03 Jun 2009  Working Papers

It Is Okay for Artists to Make Money…No, Really, It’s Okay

Executive Summary — When art and commerce are mentioned in the same sentence, many people become bad tempered or think something needs fixing. This paper argues that more artists ought to make more money more often. HBS professor Robert Austin and theater dramaturg Lee Devin identify and undermine three fallacies about art and commerce, and suggest that it is necessary to carry on a more careful and less emotional conversation about the tensions between art and business and to overcome a general aversion to business common among artists and their patrons. They also stress the need to develop better theories about how art and commerce can achieve integration helpful to both. Key concepts include:

  • The interests of art, artists, and business can be best served if more commerce enters into the world of art, not less.
  • There are three fallacies, often implicit, about relationships between art and commerce: (1) art is a luxury and an indulgence, (2) art is clearly distinguishable from "non-art," and (3) commerce dominates and corrupts art, and subverts its purpose.
  • Good art should achieve appropriate commercial value consistently, not just occasionally. A conversation takes place when art and commerce are in tension, a conversation in which neither artists nor managers should dominate.

 

Author Abstract

In this paper, we examine the apparent conflict between artistic and commercial objectives within creative companies, taking as our point of departure a particularly energetic debate during a symposium at the 2007 Academy of Management meetings. We surface some assumptions that underlie such debates, compare them with findings from our research on creative industries, and identify three "fallacies" that sometimes enter into discussions of art in relation to money. This, in turn, leads us to propose a framework that can support more productive discussion and to describe a direction for management research that might help integrate art and business practices. We conclude that despite an inclination to take offense that often attends the close juxtaposition of art and commerce, which was very much in evidence at that AoM symposium in Philadelphia, the interests of art, artists, and business can be best served if more commerce enters into the world of art, not less. 31 pages.

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