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Learning the business of creativity

June 5, 2014

IMAGE_story_Steven_SparlingDIY Marketing for One-Person Bands

Steven Sparling is in Edmonton to lead a workshop presented by the MacEwan University Alberta College Conservatory of Music. Join him on June 14 to learn how you can sell your creative work without feeling like a sell-out.

Helping people market their creative work

Selling a product isn’t easy when that product is an extension of your imagination, creativity or your soul says Steven, a MacEwan University alumnus who teaches at London College of Music and is working on a PhD in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship.

It’s a lesson he learned first-hand. The ink was barely dry on his Theatre Arts diploma back in 1991 when Steven landed his first job as an actor. But a decade later, after adding a Bachelor of Fine Arts and ten years of theatres jobs across Canada to his CV, he still didn’t feel like he had a real handle on the business behind show business.

How creativity can take an entrepreneurial approach

It was when he headed overseas to the United Kingdom and began his Master’s program that everything fell into place. “I learned how to categorize myself so that when I did my creative work I could do it full on with my creative mind. But when I had to tackle business problems I could look at them in a slightly more detached, analytical way,” says Steven. “When I did that, I started to see a lot more success as an actor.”

Today, Steven is helping others whose products are a part of themselves— artists, writers, actors, singers, designers and music teachers—find ways to become creative entrepreneurs.

“Whether they have written a novel or a symphony, or are selling their services as an actor or a dancer, artists need to take on a more entrepreneurial mindset to sustain their careers and keep them from fizzling out quickly.”

Mastering a business approach keeps you creative for the long haul

Steven says artistic burnout too often cuts careers short. And the number of people entering artistic fields has swelled over the past 50 years, so there has never been as much competition as there is today.

That means branding, marketing, encouraging repeat customers and using technology are becoming even more critical. But playing the role of businessperson wasn’t as much of a stretch for creative people as Steven once thought.

“I used to think that business was dull, but it’s actually incredibly creative. In business, especially in start-ups, you’re often creating something from nothing. It’s the same with creative ideas. And just like a physical product, creative products need to find customers and a market and communicate with them. Once I started to work on the business side of my career, I found myself being more creative in the other side of my work.”


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