I've talked before about the beauty of independent artistry. The freedom that you are given to create your art is such a gift and a blessing. To be able to hone and own your craft under your own guidance is one wonderful thing. To be able to successfully produce and market your artistry is a greater accomplishment that often takes years to achieve. I just recently became a producer when I organized and produced my one-woman show, Hell and Back, for my senior thesis project (March, 2011). It was the first time I've had almost complete control (you never fully have complete control) and I solely supported the production financially. Although hundreds of dollars went into this one-hour long production that ran for two performances, I was able to walk away proud of my accomplishments and with a new credit on my resumé.
However, in the real world, it hasn't been as simple. Money gets funny in the real world when you have bills to pay, loans to re-pay, and general life expenses that thwart plans of recording a demo or helping a friend produce an Off-Broadway play. In the theatrical business, securing an acting gig is much harder without the help of an agent or manager. Having, recently disposed of the manager I was freelancing with, I have still been blessed with amazing opportunities; generally, however, the business is much more brutal without representation.
For visual artists, the struggles are greatly apparent in the financial risks. Yes, one can sell her art independently of a broker. However, there are natural fees that protect the works of the artists (copywriting and patenting) that can be huge expenses. Also, a visual artist has a greater chance of getting her work seen if she has an agent, manager, or organization backing and promoting her, yet another fee.
In addition to the normal copywriting fees that come along with protecting your works, it is advised that most serious artists, performing/creative/visual, hire an on-call lawyer and accountant to consult with throughout the duration of their professional career. When deciding to be an independent artist, one has to think about all of these factors that will ultimately determine the creative and financial success of their career. Although monetary success isn't everything–the arts are DEFINITELY not where the money is!– in order to produce and potentially profit from art, you have to initially put money behind the project. It goes back to that old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.”
I encourage every independent artist to keep the faith. If you choose to go down the road of finding representation, make sure you find the person or people who have your best interests at heart. Don't just sign your life away to anything or anybody just to say “I have a manager/agent/lawyer, ” or “I am signed with _____ record label.” Be careful and thoughtful about your selection. Lastly and most importantly, never compromise who your are as an artist or person for fame or fortune promised. As we all know, this all fades. At the end of the day, art that comes from soul of a righteous human is invincible.