Written by David Marlett
Make no mistake: Art Investors want a return on their investment (ROI) whether the resources they invest are in nature Monetary, Ego, Assets or Time, or some combination thereof. In short let’s call them MEAT. Each of these essential resources, especially the non-monetary ones, must be respected not only for their value to you the Entrepreneurial Artist, but also to the Art Investor.
The conundrum of course is how to provide a sufficient return through a resource transfer that will be both sufficient to the Art Investor and which you are certain to be able to give. The place to start, and often end, in that quest is to consider that everyone wants those same MEAT resources at some time. That said; please remember that we are discussing ‘wants’, not needs. Though you may ‘need’ to create art, we are not roaming Maslow’s Hierarchy here.
The savvy Entrepreneurial Artist understands that obtaining funding for artistic endeavors requires a considered and considerate respect for the give/take, the yin/yang of the artistic investment. Resources are transferred to the artist (or art manager), and resources are expected to be transferred back to the investor in return. Far too often the artist assumes that the resources transferred in (especially if they are non-monetary) are given without consideration for a resource to be transferred back to the investor, or that only a gesture of a return is sufficient. But that is sloppy thinking and though you may get that investment, such lax attention to resource returns often causes yet another potential Art Investor to be eliminated for the art community.
So I challenge you to broaden your perspective. Stand back and consider that successful financing your Entrepreneurial Art most often involves more than the tiresome search for money while promising your work (film, play, exhibition, etc.) will be a box office success and make the investor bucket-loads of cash in return. Look beyond the standards, especially during times of societal economic stress. Time to innovate.
Let’s take a glance at the MEAT Resources. Clearly books can be (and have been) written on each one individually. My purpose here is to bring them to your attention, remind you of their importance, give you a fundraising tool, and hopefully inspire you to explore new means of obtaining the resources for your entrepreneurial art endeavor.
- From the Investor Though this may seem obvious, it also includes many indirect financial transfers such as the investor securing or guaranteeing a loan on behalf of the artist, tax deduction and credit allocations, lending stock margins and investment pool participations.
- To the Investor Here again a standard monetary transfer comes to mind: a reimbursement plus significant gain/interest to the investor. But indirect forms of financial return are also possible, including tax deduction and credit allocations, capital gains from alternate investment transfers, security leveraging, etc. Look to a business professional, or learn the skills yourself, to identify some alternate monetary resources you can agree to transfer to your Art Investor.
- From the Investor Regarding the investment to the artist of the investor’s ego resources (community standing, etc.), that is an often-sought resource. Think of having your local mayor agree to appear at the opening night, or community leaders giving your exhibition their endorsement simply by talking it up among their friends and associates. That is a transfer to you of ego resources. It can be very valuable, though it is often overlooked.
- To the Investor Most investors certainly seek an ego return from the art/artist. This can be in many forms, from a perceived or real boost in the investor’s community standing, to a more personal sense of achievement and societal contribution. Generally the former should be assumed, with significant attention paid to ensuring that the investor receives ample community recognition (direct or indirect) for the original resource investment. But you can’t stop there. A common problem is that the artist assumes that ego-boost is or should be a sufficient resource return to the art investor. Though this may be true for many investors, in my experience such unfortunate reasoning is as much a product of an over-inflated ego of an artist (ironically) as it is the creator of bad-will among an otherwise eager art investment community.
- From the Investor As in most resource transfers, asset transfers may seem obvious at their face: an investor contributes a camera to your film production, or a vehicle, or the use of a stage for your dance performance. These ‘in kind’ investments may be common, yes, but they are often under-exploited. A great way to be sure you have fully considered all asset investment possibilities, take your budget, line item by line item, and look for every asset that you would be purchasing or leasing in order to create, market, distribute, exhibit, and tear down your art installation. If money is to be converted to a hard asset, always ask: who might be willing to donate or lend me that asset? And the potential investor need not already have the thing. You may need $500 worth of external hard drive for your digital art installation. Instead of trying to raise the $500, find a company looking to upgrade their hardware, or a manufacturer who would like their name in the program. This may seem obvious, but I have seen many productions overlook an array of equipment that might have been loaned or donated to the artist if only the asset’s owner had been asked.
- To the Investor This kind of return on investment through the transfer to the investor of an asset is at first blush rare. But then there is the photographer who, in return for an investor paying for flight to Sydney (or maybe the investor gave the artist their mileage points – see above), the investor is given copies of the photographs and thirty copies of the coffee table book. Creative arrangements like these are abundant, though they ironically are often dependent on the artist thinking outside of the ‘fundraising’ box.
- From the Investor You would be well served to never forget that indeed ‘time is money.” Donated services, volunteer time, is perhaps the most ubiquitous of the sought invested resources. It is also prone to being abused and taken for granted, at the artist’s peril. One methodology I encourage artist to consider, beyond asking an individual to intern or donate their time, is the institutional time donation. This is the corporate or municipal body that collectively (or through management decree) agrees for its employees to take time off to serve your artistic needs. So long as you are being very mindful of the return to that institutional investor of time resources, you may find that it is a much more efficient means to obtaining volunteers.
- To the Investor This may seem obvious: you agreeing to volunteer for or on behalf of the art investor. But be creative here and this can be a highly effective means of returning meaningful resources to the investor other than the dreaded monetary return. Is your art woodcraft? Can you also frame a garage? Is your art dance? Can you also teach for free for a month? Is your art filmmaking? Can you also film the investor’s daughter’s upcoming wedding for free?
Your artistic objectives are your life-blood. I get it. Mine are for me as well. But don’t get so close to them, so predetermined about them or the means to creating them, that you sell yourself and your art short from possible resource providers.
Finally, yes, the acronym could be “TEAM” rather than MEAT. But I don’t want to encourage you to further entrench yourself in the jolly feeling that you and your investors are all on one team. You aren’t. Hold on, yes, yes, investors (be they individuals, corporations or institutions) need art. But this is not the time for you to wax deeply on that subject. Find out the resources they have to offer and the resources they want to receive, and zero in on them. Assume them to be different than your own. Focus on theirs. Meet theirs. And you will find yours met. Happy hunting.
David Marlett has over twenty years experience developing, financing, and successfully launching divisions and innovative concepts for companies and individuals, with emphasis in media companies and entrepreneurial artists, including his own artistic endeavors. As the founder of BlueRun Media, he has written/developed a number of books, screenplays and films, and consults publishers/producers regarding transmedia opportunities. Marlett has been published throughout the literary and filmmaking communities, including his blog for Digital Book World and a column for Moviemaker Magazine. He is currently completing his book, Tablet to Tablet: Transmedia Storytelling Across the Ages. He has spoken at numerous transmedia conferences. He holds degrees in Accounting, Economics, and Finance from Texas Tech University, and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. He lives in Dallas, Texas. For more information: www.BlueRunMedia.com