The World's Your Stage

How Performing Artists Can Make a Living While Still Doing What They Love

The World's Your Stage

Authors: William F. Baker, Warren C. Gibson, Evan Leatherwood
Pub Date: January 2016
Print Edition: $19.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436158
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436165

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As Sir Clive Gillinson, the director of New York City’s Carnegie

Hall, says, sometimes when you’re at a loss for answers it is because

you are not asking the right questions. Simply ask new questions,

and instead of a problem you’ll see new paths forward. In that

spirit, this chapter presents some questions you might not have

thought to ask yourself yet, along with some helpful answers.


These questions are geared toward performers who want to start

their own organizations, those who are coming to be called artist-

entrepreneurs. The more traditional routes are still there for actors,

musicians, and dancers, but at least for the moment, there are fewer of

those jobs and the pay is lower than in the past. That doesn’t mean you

should not consider those traditional routes! But the whole idea of this

book is to entice you toward creative experimentation—trying out as

many options as you can until you find something that works. In addition

to regular career paths, entrepreneurship is being embraced by

more and more successful young performing artists as a powerful way

of advancing or augmenting their careers.


By far the most important question to ask is: “Why are you going into

the performing arts business?”

What are you planning to do that’s unique and special?

You can’t just say, “I just want to play, act, or dance.” Your plan can

start with that desire, but it has to evolve into more. For example, one

of my students, Alex Lipowski (see Chapter 7), was a percussionist at

Juilliard. In the course of his academic career, he saw that there was an

unmet need for an ensemble to perform experimental new percussion

music. So he and a friend organized a group of talented, like-minded

performers who began to work together outside of class. They found

that people enjoyed not just the music but also the spectacle of a bunch

of percussionists whaling away on their drums and appropriated percus-

sion instruments, like discarded car parts and Tibetan singing

bowls. As time went on, Alex’s supporters organized themselves and

donated funds to help support the work, and the Talea Ensemble was

born. Talea now performs at venues worldwide and receives contribu-

tions from individuals and foundations to help pay the performers.

Alex is an example of real success in a very narrow niche of the

performance world. What started as a general love of percussion grew

into a specific passion for new music for nontraditional instruments.

Connecting with a very narrow but passionate audience like Talea’s is

one secret to success. Alex had a passion, discovered a niche, devel-

oped a plan to fill that niche, and executed it well.

It is critical that you be on the lookout for exactly what your business

will do and why it’s different. Developing the concept may take as

much creativity as all the rest of your work. You will need to pursue

your broader interests, try out a variety of ideas, and be open to both

success and failure. To help clarify what your future business will be,

start by asking yourself the questions that follow.

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