Toner Quinn: You’re Not an Artist, You’re a Start-Up

I recently reread this 2014 piece by Toner Quinn for the Journal of Music. (It was published a few months before I started writing regularly on this blog.)

Start-ups tell a good story. They are positive, highly ambitious and unapologetic about the funding they need to make their business a success. They are also unafraid of making mistakes, of changing their minds, trying something new, even reinventing their entire idea if necessary—known as ‘pivoting’. Start-ups don’t overly concern themselves with sales in the short-term, they are in the world of ideas, imagination and innovation, and focus on being ahead of the curve. Not even complete failure inhibits them. They are imbued with a philosophy of ‘fail fast’ – if it’s not working, quit and move on to the next thing. To have started several start-ups, fail and then start again, is a virtue.

I think Quinn is right: there’s plenty for artists to learn from the ambition, the organisation, and the nimbleness of start-ups. Not least: figure out what you can make that will attract interest, make it unique, and get the word out.

I know a lot of artists have a knee-jerk reaction against association with any sort of business, so here’s Samuel Beckett with the same suggestion:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.