It is not a world wonder to see a famous Ghanaian artist die in abject poverty. From musicians to actors and directors, it is not surprising to hear of artists who have dedicated a chunk of their active years to their craft die penniless.
Art is first an art and then… a business. In this side of our world, however, it is almost rare to find artists have a sustainable career that may fetch them something tangible to make their lives better. Even though art is supposed to be a business, we can barely find a good number of artists who are genuinely living off their art.
Hollywood’s Jordan Peele’s first movie, Get Out, raked in $255.4 million worldwide which was an astonishing return on its budget of $4.5 million. His new screenplay, Us, is even set to make much more only few months after its premiere. This is just a single instance of how well art can be a sustainable business in some parts of the world.
In other news, Jay Z and Beyonce, as of July 2018, were of a combined worth of $1.255 billion. It is estimated that J. K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series, earned over $1 billion from book sales alone which was only her 15% royalty aside another $50 million from several Potter spinoffs.
The Ghanaian artist, on the other hand, struggles to make a few thousands of cedis the whole of their lifetime from their craft. They may be famous but their bank accounts are paupers. They may be celebrated all over the place but may have nothing to show for it. Little wonder most parents frown when their wards ever imagine pursuing a career in the arts.
Like most of our movies portray, the Ghanaian artist is being pursued by witches. Until these witches are done away with, art will always remain only an art in this part of our world… and not a business. Until we are able to remove the roadblocks in our path, it will be only a fantasy to want to make a fortune from one’s talent.
“Lack of support systems and structures!”
Every art industry stands on support systems and structures. Without such, no matter how much one invests, it will all sink. The first step to translate talent into wealth is to have systems that place value on that talent while it recoups every dime that talent makes.
If talent were a seed, the support systems and structures will be the soil in which it grows. Regardless of how viable a seed is, when the soil is not fertile, it won’t grow. John Peele and all the others are able to make that much from their passion because the support systems exist. There are facilities. There are equipment available. There are systems to trace every dime made from sales of their content.
Admittedly, having support systems and available structures is a government thing though private businesses can take some of such up. Where systems work, it is easy to profit from one’s sweat. Where support systems exist, one can be assured that when they sow their hard-earned money into an art product/service, they will get this seed back even if it won’t yield fruits.
“Lack of quality content!” Quality content is always hard to come by in the Ghanaian art space. Content that have been created with excellence are rare. If we want to reach the world, the only language they understand is excellence.
We can’t be making global waves with a local mindset. As a people, we can’t break the frontiers of the world with content that no one can relate with except us. Lack of support systems may be a great factor why the Ghanaian artist is not making as much as they should. However, we can’t downplay the role of quality content here!
Can we already have content that reflect our situation as a people? Can we tell our own story the best way we can instead of investing a fortune into retelling another man’s? Can we invest time and brains into consciously putting out sellable content that will last for a lifetime and not only the next award event?
While the artist wants the politician to think beyond the next election, that artist should also think beyond the next award event. That’s how quality content is made. The Ghanaian artist should invest their all into telling progressive stories facing us as a people. They should go beyond just comedy without any serious underlying message. They ought to go beyond creating content that will get applause only for a moment!
“Content creation before content marketing!”
If you want to engage in a cow business, the first thing to do is to ask about how money is made from cows― where cows are sold― who cows are sold to― ask about other spinoffs from rearing cows. You think about how to sell the cow before you buy the cow. You don’t buy the cow now when you don’t even know whether your supposed target market is made up of vegetarians or not. That is the clear case of most Ghanaian artists.
We invest so much into creating our content when we don’t even have a detailed marketing/sales plan. Having a great content with no plan on how to sell it is like putting a cart before a horse. It will get nowhere!
Art doesn’t sell itself. It is driven by carefully-mapped out strategies and schemes. It is consciously sold to those who are in dire need of it.
Before you create, have a market plan. Know how your craft is monetized. If you want to get into filmmaking, at least, spend some time knowing how people make money from movies. Get to know how films get on large platforms like Netflix. If you want to be an author, research on how bestsellers are made. Art is first an art… and then a business… else you will buy your cow and chew it yourself!
Kobina Ansah is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications ( www.scribecommltd.com ), an Accra-based writing firm. His new play is THE BOY CALLED A GIRL this July at National Theatre.
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