Violinist Holly Mulcahy published an intriguing article at Inside The Arts on 4/13/2014 that focuses on how musicians can improve their own survivability by learning how to eat better while simultaneously saving money and wasting less. And even though she approaches the process from the perspective of helping her fellow musicians, everything she covers is equally well suited for arts managers; especially since many of them in early career positions scrape by from paycheck to paycheck like musicians.
It is rare for a month to go by where an emerging arts administrator doesn’t reach out asking for insight and advice on how to get ahead and although they generally expect shop talk and advice on the finer points of arts management, I tend to focus on the pitfalls that really chew up entry level and middle managers: living with the daily grind of being paid, shall we say, less than your true value.
Someday, I’ll write a book about the similarities between professional musicians and arts managers (spoiler: there’s more than most think); but until then, one of the most common reasons I see talented arts managers cycle out of the field is because they simply weren’t prepared to endure the grind of
living on lower income wages combined with a high pressure, time suck of a job.
It doesn’t take many years of eating low quality food, living with half a dozen roommates, spending half your food budget at bars, etc. for talented young professionals to become one more attrition statistic.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
As Mulcahy points out, they don’t teach home economics in music school (same goes for arts administration degree programs) but they really should, especially if the goal is to produce as many successful professionals as possible.
Nonetheless, she takes things into her own capable hands and draws on a career’s worth of hindsight to create an extensive guide for becoming what she describes as graceful, not wasteful.