ART IS CAPITAL, NOT INCOME

ART IS CAPITAL, NOT INCOME

When I was a young man I used to dabble in beekeeping. I had a couple of hives, which yielded me a few hundredweight of raw honey every year.

This was far more honey than I would ever need myself, so the first idea was to sell it to people, for an easy ten dollars a pound or so. Not bad money.

What I soon found out was that although people liked giving me money for honey, they really LOVED getting honey for birthday and Christmas presents. For some magical reason, a fresh slab of honeycomb punched above its weight in the goodwill-generating department, by a factor of at least five-to-one.

So knowing this, I never sold another ounce of honey ever again. But because I didn’t have to buy presents in shops anymore, I saved A TON of time and money every Holiday Season, which more than paid back the honey’s investment, many times over.

The honey wasn’t income. It was capital, social capital.

Later on in the early 2000’s when I started promoting my work online, I learned to take a similar approach with my drawings. Instead of trying to sell them, I’d give them away for free (either digitally, or if I really liked you, the original business card it was drawn on), then use the goodwill this social gesture generated to create other freelance and consulting opportunities (*Nowadays they call this the “freemium” model, but back then I didn’t know that).

I guess you could call this freemium approach “flipping the art”. As you look around you realize that’s how the really successful artists make most of their money.

Book authors “flip” their books into movie deals or high-paid speaking gigs.

Musicians “flip” their records sales into advertising royalties and concert tours.

Movie stars “flip” their acting fees into real estate deals.

The smart money treats themselves like capital, not income.

Everybody needs to eat, everybody needs to get paid, sure, but you need to remind yourself that you don’t get into this game for simply transactional reasons. You’re selling art now, you’re not selling “stuff”. There are higher forces at work, here.

Hence the freemium. Hence the flip.


I always suspected Grandpa knew something I didn’t.

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I was having a conversation with an old friend the other day, talking about how if I never had to buy anything ever again, I’d be OK with that. Besides the occasional new shirt or pair of boots to replace the old ones, it seems I already have all the *stuff* I need.

Funny how one spends the first half of one’s life trying to acquire stuff, then once you reach the stage of life where you can buy pretty much anything you want, you find you no longer wanted it anyway.

When my grandfather died aged 80, besides the family farm and household stuff, you could have easily have fitted all his personal possessions into a single trunk. His pipe, his knife, his violin, a few shirts, shoes, trousers and and coats, a few papers and family mementoes, and little else.

I always suspected Grandpa knew something I didn’t.


The Dogme 17 Manifesto: a guide to better blogging

THE DOGME 17 MANIFESTO.

  1. Have something to say. Boring, me-too blogs are a lot of work for a lot of nothing.
  2. All content must be on your own platform. You must own your own domain, and it must have a monopoly on your best work. Other people’s platforms like Facebook or Twitter can only link to the content, they mustn’t duplicate it. In other words, if people want to hear from you, first they have to come to YOUR house.
  3. All content must be uniquely yours. Anyone can post an opinion about President Trump or a photo of their favorite restaurant in town, but only Brainpickings could have posted this.
  4. All content has to be interesting, useful, or both. Nobody is going to read your blog unless there’s something in it for them, so every blog post must be written with something in it for them baked-in.
  5. Due credit must be given. If another person inspired the idea you’re writing about, then link to them. Stop pretending to be a genius.
  6. Write only for the ages. I like drawing cartoons that are still funny after twenty years, which is why I try to go after “simple, human truths”, rather than current events. Over time, creating stuff that ages well is far more satisfying than just cranking out stuff that will be old by next week, not to mention, much more easily found by Google.
  7. Pick a schedule, then stick to it religiously. Seth Godin aims to publish two blog posts a day, rain or shine, and had been doing so without fail for two decades.
  8. Don’t hide your agenda. If the purpose of your blog is to drum up sales leads or get more clients, it’s OK to let people know that upfront. Nobody likes a shill, true, but then again, people like a phony even less.
  9. Make yourself accessible. There used to be an unofficial rule than in order for it to be a “real blog”, it had to have a comments section. Yeah, well, that didn’t last long. Still, it’s a good idea to have a place where people can interact with you, say, an email address or a Twitter account.
  10. Aim to be the best in the world. Back in the golden era of blogging, 10-15 years ago, yes, we were a community, but we were also trying to outdo each other. I was trying to write more amusing stuff than Elizabeth Spiers, I was trying to get more traffic than Kathy Sierra or Cory Doctorow. That’s fine, the Beatles and The Stones were trying to outdo each other during their best years, as well. That’s how it works. When people started migrating away from their own domains, over to mass platforms like Facebook or Medium, they stopped caring. This is why capitalism work so well, and socialism fails so badly. People care more when it’s actually theirs, people care less when it’s not. Ownership matters.

[BACKSTORY:]

In 1995, a clique of Danish independent filmmakers wrote the “Dogme 95” manifesto,  as a response to the shitshow they thought mainstream, high-budget filmmaking was becoming. A “vow of chastity”, as it were.

The idea was to get filmmaking back to its essence, stripping away all the non-essential parts, allowing nothing but great storytelling to get between the filmmaker and the audience. For example:

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

I was thinking that it might be a good idea, in this current shitshow-drenched era of Facebook and Twitter, if bloggers made a similar manifesto for themselves. Hence Dogme 2017.

I’m not saying this is the definitive list of rules; I will say that blogging got a lot less interesting or rewarding, once I neglected these rules. Make of that what you will.


In Praise Of The Hustle

When I lived in New York (late 1990’s) I first started to notice that, although I had a lot of artist friends, we never talked about the actual work much.
 
We just got on making our own stuff, and talked about other things: Sex, power, fashion & trends, culture, money, restaurants & bars, the news, and of course, the endless New York search for decent, affordable apartments.
 
And amongst all this, more than anything else, of course, we talked shop.
 
We talked about the hustle. We were talking about shows we were doing, who was up, who was down, who the hot galleries were, where the hot places were, and where we could find paid work (bartending, waiting tables, ad agencies, design firms, temp agencies, house cleaning, dog walking) in order to support the artist lifestyle.
 
Eventually, I concluded that the conversations about the side hustle were generally far more interesting than talking about the actual art.
 
I reckon this was because talking about art is pretty theoretical, whereas making a living is practical. Without the former, life goes on. Without the latter, you don’t eat.
 
Even worse, you don’t get laid….