Opinion: Art As A Business?

By Bridget Fahey Hodder

'If I go to a restaurant and don’t order the curry because I feel like pasta instead, the chef isn’t going to come up to me and ask me to ‘re-evaluate what butter chicken means to me’

Is what Christopher Wayne, part of The Naked Magicians wrote in a scathing open letter to Alexis Dubus in the latest bout of problems that seem to be stemming from the Adelaide Fringe.

However, my housemate thought if Fringe is the restaurant in the analogy then the scenario would go along these lines:

'You’d go into the restaurant thinking about pasta with MASSIVE signs about the curry pasted everywhere you look, because the manufacturer has more money to advertise their food, whereas the pasta can only afford to be in the menu.  What are you going to notice more?'

And THIS is the point that Wayne seems to have forgotten - that he isn’t competing with hundreds of magicians, that his show has certain flair, which although many others also incorporate into their show, really works for his. AND also that he seems to have more money to work with.

Ironically, as I was reading the Adelaide Now article, I noticed the flashing banners flanked on either side, advertising the top grossing comedians in the country. Granted this service is offered to anyone… anyone with thousands of dollars at hand or a management company to back them up.

If you’re an up-and-coming artist with something amazing to offer and get rejected simply because you’ve haven’t been on TV, or because of your gender or identity (try flyering for a comedy show as a woman, the amount of time I have personally been harassed is horrendous) then we need to analyse and change the state of the Arts.

The Advertiser has been constantly using a quote from Adelaide Fringe Director, Heather Croall, saying “…the arts is a business like any other and as in any business, success is not always guaranteed.” which seems to highlight The Advertiser's stance more than Croall's.

If the Arts is a business then it feels unexamined and extremely capitalist. There are so many, both performers and production crew, who do not get penalty rates or holidays, skip meals, don’t sleep or see their families for months on end, just to work in the arts.

So many who are unfamiliar with this industry would simply advise changing careers, however, suggest that to someone in retail, or in a trade and you’d be met with an uncomfortable silence or maybe a hurt look. A person goes into medicine to not only get a profession but because they like helping people. An artist goes into the arts because they want to entertain people. So why is one industry validated while the other berated?

I have so many people to talk about on this subject. We will continue this discussion in the coming weeks.