Innovating Through Artistry

Invest in a Neighborhood Artist

In The Idea on June 30, 2008 at 7:06 am

Do you think investing your money into the career of a neighborhood artist would be a good one? The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble website is about to launch, hopefully this next week, and we will be asking for donations for our Artists Fund to help ensure a bright future for the artists we showcase.

But this week in the Denver Post a reader asked journalist Randy Cohen about a different kind of investment. Here was his question:

Question: My friend, a young artist at the start of his career, offered to sell me a 1 percent share in him for $9,000. I would receive a portion of his lifetime earnings but would have no say in the sort of work he did. This seems like a good deal for us both, but it does feel a bit like slavery. Is this agreement ethical? — Patrick Hebron, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Answer: This deal might show a lack of business acumen — few artists hit the jackpot — but it is not unethical. This scheme is akin to investing in any corporation, albeit a corporation of one. Your slavery analogy is inapt. The key moral element in slavery is the slave’s lack of say in the matter. (Pick cotton? For no pay? And frequent beatings? Count me in!) Your friend’s situation differs significantly even from indentured servitude in that it places no restrictions on what sort of work he does or where or for how long he does it. His only obligation is to pay out some of his proceeds.

There is even a sort of precedent: Bowie bonds. In 1997, David Bowie issued $55 million worth of 10-year bonds backed by the revenue from 25 of the albums in his catalog. The venture began well, but in 2004 the bonds’ rating fell to just above junk-bond status, partly in response to falling record-industry sales. Your friend gets quick cash; you get a shot at a Picassoesque payday, a fair opportunity for you both.

So, here is a new idea– start a business offering an investment service for donors to invest in your most talented neighborhood artists, the creative capital of our future, for a return on their investment for both of you. Use the Kiva Organization Model and you will be an instant innovator.

New ideas are the currency of the creative economy….

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