – it implies creativity and innovation as well as business. I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite artists who changed the course of art – Andy Warhol... "Making money is art, the work is also an art, and good business is the best art."
How are you creative with your work? Leave a comment below!
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