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The Simplest Value Statement for the Performing Arts

If you have any regular interaction, participation with the arts, you've probably had some point where you have had to justify its value. This is a reflection on the value of the performing arts from and for the perspective of a performing artist. Of course, there can be a lot of intangible considerations, how things better one as a person etc... If a person is trying to be paid through performance art as work, however, this literally relates to: "Why would anyone want to pay me for what I do?" If you are considering pursuing the arts as a career, this is probably worth thinking about sometime.

(Transcript of video)

The Simplest Value Statement for the Performing Arts Stephen Stone

It's no secret that the majority of people that pursue the performing arts professionally have significant struggles, especially financially.

In its simplest, this probably comes from two reasons:

  1. Being a performing artist most often involves being self-employed and being self-employed is difficult. The majority of people who strike up their own business of any type fail.

  2. It can be difficult to pinpoint the value-offer of what you as a performer give and then to commodify it in a systemic way.


So, a key first-step to any business is asking yourself:

What value do I bring to people?

and then

Why would anyone want to pay for it?


A while ago I felt maybe some aspect existential crisis as a musician.

Why would anyone want to pay for music?

I actually asked this out loud at this practice with a small dance-band I was playing with at the time.

I remember very clearly, the trumpet player looked at me and said these words I will never forget:

"The world is shitty and people want to feel good. This is the basis of capitalism".


So if you are a performing artist trying to get paid from your performance as soloist or leader of a small group, you might ask yourself:

"Is what I am doing the most effective thing I can give in order to help people feel good for the context where I perform?"

and also:

"How could I more effectively help people to feel good?"


Now as you answer this for yourself, you might note that while your technical skill with your craft might have some impact with your answer to this (and moreso when being a member of a performance group like an orchestra), you might be surprised that technical skill is not always the most important aspect of performance in answering how you help people feel good. There are a lot of aspects that come in to play when you present. For example, a lot of times as a musician, you will find that the audience enjoys your performance a lot more if you are smiling, look like you're having fun and if you are interactive. Even if this might come at the cost of hitting a few wrong notes.


So a short related story about the arts and mood:

I ran into a past student the other day and asked her how she was doing. She responded that she felt some unhappiness, what with wars abroad and frequent smoky skies in our part of the world, likely related to climate change. Well, not that we shouldn't care, but mostly most of us have minimal power to affect these global problems...

I also asked her a question I frequently like to ask in social contexts with people I have not seen in at least a week:

I asked "What was joyful for you this last week?"

For her, it was theatre and music.

The arts in one form or another will often be a thing that brightens people's lives.


So if you are in the performing arts, it is your job to help people feel good through your work.

It is your job to hone this as a superpower.

Ask yourself: "How can I better bring value to people through my art?"


"How can I bring joy or feeling to people through my art?"

Whether it's community performance or pursuing it professionally intending to be paid, you will be better rewarded the better you are at finding answers to these questions.


Suggested (business) reading:

Michael E. Gerber

For a reflection on making business systems (for any business)

Alex Hermozi

For a reflection on value statements/offers (for any business)

There are also, of course, countless YouTube channels related to art and busines, music and business etc which a person can look up, reflect on. Some of it might be useful, though it may also be overwhelming and not necessarily specific to your situation.

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