Daily Video

July 10, 2013

Artists Learn Business to Keep Their Dreams Afloat

Watch Artists Learn Art of Business to Brave Tough Economic Times on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Click to download video

Click to download Lesson Plan

Entrepreneurship may be the answer for the future of artists, dancers and musicians trying to make careers in a tough economy.

Gone are the days when performing arts students could graduate, sign with an agent and expect the gigs to just roll in. Instead, the best young performing artists in the world are now expected to create their own jobs and carve out their own careers.

In order to help them, performing arts schools like the prestigious Juilliard School in New York are taking a new approach by teaching the art of business and giving out grants from entrepreneurialism.

Teaching the very first class on the basics of business at Juilliard is former president of New York’s public television station WNET Bill Baker, who likens the foreignness of teaching business to artists to teaching Chinese. The students also feel that business can get a little, well…

“Dirty. Yes, there is a little resistance to that,” said Baker.  “And when I say the performing arts is a business, a number of my students recoil. A business? This is art,” he continues. “And I try to explain that, yes, it is an art, but it also is a business.”

Some innovative students have been able to make it work with the help of grants. John Brancy and Tobias Greenhalgh are founders of Operation Superpower, an opera for kids with an anti-bullying message, while fellow Juilliard grad Kristin Olson started a manufacturing business that builds reeds for historical instruments.

It’s not exactly news that musicians work in other ways in order to support their art, their passion. Bach doubled as a church cantor, Berlioz wrote music criticism, Brahms performed in bars and brothels, and virtually every famous musician you ever heard of has taught.

But just as in the days of Bach, Berlioz and Brahms, today’s arts institutions need patrons to keep them afloat. Meredith Max Hodges, now executive director of Gallim Dance, says it’s nearly impossible to make enough with ticket sales and touring alone.

“Even at these low salary rates for the company, the time it takes to make a new work of art is extraordinary and the cost of the production elements are extraordinary,” said Hodges.

Baker says it’s a mistake to perform, receive applause and then head to the dressing room.

“They have to come out and associate with the people that were applauding to them,” said Baker. “It is then that an economics mind-set can make all the difference.”

View part one of this story

Warm-up questions

1. What is an entrepreneur?

2. Have you ever considered a career in the performing arts? Why or why not?

3. What does it mean to be a patron?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think it is more or less difficult for performing artists to find successful careers compared to other occupations? Explain.

2. Why do you think the performing arts are so much more competitive now than they used to be?

3. Do you think it’s worth it to work at one job in order to support another that is your true passion? Why or why not?

4. Have you ever started a business, program, or organization? Do you plan to? Why or why not?

— Compiled by Elizabeth Jones for NewsHour Extra


  • Tags:

  • Related Stories

    Tooltip of related stories

    More Articles

    Tooltip of more video block

    Submit Your Student Voice

    NewsHour Extra will not use contact information for any purpose other than our own records. We do not share information with any other organization.

    More Videos