Emergence of Cultural Entrepreneurs

Art has always occupied an important position in any culture. Considering performing art alone, there are a huge number of art forms prevalent in communities. Be it a dance form, instrumental music, vocal performance or a play; art is a consummate experience. A successful artiste, whether it is Lady Gaga, Balamurali Krishna or Shankar-Ehsan-Loy understand that the key to their success is to make people buy and share the experience. So how do ‘Cultural Entrepreneurs’ establish themselves? What are the strategies they use to promote themselves?

An informed view regarding the business of culture reveals that establishing oneself in the fraternity sometimes requires more than just talent. The comparative advantage of being backed up by a well-known brand, trained by an established teacher or certifications/scholarships from well-known institutes carve a less tough path to recognition.
Successful artistes can be classified as two types, conventional or novel. The conventional ones reflect the “traditions and time valued customs”, and therefore should play upon “puritans” to be accepted. Initially, to reinforce the cultural trait and the audience preference, it is important that the artiste targets a limited but knowledgeable audience. Certain music schools in Bangalore and Mumbai have adopted the concept of “Baithak”. This is a platform where students get to perform to a limited audience; feedback from the Guru is given immediately. This gives them an opportunity to correct imperfections, build confidence to perform to a larger audience and increase network. The strategy is to build a selective platform.
Sticking to the “core” of the presentation plays a major role in getting passable reviews; many successful artistes climb the ladder by pursuing a policy of “no novelty and no confrontation”. Many church choirs and classical music gurus follow this strategy. Their use of social media is more to inform users. In fact, their strategy mimics the movie industry where trailers released on Youtube etc. are to draw crowd to a musical or the theatre.
On the other hand, the novel ones who are often with limited exposure and resources, who have to quickly establish themselves against the tide and win over newer converts. Many of them understand the power of being in the news, whether it is related to their work or otherwise. Propaganda must start about one’s strengths only and the purpose is to ritualize and glorify the nuances.
The approach similar to the ones used by all newer religions is to attract early converts and build intensive distribution. Platforms for intensive distributions may be many – charity events, Youtube releases, awards functions and live events. A successful artiste follows a strategy of Appearance – Court noise – Build cathedral – Establish order. In the first phase the artiste tries out novel tunes, music or interpretations and follows this up with systematic “noise” to be in the media for any reason to fortify recall. Once elements of success are seen, build organization to codify and ritualize the movement and thus establish order.
The longevity of the artiste depends on the retracing of the cycle. The artiste must show tenacity and a drive to grow.
Amrita Rao
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