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Artists As Entrepreneurs: Do Artists Know Anything About Market Development For Creative Industries?

Matabeleland artists need to have management skills to enhance their ability to grow their businesses. Image by Gallery Fuel

BY THABANI H. MOYO | @thabanih | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | FEB 19, 2022

The creative industries — which include advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing among others — are the lifeblood of the creative economy.

BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — The world over, it has been acknowledged that creative industries contribute immensely to economic growth and provide employment opportunities.

But the question that boggles the mind of average artists in Zimbabwe today, especially those from Matabeleland, is why they have failed to become an integral part of this vibrant creative economy, and why is there little support, if any, for their works from local and central government, and the corporate world.

The arts feature in Zimbabwe’s national development strategy, but only on paper.

What is an average artist expected to do to enjoy the benefits of their craft?

Do artists have relevant management skills to enhance their ability to grow their businesses and become creative business entrepreneurs? Do they have skills required in terms of financing, pricing and marketing their products?  This article focuses on empowering Matabeleland artists on some of the marketing strategies that they can utilise in running their creative enterprises.

Market development is a crucial factor for the success and sustainability of a creative enterprise. Finding a market allows artists from across the chain to earn a living from their activity.

It is important for artists to know the existing and potential markets in their various sectors in terms of income, location, education, gender and age. Many times, we have had artists from the region complaining about being snubbed by locals but the question that still remains is:  Did the artists carry out their market research?

The challenge that is faced by the artists starts with their creative product. Do artists consider that the consumers/audiences of their products are communicators in their own right? The artistic product carries within it images or information that reflects the buyer of the product.

People will attend a theatre show because it reflects on what they also want to communicate. Consumers of the creative products buy them not because of what they can do for them but because of what they mean to them. The recognition that creative goods are part of a communication system opens many possibilities of explaining the insatiable character of modern creative consumption without mobilising concepts such as greed and envy and explaining why people may sometimes be prepared to forego necessities in order to buy luxuries.

It is also important that artists view their possible customers as explorers and seekers of identity. Identity is a major and continuous preoccupation for every individual and self-identity becomes a deliberated, planned effort. So the artist/ producer has to take such motivation into consideration when designing creative goods and when planning their delivery.

It is also important that artists don’t take consumers of their products for granted. Audience members are also creative in their own right. Their imaginations, desires, needs and fantasies should be considered by the creative artist. It is important for the product to create interpersonal relationships with them.

The intrinsic uniqueness of a creative product initially leads to uncertainty about its quality and ultimately to satisfaction. It is therefore, advantageous for the artistic producer to inform consumers/audiences about the existence of these products and also to associate elements that make them more comprehensible to consumers who can then draw satisfaction from them. These elements can be achieved through advertising materials like critical reviews, fliers and videos. 

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In conclusion, artists as entrepreneurs must have creative marketing skill sets in identifying relevant target consumer groups, analysing meeting points of various consumers and knowing that the perception of quality may vary depending on the media used. Having a strategic marketing plan can become a fundamental guideline for the creative entrepreneur. It is time that artists took their craft as serious business. Artists need to be equipped in coming up with viable business models.