When young people think about careers in the arts, they tend to emphasize content creation: artists, actors, musicians, writers and so on. Creators are, of course, the backbone of the arts world, and of course without artists we wouldn’t have all the amazing content that brings so much joy to so many people. The truth is, however, any student choosing a career path in creative fields will face significant challenges. Once out of school, creative professionals will face a great deal of competition, as it can be so risky taking a chance on someone new.
The truth is, the image of the “starving artist” has a real grounding in truth. There is, however, good news: there are a great many arts-related careers that may not occur to creative youngsters yet which offer interesting career options. Here are some.
Film school, arts school, design school, music school … there are a great many places for artists to learn their trade, with classes taught by trained professionals. Teaching can be a useful source of income for creatives, and chances are there’s at least one arts-related school in your community.
In addition, there are often teaching opportunities in public schools and colleges, though you will almost certainly need a strong portfolio of work to prove your skill level. Public schools will also probably require a teaching certificate. However, many artists simply put up posters in their neighborhood and charge by the hour.
Some artists act as if talking about the business side of the arts is somehow crass, but real professionals know that business is the backbone of creativity -- after all, you can’t say “arts business” without “business.” Amazingly, a great many artists not only treat business as completely separate from their creative efforts, but they often struggle to master its intricacies.
Successful musicians have managers, producers and record labels; actors and film directors work for production companies and studios; authors still rely on publishers. These are the people who actually carry out the producing and selling of creative works, who negotiate business deals,sign new artists and much more. Chances are, they also have careers that are more stable and predictable than those of the creators they manage.
An artist who has a strong understanding of business practices will definitely have more career opportunities.
The arts business depends on marketing. If you imagine the massive budget of a Hollywood superhero movie, it’s standard practice to spend as much (or more) on marketing as it cost to make the movie itself. No creative endeavor is complete without a marketing strategy, and that’s where marketing professionals come in, getting the word out about the album, novel, movie (or whatever) created by their artists.
These days, a huge part of marketing is digital, employing search engines, email and other online technologies to reach potential audiences. Of particular importance is social media marketing -- using things like Facebook and Instagram to promote and connect. Lots of marketers come from arts backgrounds, but a solid background in digital technology will be a great help in advancing your career.
Musicians have agents. So do writers, actors and more. An agent’s job is to find work for their clients and represent them in negotiations, taking a percentage of the artist’s earnings as a fee. Agents are go-getters; they’re constantly out there, advocating for their clients. After all, that’s how they earn their living. Agents are usually confident, strong and sociable. They get a fair amount of rejection, and often have to encourage their clients.
Being an agent can actually be a lot of fun. If you love the arts, you’ll find that few people are as deeply enmeshed in the arts world as agents -- they know everybody.
Behind the scenes
Most forms of art involve a group effort to some degree. Film and television sets are perhaps the most obvious example, with crew members handling lights, cameras, sets, props, sound and so on. If you think about it, though, you can probably imagine similar situations for many creative fields. Writing is a solo effort, but publishing requires editors, designers and printers, music requires studio technicians and concert crews, actors need makeup artists -- well, you get the idea.
Many of these “support” jobs are creative fields in their own right, and while they’re unlikely to gain the kind of fame we tend to associate with artistic success, they can still have solid, stable and rewarding careers.