Do Artists Really Have to Starve?

Do Artists Really Have to Starve?

May 12, 2021

I’ve had discussions with parents of artistically-inclined children who struggle how to respond to them and how to deal with their own discomfort while still being supportive parents. “Will I encourage him/her to pursue this field that is alien to me?” “Shouldn’t I nudge him/her to a path where I already have connections?” ‘I wonder how he/she will survive?”

I asked my artistically-inclined son to write something about this subject matter. Parents and children, I hope this piece helps you.

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“Wag ka diyan, gugutumin ka lang!” Have you heard this piece of advice after telling a parent, tita or any authoritative figure about your big, audacious dream of what you wanted to be in the future? (Unless of course you answered the crowd favorites: doctor, lawyer, banker, etc.) Let me be the first one to tell you that this piece of “advice” comes from a place of concern, but more importantly, misunderstanding.

The tried and tested ways, a.k.a. the stable professions previously mentioned, are known to a majority as lucrative and always in demand. In other words, those are jobs that have a fixed system, are globally accepted, and have regular pay and benefits. For all the other professions, such as singing, dancing, acting, hosting, and others that don’t seem to follow the same rules as the tried and tested jobs, they’re considered risky and unsafe.

My name is Anton, I’m the third son of the FQ Mom and I have been a freelance artist for almost three years now. You’re right, that doesn’t sound much for experience yet, but hear me out. In those three years, I have hosted multiple live and virtual events, interviewed local and international artists and personalities. I have choreographed company and wedding dances, DJ-ed at after-parties, taught dance fitness at two studios and even became a pastry and fruit vendor and distributor. I have hosted and produced over a hundred episodes tackling various topics over three podcasts, I entered and won the MYX VJ Search 2019. Did I expect to do all those jobs? Was it in my written goals to learn half of the skills required to do those tasks? Honestly, no. I wasn’t under any formal employment (except for MYX where we were the in-house talents) but I still lived by the same rules that my two older brothers, who entered the so-called tried and tested jobs had to play by. One worked in the marketing of a multinational corporation and now has his own brand consultancy firm. The other one worked for a bank then a stock brokerage, and now has his own financial architecture practice. After college and when we became part of the working class, all three of us were very much the same. We all had 24 hours in a day, the same educational background, similar social skills and physical capabilities, and arguably a close handsomeness level. We all had schedules to follow and tasks to complete. The difference with my set-up was that I was the one listing the tasks, deciding when they needed to be completed, and was the one fulfilling them, right from the start.

I will admit that it is very tough to be your own boss when one of your favorite things to do in life is to chill and have fun. It’s both a blessing and a challenge when “filing for vacation leave” just requires a five-second conversation in my head that goes “Hmm, parang gusto kong mag-relax ngayon.” “Sige, go lang, bukas pa naman ‘to kailangan.” So, I often felt lost and stuck in the limbo between productivity and relaxation. There were no set office hours for my brain to be on work mode and a set time when my brain can “shut off” and start relaxing. I had to learn to keep myself in line and do what I had to do, without anyone else telling me to do so. I would have entire days when I would try to pull something productive out my butt to feel like I haven’t wasted much time. Sometimes the only productive thing to do is to get a good workout in. There was a lot of internal pressure because one clear and concrete way to measure success is monetary value. Have I been getting projects that pay me? Much of my time was spent reacting to external factors and hoping to be noticed or be given opportunities. At this point, I’m still making it seem like artists do starve…we’ll get there in a while.

What I learned from these past three years is that we shouldn’t just measure and value our work based on what comes after completing the work. We should be focusing on the act of working. The steps towards your goal aren’t measured in pesos, they’re measured in the habits you form, the connections you make, the skills you learn and develop. After I was let go by MYX due to the ABS-CBN shutdown (fortunately, I now have a new gig on Kumu as Myx VJ again every Thursday at 8pm), I focused on figuring out what I really wanted to do after the many jobs I have juggled. Mainly, I want to produce and host my podcast and I want to dance. I wasn’t going to wait for people to ask me to do these things for them before I started doing them. I let go of the worry (it took a while though) of landing gigs and earning money, and the opportunities came. Inquiries about brand partnerships, hosting and dance projects and the like came at their own time. I wasn’t caught up on waiting, I was caught up with doing. Outside of actually practicing and doing my craft, I put in the habits of meditating, journaling, exercising, and learning to find ways to ultimately help me improve on my craft. I’m still looking for ways and I know I have a very long way to go.

It’s really an unclear path for artists because the milestones aren’t like that of a doctor who has x number of years in med school, then specializing in chosen field, and so on. I abandoned that once-upon-a-time childhood dream of becoming a doctor (yes as a young boy, I had that dream of being a doctor of healthy instead of sick people) when I learned that I had to study again after graduating from college. Anyway, the milestones of artists’ careers are definitely not fixed. There are no formal positions or names to determine what level or stage you are in your career and that, for me, is what makes the “Starving Artist” a scary but possible reality.

An artist’s job is to keep honing his craft. Most of the time, people just assume that great artists are born with their talents. Take Bruno Mars for instance. Watching him perform makes you think that the dude is a natural and really belongs to the dance floor. But did you know that Bruno Mars has been performing as the youngest Elvis Presley impersonator as early as age four? He had undeniable talent but he also clocked in the time for rehearsals and actual shows, and developed connections that led him to where he is today. Watching successful artists perform may give us that magical feeling and impression that we may think they can just fart out greatness and that there’s no science and structure behind their success. In almost any job in the world, you will need some sort of discipline and you will need to work with others. Ultimately, you have to get the job done, and the infinite ways to do so is what differs. The more you do, the more you become valuable, the more you earn.

Am I changing some minds, now? This outdated image of the “Starving Artist,” I believe is an over-romanticized depiction of people doing unconventional jobs. People who want to be musicians but don’t put in the time to study music, practice writing, perform, and meet musicians they can learn from is like saying you want to be a doctor but don’t want to go to med school. Surprise! Everyone is an artist and no one has to starve.

You have to charge accordingly for your services. You charge based on value. Believe me, our work has great value. It may not be as standardized and as obvious as those of the traditional jobs, but can you just imagine a world without artists?

Everyone approaches a need that has to be solved, and uses skills to solve it. We just have to reframe the way we approach careers if we want to get out of this notion of the “Starving Artist.” Just take it one day at a time and develop your skills through good habits.

You may ask, “What if my opportunity never comes?”

It’s not your job to know exactly when, but it’s your job to be ready by then.

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Let’s continue this conversation on Thursday on our Kumu show. We invited a very special guest who is right now in Australia. He has one of the longest careers as a Filipino musical artist. Parents and children, join us and get the chance to ask your questions directly to one of our music legends, Mr. Jim Paredes.

Cheers to high FQ!

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  1. This Friday I will give a small group conversation with select COL employees on the behavioral insights from FQ Book 2. If you want to have a similar event, please email us at FQTeam@FQMom.com  

2. On May 21, 2021, I will give a talk to SLAMCI employees and clients to tackle why Financial Education is not the solution to our money problems. If you want to hold a similar event, please contact FQTeam@FQMom.com

3. To learn more about your money behavior, get your copy of FQ Book 2. Get copies for your loved ones too. The principles you will learn from here are not only applicable in your financial life but all the other important aspects of your life. https://fqmom.com/bookstore/

To know more about FQ Book 2, watch this short video .

4. How good are you with money? Do you want to know your FQ Score? Take the FQ Test and get hold of your finances now. Scan the QR code or click the link https://fqmom.com/dev-fqtest/app/#/questionnaire