Earning an Income as an Artist

Jun 2, 2020

One of my favorite children’s books is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  A famous quote in the book is “I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.  I speak for the trees because the trees have no tongues.” The societal focus of the last couple of months has been on public health due to the COVID-19 virus. The emerging focus has been on restarting the economy and getting America back to work.  However, to date I have heard no one speak for people who earn their living as artists. Artists are commonly self-motivated, risk acceptant, and frequently entrepreneurial in how they earn their income.  Unfortunately, this professional demographic group has seen their economic opportunity greatly diminished due to coronavirus in the present and short term future.  I would like to “speak” for this group and hopefully increase awareness of the devastating nature of what COVID-19 has done to their lives and families.

Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, Heart, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Band of Horses, Kenny G, Fleet Foxes, Robert Cray, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Macklemore, and many others.  All of these performers achieved professional and financial success by practicing & mastering their selected trade.  They are representative of the top of the pyramid of the profession.  However, they are not the only people in the Pacific Northwest who earn their income as musicians.  Musicians also earn their living playing at nightclubs, concerts, weddings, wineries, and other venues.  Cancellation of events like Folklife and Bumbershoot in Seattle down to weekend gigs at the neighborhood pub will diminish exposure and opportunity for local musical artists.  It will also dramatically impact the people who professionally support the artists from venues to recording studios to bartenders, bouncers, and sound & lighting technicians.  Music is the soundtrack of our lives.  As Clint Black sang in State of Mind, “Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory.  Take you to another place and time.” I encourage all who love music to get out and support local musical artists when it is allowed, pay cover charges, buy drinks, and create some new memories of good times in the Emerald City.  If we do not do that as a community, future generations will not have musicians to listen to live and Seattle will stop producing musical performers who have the ability to get people singing their songs in their cars around the world.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon one of my favorite weekend outings was walking the aisles of the Saturday Market (www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com) and evaluating the artistic wares.  Each booth displays and supports the passion of an artist.  Shelter in place has forced the closure of these businesses and the families supported by them into difficult economic times. These people are not alone. Summer is art fair season.   It is my hope that the COVID-19 storm will diminish and allow some art fairs to be held.  One sad summer casualty of 2020 is the Bellevue Arts Museum Arts Fair (https://www.bellevuearts.org/artsfair), the longest running art fair in the Pacific Northwest.  I encourage you to support artists who have displayed their work at these shows and many others with direct purchases.  Their products are unique, special and bring personality to any home.  Your purchases allow them to support their life doing what they love.

Artistic talent is a gift.  It is not possessed by everyone.  However, support and involvement with the arts does not require artistic talent.   Many art lovers create business models to support the arts.  These are the owners of art galleries, music venues, and restaurants (Culinary creativity is an art).  I encourage you, when allowed, to support your favorite local chef, art gallery, or live music performance place with your patronage.  Your support will be necessary for their survival.

Artistic businesses can also take the form of services.  Photography is an art.  How many weddings scheduled for this spring & summer have been diminished in size or rescheduled?  The photographer scheduled for that job was financially impacted, as were the florist designing the flowers and the baker creating the wedding cake. It is my hope that each of these talented professionals will be there to serve future generations of brides & grooms.  Perhaps, the summer of 2020 is the time to hire a photographer to take a new family photo, a florist to spontaneously express your love and appreciation for people in your life with a design featuring the best colors of summer, or hire a baker to create a memorable dessert for a family backyard gathering to celebrate an anniversary or birthday.

IBA does not sell many artistic businesses.  Most are small or cannot be transferred successfully since unique, artistic talent cannot be sold, but as a person who strongly believes that if you do what you love; provide a quality product; enough money will be generated to support a quality life, I want to speak for the artists.  They deserve an opportunity to grow and prosper in the future.  I hope they remain as plentiful in the Pacific Northwest as the trees blowing in the breezes of the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.