I was in a meeting yesterday and realized yet again that the language artists use when trying to make a point sometimes just does not work when dealing with people from the business/money world. We want people to judge what we do based on artistic results and feel that if there is a given record of qualitative improvement, that we should be able to justify what we do even if there is no empirical evidence behind our rationales for how we implement artistic objectives. And this goes well beyond ticket sales!
We want people to say 'you are doing a great job and if it's not broke, we're not going to fix it,' when in reality many times strong quantifiable evidence is required to secure all types of funding when dealing with people who are used to looking at market based research, which can not measure the qualitative side of performance. It's hard for musicians to get their heads around this fact. When in conversation and in meetings, I have seen even extremely bright people become circuitous in trying to make a point when the desired response is not forthcoming (and this unfortunately means me sometimes)!
What's the answer? I think we need to begin to train collegiate students in the arts how non-profit and for-profit boards function. We need to require that accounting and marketing be classes that fulfill the liberal arts requirements, since both of these are things one needs in an artistic career. I think we need to have a portion of a class dedicated to conflict resolution, since most students are terrible at this! I think we need to require that students take a course that offers web design, database management, and basics of recording as part of their technology training. I think that we need to start to teach students the language they'll need use to effectively when dealing with business folks who they will see in their careers and who make decisions using different criteria than how well someone plays or sings.
I feel like I am slowly developing a business acumen now, which I wish I would have had long ago and which could have come from stronger training when I was a student. While I know curricula is already heavy in most institutions like at Montclair State University where I teach, I believe that my advocacy for this approach is going to become more focused and stronger in the coming weeks given the fact that I continue to find folks in my position making well intentioned mistakes that hopefully future students can avoid.