Zappa and the Digital Economy
What is your definition of art?
Please stop here. Don’t go any further. Just try to answer this question: What is Art?
I firmly believe that what we are doing in our creative careers depends on this definition. After all, you are what you believe.
I found my definition of art in one of Frank Zappa’s quotes:
“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.”
This quote, which to me is ultimately the manifesto of The Creator Economy, has three key components. Let me break each one down:
Art is making something…
For Zappa, before anything else, art involves creating and making. It is the actual work. He was a very unique combination of an experimental musician who was also a very powerful and practical producer. Many big-name guitarists worked with him. Like any great producer, he knew how to bring out the best in any highly skilled artist, enabling them to create something bigger than themselves.
… Out of nothing…
I’m looking at all of the successful young creators on the Internet and asking myself how many years was Zappa ahead of the world? Some of the most viral or successful projects on the web are those that had nothing but a simple big idea.
Some million dollar indie brands that adapt themselves to the Internet culture had zero resources behind them at the beginning. They just knew how to capitalize on any available resources (bootstrapping), and leverage their online audience. Yes, they made something out of NOTHING!
… And selling it!
Here is where I found myself to be challenged the most. I grew up with a narrative that making money is wrong, that being popular is uncool, and that growing a business is not for an authentic artist. Breaking out of this wrong idea is still hard for many of us. And here is a line for haters: Zappa broke so many rules in the music business, yet he had a great business mind himself.
Today, for everything I do, and every project that I come up with, I ask myself these 3 questions:
Am I actually creating something, or is it just another ideation that might go nowhere? Am I actually working? Producing? Am I practical and fast enough?
Does my idea depend on big resources or complicated tools to bring to life? If so, it’s not a good idea. That’s it. I just throw it away and start all over.
Can you sell it? Is it going to be a profitable project? Do you have the roadmap for making it sustainable in the end?
To sum up
What is your definition of art or creativity?
I suggest whatever it is, break it down and see if you would be able to track yourself and your ideas down to its core.
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