Author Archives: rusdi123

Collecting Masterworks Is Not an Infallible Art – The Business of Art Must Be Infallible

Collecting masterworks is anything but an infallible art. But the business of art must be infallible. Where you buy the piece of art is just as important as what you buy. A reputable source that will stand behind what they sell is an imperative.

A few years ago, I worked for a major retail gallery and we made a purchase from a major European auction house. Normally, their documentation is impeccable. The fact that it was not correct and that they stood behind their mistake only verifies their reputation and their credibility.

The piece in question was a woodcut from the print oeuvre of Albrecht Durer. Specifically, it was the Birth of a Virgin (M. 192 B. 80) from Albrecht Durer’s great woodcut cycle, the Life of a Virgin.

It was bought as a Meder A impression before the 1511 edition with Latin text on the verso. The image was perfectly documented in Joseph Meder’s catalogue raisonne, Durer-Katalog, Ein Handbuch Uber Albrecht Durer’s Stiche, Radierungen, Holzschnitte, Deren Zustande, Ausgaben und Wasserzeichenn, as being:

Clear, clean, and with full borders, before the crack and the defective shawl of the woman sitting on the left. Printed before the Italian journey.

Since Joseph Meder did not differentiate which Italian journey, it had to be printed before 1510 at the very least.

The description from the auction house’s catalogue described the masterwork as being printed on laid paper, not having a watermark (which is not rare) and having two collectors’ stamps on the verso from previous owners (which I honestly do not remember what they were).

The woodcut was a beautiful piece of art. It was exactly as the auction house described. In short, it looked perfect!

So what was the problem? To be honest, I do not know why I had a problem with it, but I was having one of Malcolm Gladwell’s blink experiences.

I put it under a light table again; and, there was a watermark that was not described in the auction house’s description. After further review, I realized it was a watermark that carried an incredible history in its own right.

The watermark was from the famed paper house of J. Honig and Zoonen, which was the paper used to print the broadsides of the Declaration of Independence – in 1776.

I asked myself (rhetorically), how can a Meder A impression before Latin text from Albrecht Durer’s great woodcut cycle, the Life of a Virgin, which was printed before the Italian journey (1510) have a watermark from a paper house that did not exist until two hundred sixty-six years later?

Aside from his many other accomplishments, unless Albrecht Durer was also capable of time travel, a Meder A impression of the Birth of a Virgin before the Latin text edition of 1511 with a J. Honig and Zoonen watermark was simply impossible.

Quite a conundrum. If the auction house did not honor its mistake, this certainly would have made matter worse.

However, this was not the case. As soon as the auction house was contacted, it immediately refunded the our money with a sincere apology.

We continued to do business with the auction house because they stood behind what they sold.

So even though collecting masterworks is not an infallible art, the business of art must be infallible.

A Money Plan and Your Creative Business – More Than Just Figures

If you are a creative-artistic entrepreneur – your need for a Business Money Plan (or commonly referred to as a Budget) is a necessity for your best business creative good. This isn’t just for reasons of some business advisor or accountant telling you that you need it – you should want to need and rely on it as part of your “creative stream.”

While I know it sounds like a cliché to “have a budget for your business” but all too often it is not clearly understood why a money plan for your creative business money needs to be in place.

Consider some of the more profound reasons of why a business money plan should be central to your entrepreneurial path and your creative well-being… please especially note that it goes beyond just the actual figures…

Allow yourself to experience the fulfilling aspects of your business money plan to allow yourself to:

Connect with having enhanced confidence about handling your creative business money

It is challenging to have confidence about something you know little about – right? Planning, whether personal or business is so misunderstood but it truly is one of the most important.

In order to have real, true confidence, you need to should have the business skills that will make your creative business run smoothly – your money plan is one of those facilities that you should have a basic understanding of.

Bring about command of your business destiny through understanding proper money handling practices

While many creative and artistic entrepreneur’s cringe at the idea of “bookkeeping, accounting and anything number related” it is through these systems that you keep your business on a good course. Proper money handling practices is part of this. How do you intend on dealing with a payment system in terms of accepting payments, matching them to billings and reconciling the bank every month? It sounds easy enough, but to put a system in place that is manageable, practical and that can be kept up on a regular basis, takes an awareness that needs to be learned.

What you have set-up for money systems in your business are primary to enable you to get the information out of your business that you require. This will greatly help your ability to make operational decisions, allow for the proper filing of various tax returns while placing you in a strong position to best make future (strategic) plans for your business.

Achieve better money and financial results

It is important to be able to measure how your creative business is performing financially. It is impossible to keep it in your head! In order to see if you can improve, you need to know exactly what progress the business has made over time for both the benefit of short and long term decision-making.

Become faster at making decisions in your business

You can make more expedient decisions if you know the optimal earning point for your business along with the types of spending and investments that are being made along the way. In order to assess different vendors, suppliers and other players (stakeholders) in your business, you need to know your numbers and be able to place your hands on this information at any time. Also in order to take advantage of opportunities – you need to have quick and accurate access to the financial performance of your business.

Cultivate the feeling of being in control of your money

You can’t feel in control until you are actually in control. You can’t just make believe “control “, it has to be the result of actually having a money handling plan that is tailored to your business. It must take into account your aspirations, risk tolerance and other aspects of your being in business. The money skills that you learn are instrumental in moving you along to really knowing your money and connecting with the number aspects of your business. Once you have determined that, then you are truly in control of your money and can start to gain momentum and the true feeling of control.

Have the time to create and promote your entrepreneurial offerings

As a creative-artistic entrepreneur, you have many hats to wear (oh goodness!) and to that end you need to balance your time between the management and strategic side of your business, together with working on your creative offerings and marketing and promoting what you have to offer. While this sounds exhausting, it doesn’t have to be once you have enough in place to feel at peaceful about your business and its money dealings.

Encourage your creativity through not worrying about your business finances

If you have a money plan in place for your business, then you have a course to follow. You can find peace in knowing that you have a strategy in place and this can help you creatively. How? You can relax and encourage your creativity and not be so pre-occupied with what is occurring with your business finances. If you can’t do this – then something needs to be fixed.

These are just some of the more important aspects. I don’t want to insult your intelligence by listing the obvious, however they are worth mentioning and repeating:

  • Keeping your expenses down to improve your bottom line
  • Earning to your business potential
  • Pricing strategies
  • Identifying opportunities

This is just to name a few, but these are all gleaned with your business money plan. I want you to think beyond the traditional number reasons and consider the intrinsic and in my view, ultimately more persuasive reasons for having a business money plan.

Remember, as I have said: This is not just one of those “need to haves” ideas that entrepreneurs are told by every money and business guru, it truly is one of the few important items that should be created as early as possible in your creative business.

Wall Art or Wall Clutter – Which? (Display Prints With Lasting Interest)

Almost every photographer has had the urge to mount and display his or her photo’s as wall art, either at home or maybe in the office at work. At one time or another – we’ve nearly all done it – we took one of our ‘best shots’, had an enlargement made and framed. We brought it home or to the office and hung it on display. Then something depressing happened; the picture became unsatisfying, then boring, and finally, wall clutter. What went wrong?!

Perhaps a favorite shot beguiled us and we overlooked a basic fact: many good photo’s are better suited to a book or a magazine. They’re simply not appropriate for hanging upon a wall. Sometimes pictures with strong contrasts and vibrant colors can look very pleasing at first, then start to grate on us after a while if displayed as wall art.

So, now we are a little sadder but what we really want is to become somewhat wiser. We realize that what we need are photo’s that can be displayed as prints and stand the test of time, right? Definitely. Prints with lasting interest! So, how do we go about successfully shooting for that specific goal? Well, there isn’t any simple sure-fire method. But there are a few basic things to keep in mind which can definitely help in making and displaying wall art prints with lasting interest.

What lasts?

If you do a bit of looking around in your local decorative art & poster galleries, and ask a few discreet questions of the sales staff, as to which kinds of photo’s are mostly in demand for home decor you’ll likely discover, as I did, the following:

* They are usually landscapes which have a definite mood

* They are usually foreground or middleground scenes, not panoramic vistas

* The colors in them are usually muted, or pastels

* They are often shots with mist and fog in them

* They are usually printed on a ‘luster’ (not glossy) print surface

You can readily see that most of these factors will usually add up to a ‘painterly’ looking print They will provide subtle pastel colors. Since such pictures already have a proven track record as successful (i.e. enduring!) wall art, why not use the above info as a set of guide-lines for shooting wall art photo’s of lasting appeal?

If you want to display some of your photo’s as prints on an office wall, here’s the scoop on ‘commercial & business area’ photo decor that wears well:

* They are mostly close-ups of flowers, leaves, ferns, etc., with dew or rain drops on them…

* Or else, they are frequently natural abstract or pattern shots

* These pictures often feature strong color, and a near-graphic look

* These kinds of prints are best made on glossy or semi-glossy print materials

These type of prints yield brighter colors and stronger contrast for a bolder look. Here too, you may want to make use of marketing info as practical guidelines for your own wall display shooting.

Find it.

Rather than leaving things to chance, plan your lasting decor landscapes and close-ups. First of all, search out some local places that are unspoiled and natural, with few signs of human presence or activity. Check the yellow pages for your nearby parks, conservation areas, or wildlife refuges.

Scope it.

Scout these prospective locations, looking for areas and things with appealing color, pools and ponds for reflections, running water for abstractions, etc. When you find something of interest move around it, if possible, in a circle and note the various possible compositions. Be especially aware of those compositions that call for either a north- or south-facing camera position. (They’ll provide maximum side-lite for modelling & texture, and polarizing for saturated color) And while you’re at it, note whether the east and west sides of such subjects are open to admit either direct early morning or late afternoon sunlight for the warm, glowing light at these times.

A number of photo magazines will provide information as to when and where on the horizon the sun will rise or set in your area. Same for the full moon. Taking note of these things as well as what’s around you while scouting will help you foresee good photo opportunities well in advance.

Check it.

Either dial up your local recorded weather report number or log on the internet and check the local weather maps for what’s upcoming in your area. Do it frequently. Remember, bad weather is good photo weather, especially during the clearing-up hours after a storm; it’s great for injecting mood into your decor scenics! By the way these weather sources will also give you precise local sun- rise and -set times.

For close-ups with dew, just keep in mind that a hot sultry day that ends with a cool and clearing evening usually guarantees heavy dew conditions the next morning.

Go for it.

Start out well before sunrise and get on location early. Set up and shoot at first light, early light, etc. If you’re shooting a landscape that includes sky, be alert for clear strips of sky at the horizon with clouds immediately above them. This situation will often yield terrific cloud effects! Alternatively, start out well before sunset and be on-site to shoot through sundown and twilite. At either time it may be possible to shoot both landscapes and close-ups if circumstances allow.

Tools & Tips.

By all means take your tripod. Also a cable release, perhaps a polarizer, or a neutral density grad filter. Use either a low ISO setting or else slow speed transparency film. And, perhaps most important of all, take along a resolve to go back to your favourite spots again and again. And again! When you know a place like the back of your hand, and you’re frequently there, you’ll be surprised at the photo ‘breaks’ that come your way!

Your personal ‘seeing’ and camera skills will undoubtedly improve as you persist at shooting both frequently and regularly. You should have no difficulty acquiring a considerable number of shots well suited for wall art.

Mounting & Display

Once you have on hand some images you feel will keep their appeal as wall decor in the long term, select one or two and make a 5 x 7 or a 8 x 10 print of it and tack it up somewhere that you’ll see it frequently. Give it a couple of weeks and see how well it keeps its appeal. If it passes the test then get a larger display print made, tastefully mounted and display it appropriately.

To assist you in these regards, why not turn to one of the many reliable guides available on the subject such as, for example:

* Kodak Publication no. 0-22, Cat. 104 8479, PHOTO DECOR – A Guide to the Enjoyment of Photographic Art.

* A Guide to the Enhancement & Presentation of Photographs, by Otha C. Spencer (Prentice-Hall, NJ 07632)

Such publications will provide numerous fine visual examples, as well as explanation of useful guidelines, tips, and techniques, and also offer helpful advice on many related topics such as print location, fading, lighting, etc.

The presentation info in such publications, together with the above shooting guidelines, will put you well on your way toward appropriate, enduring, wall art with long-term appeal, instead of disappointing and depressing wall clutter.

Can Music Ever Be Valued As Fine Art?

Introduction: The Highest Art Auction in History

Recently a Christie’s art sale became the highest auction in history. The sale included works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among others and in total generated $495 million. The sale established 16 new world auction records, with nine works selling for more than $10m (£6.6m) and 23 for more than $5m (£3.2m). Christie’s said the record breaking sales reflected “a new era in the art market”.

The top lot of Wednesday’s sale was Pollock’s drip painting Number 19, 1948, which fetched $58.4m (£38.3m) – nearly twice its pre-sale estimate.

Lichtenstein’s Woman with Flowered Hat sold for $56.1 million, while another Basquiat work, Dustheads (top of article), went for $48.8 million.

All three works set the highest prices ever fetched for the artists at auction. Christie’s described the $495,021,500 total – which included commissions – as “staggering”. Only four of the 70 lots on offer went unsold.

In addition, a 1968 oil painting by Gerhard Richter has set a new record for the highest auction price achieved by a living artist. Richter’s photo-painting Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million). Sotheby’s described Domplatz, Mailand, which depicts a cityscape painted in a style that suggests a blurred photograph, as a “masterpiece of 20th Century art” and the “epitome” of the artist’s 1960s photo-painting canon. Don Bryant, founder of Napa Valley’s Bryant Family Vineyard and the painting’s new owner, said the work “just knocks me over”.

Brett Gorvy, head of post-war and contemporary art, said “The remarkable bidding and record prices set reflect a new era in the art market,” he said. Steven Murphy, CEO of Christie’s International, said new collectors were helping drive the boom.

Myths of the Music-Fine Art Price Differential

When I came across this article I was stunned at the prices these artworks were able to obtain. Several of them would hardly evoke a positive emotional response in me, while others might only slightly, but for almost all of them I really don’t understand how their prices are reflected in the work, and vice versa. Obviously, these pieces were not intended for people like me, an artist, while wealthy patrons certainly see their intrinsic artistic value clearly.

So why doesn’t music attract these kinds of prices? Is it even possible for a piece of recorded music, not music memorabilia or a music artifact (such as a rare record, LP, bootleg, T-shirt, album artwork, etc.), to be worth $1 million or more? Are all musicians and music composers doomed to struggle in the music industry and claw their way up into a career in music? If one painting can be valued at $1 million, why can’t a song or piece of music also be valued similarly? Apparently, the $.99 per download price is the highest price a song is able to command at market value, no matter what its quality or content, and the musician or composer must accept this value as such.

The financial equation looks something like this:

1 painting = $37 million

1 song = $.99

Sometimes people say that a song can change the world, but no one ever says that about paintings. So theoretically, if people want change $.99 is the price we must pay for it.

Now here are a few statements that should help us clarify what the monetary or value discrepancy between painting and music is based upon.

(1) There are fewer painters than there are musicians.

(2) Musicians are less talented than painters?

(3) It is easier to create music than it is to paint.

(4) The public values paintings more than music.

(5) Paintings are more beautiful than music.

(6) Paintings are impossible to copy unlike music.

(7) Painters work harder than musicians and composers.

(8) Blah, blah, blah.

Hardly anyone agrees with all of these statements and yet all, or at least some of them, would have to be true in order for the price of paintings to so greatly exceed the cost of music. Moreover, I doubt that art collectors and great painters have to deal with as much legal red tape as do musicians when releasing their work into the public domain, so why aren’t the rewards equal, if not greater for musicians who have to work almost as much protecting their work as in producing it. Musicians and composers, however, actually must do more than authenticate their work and obtain accurate appraisals concerning what their work is worth, but they get paid less. The equipment costs alone for musicians is much higher than it is for painters.

Maybe it’s fame, and not money, musicians are after? That would explain why most musicians settle for the low pay they receive from record deals and digital downloads. Perhaps, that’s also why many of them are touring more often to increase their fame and not their fortunes. But wait a minute, that’s where musicians actually make most of their money from live performances and the selling of merchandise, but not the music. I guess this is why many musicians see themselves not as composers, but rather as performers and entertainers.

So what can musicians do, who don’t see themselves as entertainers, but instead as composers who create music as a fine art? Because they too have a strong desire to earn a living to support themselves in their chosen profession, thus there must be a specialized approach whereby they present their work to music lovers or art collectors in search of assets and curators for unique pieces to place in their private galleries. Imagine that, a recorded piece of music that few have ever heard which is displayed and played only on a specified music player in a private art gallery or collection.

In thinking about how a musician can follow the example set by painters in the fine arts, I’ve isolated 4 principles that should help to make the spectacular financial rewards they’ve reached possible for the musician. So let’s analyze some of the characteristics that govern the market for fine art and see how musicians can apply these concepts to their creative, production, and marketing processes.

The Ideal Vehicle for Music as Fine Art

Here are 4 principles and practical suggestions for musicians who want to elevate their music into the realm of fine art by following the example of the painters of the past and present.

1) Strive to make unique music or music collections.

The composer must design experiments with sound or compositional techniques. Some music belongs in the realm of the public, while other music solely belongs in the realm of fine art. It’s really not that difficult to tell the difference. The difference is clear when one compares the environment of the nightclub and the music one finds there with the elevated environment of the ballet or opera and its music. The difference is not necessarily one in terms of types of music, but rather in the composer’s sonic fingerprint. In other words, not everyone thinks Jackson Pollock was a great painter, but everyone acknowledges that it took him years of development to reach a point where his style could be born. It’s the style of the artist or composer that will call out to the attention of wealthy patrons, the respect of peers, and the exclusive admiration of the music appreciator. In music, the style of the composer, regardless of genre, I call ‘a signature sound.’ It’s the signature sound that music and art collectors will want to own and for that they might be willing to pay or bid up the cost of ownership to a higher price.

2) Create a music gallery.

This could be modeled after the art gallery where one or several artist put their work on display. The difference with the music gallery is that you would have a hall filled with listening rooms or stations. These showings would not be live performances, but instead will be in effect sound installations. You could also separate one hall into several compartments for different composers. The music showing would be an exclusive event provided to serious music and art collectors who actively seek out sonic experiences and buy what they like. The purpose of the music gallery would be the same as the art gallery – to give the public a sample of the artist’s talent, to give critics something to write about, to have other composers comment on the work of a peer, and to create buzz in the art world. Always remember that it shouldn’t be the event that drives the buzz, but the music that makes the event.

3) Turn your music into a tangible asset.

The obvious difference between a painting and music is that one is a tangible artwork and the other is not. In other words, one of the defining characteristics of a painting is that the medium and the art are one. Unlike music, where the music must be transferred onto another object such as a cassette tape, vinyl, CD, or mP3 player before it can be perceived, whereas with a painting (or sculpture) an object has been transformed into art. So how can it be or is it even possible for a cassette, CD, or download to be transformed into art? The cassette and CD are more akin to a photograph of a painting, rather than a true expressions where the medium and the art are one.

So one step a musician can take to elevate their music into fine art is by making your music and its medium one. The best way that I can think of to do this is by looking to the past. Ironically, the vinyl LP very closely achieved this quality with album art, its sizing, and packaging. Let’s quickly discuss some of the qualities of the vinyl LP and valuable marketing angles that I think opens up interesting approaches for musicians to turn their music into fine art at price appropriate levels commiserate with earning a livelihood.

Today there are several companies around that let you customize your LP vinyl album and artwork. This is wonderful because it gives you total control over the art direction your packaging takes. This is an expressive way to bring the personality of the artist, band, or project out into physical form. Many colors are available and unique mixtures are also possible to add a dimension to your music that isn’t normally possible with cassette tapes, CD’s, or digital downloads. Even split colored and glow-in-the-dark vinyl are available for bold composers looking for something with a bit more flair.

Etched Art and Your Album

Another fantastic way to elevate the music via packaging and presentation is to consider etched art in vinyl. Etched vinyl is an image pressed into the unplayable side of your record which has a frosted appearance. The etched side does not contain any grooves or music but adds a real touch of style to your music package. I don’t know if etched art can also be a hologramic look, but that would be another dimension that would enhance the visual component of your music package.

Art and LP Sizes

The last aspect I’d like to touch on is the size of the LP. Unlike the cassettes and CD’s, which both come in a single universal size determined by the media player, LP’s are played on phonographs or turntables whose arms can adjust to the different sizes of LP’s. In general, LP’s come in 3 sizes: 7″, 10″, and 12″. And because the album covers have to provide a sleeve for a large surface, they correspondingly must also be large. At a minimum the 12″ LP will require an album cover that’s 1 square foot. That’s about 4 times the size of a standard CD and anywhere from 8 – 12 times the size of cassette tape.

Understanding this gives you an additional angle to design artwork for the music package. There might even be a way to design a painter’s canvas which can house an LP within its frame to turn it into a cover. For those musicians and composers who possess multiple artistic talents, an original painting to accompany a music release could be another profitable approach to look into. If you think about it even further the size of the 12″ LP is actually the size of a small painting. Foldable or dual LP covers are also available which provide a much larger surface with which to more greatly present amazing album art work to dazzle customers. The dual LP album cover would give you exactly a 24″ x 12″ surface to work with.

The Non-Vinyl LP and other Miscellaneous Considerations

Other more sophisticated forms of the approach I’m describing here for the LP would keep the concept of the LP at the center of the music package, while removing the vinyl as material. Ideally, the perfect substance for a fine art music LP would consist of a material that didn’t warp, couldn’t be shattered, that would prevent grooves from wearing out, and that would be scratch-proof. So that would mean you’d need to do your homework and find out what’s possible with all known exotic substances, metal alloys, industrial metals, specialized plastics, and non-scratch surfaces to achieve the perfect substance for a fine art music LP. Moreover, this substance would play CD quality sound on any or a special turntable with a uniquely designed needle made specifically for this material and album type.

If a fine art music LP were to ever come into existence it would have to stand the test of time and survive usage, storage, and travel as it transfers custody from one owner to another over decades and even centuries. These are the main reasons why owners of fine art music LP’s will need to get insurance for the asset. A non-vinyl LP could also be manufactured to blow away the art collector, music enthusiast, and investor with something like an LP made of 24-karat gold or some other precious metal like silver or platinum. This one alteration could make such an LP worth a $1 million or more depending on the aggressiveness of the bidders. Overall you’ll have to do some research of your own to discover what your options are and can be in order to raise your LP into the class of an investment, a tangible asset (collectible), and fine art. In the absence of the existence of this ideal substance, we must aim for novelty to achieve appeal.

Exclusive Music

Another aspect to explore briefly is the exclusivity factor in regard to the ownership of fine art. Not everyone can afford a Picasso, but those who can, generally, aren’t willing to share it with everyone because they want exclusive ownership over the Picasso, that’s part of the package of owning fine art.

The way to provide exclusive ownership to interested parties is through contracts, so you’ll have to hire legal advice to shape the legal framework governing ownership of a music album or music as fine art. The contract can be shaped in any number of ways according to your wishes, but basically it should state what the owner has permission to do or is prohibited from doing with the work you are selling them. You want your buyers to know that they can transfer ownership of the album to heirs or sell it to other private collectors as you can with any other tangible asset. This is part of the process of owning fine art, which they’ve come to expect in their dealings with galleries and other collectors, so deal with them as a professional.

In addition, you’ll want to legally prohibit the buyers from broadcasting or disseminating the music from your fine art LP or other media. To preserve its value the music must be kept out of the public domain and remain in the hands of those who have the right to hear it. If the owners want to talk about it and even play it for a small gathering of people as a fine art music exhibit then great, but they should not be permitted to make copies or profit from your recordings.

The beauty of a limit supply and contracts is that together they will help you to track all of the owners over your lifetime and preserve the value of your work. If one of them can be found to be responsible for leaking the material out into public, you’ll have a lawsuit on your hands which you should easily win. But if a leak was to happen, the value (price) of the LP might drop precipitously and demand could even dry up completely. But really what’s the worst that could happen, that the price of your music ends up at the low end of the price scale – $.99 per track?

A Word on Supply and Demand

Similarly, the law of supply and demand must also be part of the equation for pricing your music as fine art. Basically, the law of supply and demand works like this: the greater the supply, the lower the demand and the lower the supply, the greater the demand. In other words, the more of something there is, the less it’s worth and the less of something there is, the more it’s worth. The law doesn’t always work out this perfectly, but as a general rule it works.

The problem with this law is that it only slightly takes into account mass psychology and the way demand is created, which is by advertising, marketing, and PR (public relations). Without these 3 factors working in your favor, there will be little or no demand for your fine art music LP, no matter how small your supply is. It’s only when these 3 factors are working in your favor and demand is fairly high that the price of your singular or limited edition fine art music LP, CD, or digital audio files can rise and skyrocket. So become fluent with hope to employ advertising, marketing, and PR and make sure the demand is there among your target audience prior to releasing your work so that you can be certain your album receives a high bidding.

A Digital Point of View

Some of the ideas I’ve presented here so far can be applied to music in digital formats as well. For example, a limited edition, gorgeously designed iPod or alternative mP3 player with your fine art music programmed into a locked memory is one approach. For example, high-end buyers there’s an iPod available that’s made from 22k gold and it features an Apple logo made of diamonds, it estimate price is roughly $120,000.

Something like this could work or even just a really cool looking, READ-only thumb drive could work. You just plug it in and enjoy exclusive access to an album that only one collector or a select few have in their possession.

The number one problem with a digital format is that it’s too easy to copy files from one device to another, which is why a locked or unhackable memory is crucial. Without the locked memory, the exclusivity factor cannot exist and undermines the creation of a fine art music digital device.

4) Put your music to auction.

Part of the reason why the paintings in the beginning of this article sold for so much money is because competing bids pushed the price upward. After you’ve designed an amazing fine art music collection and package, you’ll need to decide how to sell or auction your product.

Many options for auctioning items are available but probably the most well-known is eBay, but eBay is probably not the best place to sell fine art music this way. To start it might be a good place to test the concept, but you might not reach your target clientele. Another option could be Bandcamp or Amazon, but there’s no auctioning available with these companies. However, you could set a high price for downloads, CD’s or vinyl LP’s and sell few of them.

For example, downloads might go for anywhere from $15 to $200 per track and for the album maybe the price of a mid-range painting, perhaps $800 to $2,000+.

You could also set up a simple website where you present and sell your fine art music like painters, sculptors, sketch artists, wood workers, and artisans sell their work. On your site you can talk about your album on video, with a music blog, on internet radio, through interviews, on music or artists-oriented podcasts, and through articles, so that you can send all the traffic to your eBay page or personal website where all you’re selling are copies of your limited edition collection of fine art music.

The simplicity of this plan is that you, along with eBay as your broker, control the entire process. The idea here is as with most auctions which is to watch the bidders compete with one another as everyone watches the price go higher and higher.

Name Your Price: The Radiohead Experiment

The band Radiohead did something like this but differently. Instead of auctioning a one of a kind or limited edition exclusive digital album, they allowed their fans to pay what they wanted for their new release at the time. The experiment brought in mixed results but overall was a success for the band members who made more money personally than on any previous album. However, it’s been reported that 38% of buyers spent an average of $6, while the other 62% downloaded the album without paying anything at all – $0. Globally, the average price paid was around $2.26 and $3.23 in the U.S. Of those who did pay something, 17% paid below $4, but 12% paid between $8 and $12.

This approach is unlikely to work for lesser known artists who want to present their music as fine art. The main reason why it wouldn’t is because it fails to fulfill the factor of exclusive ownership. Everyone and anyone could get a copy of the Radiohead album, therefore it’s value is reduced because the quantity available was infinite instead of limited or rare, since the demand was high.

NIN and a Tiered Approach

Likewise, tiered fine art music packages whose prices range from a few dollars up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars is a much better way to entice collectors to buy music as fine art or music as an investment.

Here’s how Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor made a small fortune with his “Ghosts I – IV” album release. In total 5 tiers are available.

The first tier offers a free download of the first 9 tracks from the album.

The 2nd tier offers a $5 digital download with a 40 page PDF.

The 3rd tier offers a 2 CD’s with a 16 page booklet for $10.

The 4th tier is a $75 deluxe edition which includes 2 audio CD’s, a data DVD with all 36 tracks in multi-track format, a 48 page book of photographs by Phillip Graybill and Rob Sheridan, a 40 page PDF book, and an accompanying slideshow on a Blu-Ray disc.

And on the 5th tier you get pretty much everything else on the lower tiers except you also get a 3rd book with art prints of imagery from Ghosts I – IV and each limited edition copy is numbered and personally signed by Trent Reznor. This limited edition was restricted to 2500 copies with a limit of one per customer for a grand total of $300. The $300 tier was known as the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package and is currently sold out.

The financials on the 5th tier look pretty good. With the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package, we know there were only 2500 copies and that each sold for $300. So, 2500 x 300 = $750,000. Imagine what prices could have been reached if Reznor had allowed the buyers to bid on the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package. He could have started the bidding at or just below $300 and watched the prices go up from there. Interestingly, as fewer of them were available the prices might have started to get astronomical. He probably still would’ve sold every copy and his income might well have been closer to $1 million, but either he did a great job structuring his price scale as demonstrated by his results. And let’s not forget that our equation excluded the income he generated from tiers 2 – 4, which most certainly brought his total revenues far passed $1 million.

Review

As we end off let’s briefly review the factors that will lead to fine art music success.

1) Strive to make unique music or music collections. To do this you’ll need to experiment with unique methods, techniques, or styles that offer a signature sound. In the art world, this will be known as your sonic fingerprint. This is what art collectors will want to purchase and appreciate.

2) Create a music gallery. Come up with ideas for how to present your new compositions at a music exhibit. It should look and feel much like an art exhibit, but be adapted for music. This might include setting up private listening stations for individual art collectors or small rooms for a limited listening audience and where auctions can occur.

3) Turn your music into a tangible asset. Painting elevates the canvas and paint into art, whereas music can never elevate a cassette tape or CD into art. For music, the medium must be turned into art as part of the package for presenting music as fine art. Painting also elevates and transforms its medium, while music is usually transported by its medium, unless its digital, then it’s all about the music. Remember what we discussed about digital formats and the vinyl LP as ideal vehicles for selling music as fine art.

4) Above all, offer exclusivity as an essential part of the package of fine art music ownership, so find ways to guarantee this for your buyers. Art ownership is strongly based on its exclusivity, which for the collector means they are part of a very select group of individuals who have the right or privilege to receive exposure to your fine art music. If you can exclude the masses and create demand amongst a select few, then the prices you can attract will rise as few buyers try to outbid one another for exclusive ownership of your music.

5) Lastly, use an auction system to create massive profits. Keep the law of supply and demand in mind when building your music into a tangible asset and don’t forget the vital role advertising, marketing, and PR play in creating demand. There’s no purpose in creating a limited supply of anything for which there is no demand.

Conclusion

These are by no means all of the ways in which these ideas can be applied to your situation or in these formats, but whatever you choose to do you’ll need to formulate the right balance of factors that make the price of your fine art music rise. Many of you may be stunned by the extent of initial investment capital you’ll require to elevate your music into a fine art collectible, which is why you’ll have to amplify your people skills and take courses in sales training, marketing, investing and business. Several of the approaches I mentioned will require you to raise capital from a bank, institution such as a private equity firm, or venture capitalists to get you started, otherwise you’ll need to get access to personal or small business credit at low interest rates. This will give you more time to implement your program and generate your first wave of sales.

If your business plan for turning your music into fine art is solid and your sales presentation is thorough, then the money will find you as more investors see profit in the opportunity. Additionally, wealthy patrons may see your work as an important contribution to art history or your presentation may just resonate with an investor or group of investors that they may just give you money to finish your project. In either case, be business-like, get all of your agreements in writing and have them reviewed by a competent legal representative expert at intellectual property issues and financial transactions in particular.

Marc Avante is a musician, sound designer, and blogger. He is also the founder of the music project called Stereo Thesis. Stereo Thesis is a prototype sound design and music studio.

Can You “Feng Shui” an Arts and Crafts Booth?

Many people use the term “feng shui” very loosely, but as a verb the implication is to do something which can change a space to attract more business to the vendor. Even though you cannot do the same, in any traditional sense, with something like a car, you can actually assess an Arts and Crafts booth, if certain things are under your control.

For example, if a booth is going to be inside a convention center or some indoor environment, the booth will be like a work cubicle, where it is part of the “bigger picture.” I once had a client doing shows at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and it was easy to identify the better parts of the building with a floor plan readily available to divide into directional sectors. Looking up when the building was built is also just a click away on the tax assessor’s website.

Once you have identified the best part of the building, there may or may not be a way to address the area with elemental remedies, but just being in the better part of a building can give someone a “leg up” or advantage in comparison to other vendors.

Of course, there is also some environmental psychology at play, as some people like to be right near the door and others notice more business when positioned near food vendors or bathrooms. This is strictly about visibility and sometimes that alone can help you do better as a vendor.

For outdoor venues, there is no flying star chart to consider. This is the energy field that gets captured inside a building. But there can be some outside cues in terms of how the qi flows best. This is where a feng shui consultant would try to determine the best qi flow arrangement, with the aisles between booths being much like virtual roads. Yin-Yang Theory would also come into play and this includes a lot of things that are common sense, like not being in a dark, dingy area.

With the actual booth lay-out, there are some design tricks which many seasoned vendors are already aware of. These are things you can do to lure people towards your booth and to stay longer. Often, a long table is set up at the “facing” side of the booth and items for sale are right at the edge of the booth perimeter. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement. But by creating a U-shape where the facing side of the booth is open, it requires that potential customers come into the booth area, literally, in order to see the items for sale on display deeper into the booth. This allows the seller to engage in conversation easier with the customer. This alone can increase potential sales.

Kartar Diamond is a traditional Feng Shui practitioner, having studied with top world masters and now considered an authority in her own right. Author of several books and ebooks, Kartar Diamond consults with clients world-wide on both residential and commercial properties. Kartar also has a private mentoring program which can be in person or through email or Skype.

Floyd, Virginia: Where Hippies, Farmers, and Business Owners Meet

The logo of the Oddfellas Cantina sums up the town of Floyd, VA. Drawn in the style of Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic, the logos’ graphic shows three men standing side by side: a farmer wearing bib overalls, holding a hoe; a Jerry Garcia lookalike, and a businessman in a suit sporting a bowler hat. Co-existing quite happily in Floyd are the farmers that have worked the land for generations, the hippies that started to arrive in the ’60’s, and the businessmen that keep the Floyd economy buzzing. Retail shops in Floyd seem to cater to all three cultural cohorts: there is a Hardware & Farm store, a mix of real estate companies and banks, a natural foods store, books stores, coffee shops, and enough clothing stores selling tie-dyes to outfit a hippie army.

If you’re looking for a down-home, foot-stompin’, deep-breathin’ break from city life, nothing beats Floyd, Virginia.

Floyd has a resident population of only about 500 people. There is one traffic light in the center of town (the only traffic light in the county, I might add). Nevertheless, Floyd has become a de-facto mountain cultural center. Annually, it hosts the Floydfest World Music Festival, the Floyd Fandango Beer & Wine Festival, and the Floyd County Arts & Crafts Festival. There are regular music and cultural events at Floyd’s two wineries, and weekly events at the Sun Music Hall and the Floyd Country Store.

Whenever we have house guests, we go to Oddfellas for dinner. I’ve never been disappointed by a meal at Oddfellas, and I’m a food snob. The restaurants décor is eclectic: the furniture, artwork, and tableware are all “mix & match”. The chef describes the cuisine as “Appalachian Latino”, and the food is absolutely wonderful. Oddfellas live music will vary from Irish to Old time to Jazz.

One warm Friday night, Jill and I and our houseguests ate dinner at Oddfellas, and then spent several hours wandering through the shops and streets of Floyd. On Friday nights when the weather is warm, Floyd is filled with bluegrass musicians jamming on the street corners. If you stand at the corner of Main & Locust, you can hear banjos & fiddles coming at you from several directions.

The center of all this bluegrass activity is the Floyd Country Store, where the Friday Night Jamboree attracts bluegrass musicians from several states. We went into the store and browsed their collection of bluegrass cd’s, while listening to the performers onstage and watching the dancers “flatfoot it” on the dance floor.

Our guests from Los Angeles were experiencing culture shock, and I found that amusing. Between the bluegrass music, the mountain roads, and my pickup truck, they wondered aloud if I hadn’t been a closet hillbilly all my life. What they didn’t realize was that here in Floyd, we all get along just fine, no matter where we came from.

Choosing Arts And Crafts That Are In Demand

Would you like to earn money with your arts and crafts? Are you tired of working for someone other than yourself? Would you like to build a business with your own creativity? Do you wonder how to make your craft marketable?

Below are five tips that will help you make an income with your own arts and crafts.

Build a business foundation: When building a business to earn money with your arts and crafts, make sure your product is in demand and a marketable craft. When picking your foundation products, make sure they are not seasonal items. You need to pick products that can be sold year round, then add a
few holiday crafts throughout the year. If you choose to produce crafts that have a shelf life, try to pick just a few items to sell in addition to the foundation product. By adding a large variety of products
to your display you will draw the attention of many different customers.

Arts and Crafts that are in demand: Look for items that are needed such as:baby items, home decor, personalized gifts, holiday crafts, jewelry or other personal items. The list could go on and on- your opportunities could be endless. One approach to help you make a decisions on products is to visit boutiques, craft suppliers and other retail stores in your area. By doing this and researching what sells effectively in your area, you can make those very important decisions.

Determine necessity: The best-selling crafts are the ones that are needed by consumers, not ones that are simply wanted. If you are making something like beautiful baby quilts, they are far more likely to sell than something like a higher priced wood carving.

Make your arts and crafts target your demographic: Where will you be selling your product? Are you selling it at a Craft Boutique? Then perhaps, you should not make a hunting related product, save that for a Hunting and Camping Expo. Instead, make something like a wooden home de’cor product.

Don’t follow trends: Trends in crafts come and go. Don’t base your business solely on what’s hot right now. It’s okay to sell trendy and hot items, but make sure you also have a variety of other items for when this trend is no longer popular.

By using these five easy steps, you should be ready to choose the arts and or crafts you would like to create for your business. You should start out slow-only making a few of each item until you see what is going to sell. This way you are not going to be left with hundreds of left over products that you just did not market well. The most important thing to remember when starting your own retail business is to have fun with it, and to learn from your mistakes. You will make mistakes, but that is the way a good business is built.

MeconoMorph – A New Business Promotional Concept With the Help of Business Cards

MeconoMorph or MMORPH is a new art concept which combines business, art & math together and converts them into an incredible piece of art. That art is a growing, closely packed space of Mecon whose shape and size can be changed anytime. The best of all – it’s a stunning 3D structure made entirely from business cards.

Unlike most commonly uses cubes, MORPH concept is a lot different. It is because in this concept ‘mecons’ are used for creating 3D structures. The business cards used in building these 3D structures are artistically folded, smartly joined, strategically managed and superbly displayed to create an amazing 3D view which is an ultimate attention grabber. It’s extraordinarily appealing and colorful enough to pull people closer from a distance. It attracts awe and visibility to the art and the business cards used in the structures.

Using business cards for a piece of art is not only a brilliant concept, it is also one of the most innovative and economical way of promoting a business and boosting its sales. Business cards are not just pieces of cardboard with some letters printed on them. Every business card is a result of a very intimate and sometimes painful process of putting together everything which is important for a given business or activity. Businesses use their own brand, buildings, and employees in artwork and photography to promote their business, provide a certain aesthetic appeal, build their brand, and to enhance their corporate culture. MMORPH can be used in creating a unique 3D view with the business cards of a business house and gave it a different appealing identity with cost effectiveness and innovation.

MMORPH is a collaborative piece of art. Generally People/Businesses participate in it by mailing their cards. There is also a card collection box nearby all the MMORPH structures. There are a very few artistic projects which allow people to participate, MMORPH is one of them. It also creates an astonishing feeling in people when they find their card in the MeconoMorph super structure.

There is no end to MMORPH 3D structures. The more creative you are, the more astonishing structures would be. Every new concept has it’s own success stories. Until the invention of MMORPH idea, it has been turned out to be successful till date. Many ideas does not last long and easily forgotten with time. Will this concept turn out to be one of the best business promotional concept ever? Time will tell.

MMORPH actively calls for people participation. With huge success and growing MMORPH structures, the creator Viktor Gennel is now planning to start a blog which is going to honor every card in the structure by telling their individual stories, creating a media buzz around it. Some stories are brewing already.

Go for the Real Tax Thing, Use an Enrolled Agent

The whole tax return landscape is changing. Big things are happening to protect the average taxpayer from shoddy tax return preparers.

Until 2011, there was no regulation of unlicensed tax return preparers. Any-body could wake up in the morning and decide to do taxes for money. At the same time, the government subjected Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Actuaries, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, and Appraisers to strict regulation via Circular 230. Licensed tax preparers could face severe penalties and lose their licenses for if convicted of certain kinds of crimes, if they did not file their taxes, if they gave marginal tax returns or gave bad advice. That has changed. Now the IRS will regulate all paid tax return preparers.

In 2010 the IRS began the process by requiring everyone who wanted to prepare tax returns in 2011 to get or renew their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The government required even licensed professionals such as Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys, and Enrolled Agents to renew their PTIN. Licensed professionals will not have to prove their ability to prepare taxes again-they have already demonstrated competency. Furthermore, these licensed professionals have always been subject to continuing professional education requirements, not to mention staying current on their taxes & clear of the law.

Unlicensed tax return preparers must pass a test to prove their competency to prepare basic Form 1040s. If they pass the competency exam, the IRS will allow them to prepare more complex business returns, even though the IRS is not requiring them to prove competency there. No doubt, a few currently unlicensed preparers, who have renewed their PTINs, will not be able to demonstrate competency within the grace period, but still prepare taxes.

The competency exam is now available, therefore the IRS stopped issuing PTINs; the tax preparer wannabe must past the test before getting the PTIN. Once an unlicensed tax return preparer passes the test they will be able to use the designation Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP), and the IRS will allow them to prepare taxes.

Although, the competency test is now available, anyone who registered their PTIN before the test was available had three years to pass that exam. That means for the next couple of years, an individual taxpayer can still wind up pay-ing for slipshod tax return preparation and advice from an unscrupulous possibly felonious tax cheat. Yikes.

Enrolled Agents (EAs) are federally licensed tax practitioners who have passed stringent exams in the area of taxation. The federal government requires EAs to be knowledgeable in all areas of taxation: Personal taxes, business taxes, corporate taxes, payroll taxes, estate taxes, etc. as well as representing the taxpayer before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

As Circular 230 practitioners, the IRS has also tested EAs on their ethical responsibilities and obligations per that document and EAs are familiar with the consequences of breaking the rules. In addition to passing the rigor-ous Special Enrollment Exam, the IRS requires EAs to take 24 hours per year of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) including 2 hours of ethics every year in order to retain their license. If an EA is a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agent, they are required to take 30 hours of CPE per year. Remember EAs work for you, not the IRS.

EAs have limited privilege in representing the taxpayer before the IRS, when dis-cussing civil (not criminal) matters that do not constitute tax return preparation. In short EAs are taxation specialists, who work to stay current in the area of taxation, who can prepare any kind of tax form, and can represent the taxpayer at all levels of the IRS, whether they prepared a given tax return or not.

In contrast, when the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) passes their test, which will be a far less difficult exam than the Special Enrollment Exam, and gains their designation, the IRS will only require them to take 15 hours of CPE per year. RTRPs will have no privilege with their clients with respect to matters before the IRS because tax return preparation is not a covered privilege under Circular 230.

If you pay someone to do your taxes, make sure they sign on the tax preparer line and give a PTIN. Moreover, if you need help with your taxes or tax advice, as long as it is not criminal matter, you really should go to the tax specialists; hire an Enrolled Agent. For a criminal matter, hire a lawyer first; let your attorney hire the Enrolled Agent.

Finally when there are RTRPs out there, do not expect EAs to add the designation to their alphabet soup, it is kind of like saying Jane Doe PhD, High School Graduate. Who would do that?

As always, small business services and taxation are our business. If you need help with taxes, or other services, Please give us a call. We would love to engage you as a client.

The usual disclaimers: Although the author has made every effort to insure the accuracy of Taxes, Tips and Tools, misinformation, disinformation, changes, mistakes, typos and hackers happen, therefore GetMeOutOfThisShoebox.com, Art & Business Consulting LLC, its employees, members and other associates, take no responsibility for any action taken or results based on the information supplied here in. The content of this article generally applies to business and individual taxation in the United States of America. Internal Revenue Service Circular 230 Disclosure: As provided for in Treasury regulations, advice (if any) relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (2) promoting, market-ing or recommending to another party any plan or arrangement address herein. The author currently does not have a certified public accountant, human resource specialist, certified financial planner or an attorney on staff; this information is purely for educational purposes and not to be construed as legal or financial advice. The author, its employees, members and other associates are not engaged to practice law; you always should discuss legal matters with your attorney before talking to anyone.

Making Money From Art & Literature – Online

Is it possible to make money from art & literature online?

If you’re an artist, do you know who’s developing and presenting contemporary art & literature?

If you’re a online cultural organisation, do you know who your key competitors are?

By looking at Alexa, Best of the Web, and other sites – as well as from our own perspective – we’ve picked out five key sites bridging the gap between capitalism and contemporary art & design.

These are sites that use socialised internet tools like tagging, comments, and blogging; sites that are wholly or predominantly based around the development and publication of contemporary art and literature; and sites that are developing and presenting new work. Above all these are sites that are making a living either directly or tangentially through their activities.

We Make Money Not Art

The name says it all – headed by Régine Debatty, this blog started in 2004 to investigate ‘how often companies that develop and manufacture technologies actually meet the hackers and artists who have a more playful or activist approach to them. Do these two different worlds collide? If yes, how does it happen? If no, why not? Would it make any sense to try to change that non-communicative situation?’.

One of the most linked-to blogs, with an Alexa rating of 34,431, over 30% of its audience in the US and a regularly updated list of contributors, the site doesn’t actually generate revenues as a direct result of its advertising but rather via Debatty’s fees from writing and speaking.

Ad!dict

Based in Belgium, members collaborate on themed projects & share work via online profiles. Divided into a number of different areas – the addictlab, for example, allowing more experimental interaction – there is tremendous potential here to get involved in a wide range of new projects, either based on the themes or through interaction with other users.

This is one site that has spread its net wide in terms of a business model, supplementing revenue from retail of books and magazines with cultural funding, contextual advertising and business partnerships. However, with a net presence that seems to have been around since before the first bubble, there’s no question that this is a powerful force.

Stereo Publication

This is one organisation that falls down more on the design side than the pure art side – an on and offline magazine, they make their money through retail sales and luxury editions of their high-quality magazine.

A little like We Make Money …, Stereo claim not to be making money out of this activity – they say they are a non-profit organisation who are setting out to design new ways of developing magazines that are more creative. By including an online work-in-progress section for developing new projects, the processes are more visible – a low Alexa score does nothing to harm the fortunes of the group, who continue to turn out new work on a timely basis.

Born Magazine

Born have been around forever, and provide consistently high-quality content as well as some offline events. Their focus is art and literature, leaning towards new media.

This is where we see a quite different model – Born is financed through sponsors and through donations. This is a more organic, cultural model – and again, shows that with low overheads it’s possible to have a long-running art and literature magazine.

Magwerk

Finally, having moved right to the other end of the spectrum from We Make Money …, Magwerk are as close as you can get to a traditional publisher. Publishing a suite of lifestyle magazines including art and design, fashion, and music, these magazines are published as if they were physical, employing the kind of page-turning design you can now get for free on Formatpixel.

It may no longer be innovative – but it’s certainly making money. With full-page adverts from high-quality luxury goods companies, solid business partnerships and sponsorship, Magwerk are definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Summary

We asked if it was possible to make money from art and literature online. These five organisations show that not only is it possible – they make it look easy!