The myth of the starving artist. Financial Life or Financial Lie.

facebooktwitterlinkedinby featherMartin-GuitarI was speaking with a client recently,  whose wife had health issues. He was telling me how his focus is on her healing. When I spoke to the wife, she indicated that she wanted to travel while she still could, but the husband was reluctant, blaming her health concerns. There seemed to be a disconnect on what was being said by the husband and what was being communicated by the wife. Where is the truth? Can health issues of a loved one  actually mask the  real problems? I will let a psychologist answer this question.

I will attack how money issues can mask problems. What comes to mind is the “starving artist” myth. The artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork, or the artist who just gives up and blames leaving what she loves for financial reasons.

When I was in college, I announced to my mom that I was going to major in music. She immediately said, please also get a teachers license so you can have something to fall back on. I did take her advice. It turned out she was spot on.  But for the wrong reason. When I graduated college in the 70’s there were few teaching jobs, and fewer music teaching jobs. So I decided to create my own music teaching business, and opened up a successful music school. At our height, we were teaching 1,000 students a week!  Now if I decided not to major in music, which was and continues to be a passion, for financial reasons, that would have been a financial lie. An excuse for not realizing  my passion. Today I am a financial advisor. I am also a guitarist and I use my talent during my financial talks, to help keep the audience engaged, as only music can. I use all of my talents to help my family clients and friends create financial health. This is my purpose and my opportunity.

I believe today the artist who blames her woes on a lack of financial opportunities may need to adopt a new mind set. To think more broadly on what her talents actually are.

Artists have choices by offering their art in innovative ways. Mike Rayburn is a perfect example of an artist who re-defined himself. Mike changed his mindset from a guitarist to an international motivational speaker/entertainer. Here’s the narrative from his web site.

He uses world-class guitar and hilarious comedy to teach the three simple, powerful tools which took him from playing empty bars to headlining Carnegie Hall (eight times!) When organizations need innovation and peak performance, where do they go? Usually it’s to business leaders, authors, or famous sports figures. Rarely do they go to artists! Yet for artists, creativity, innovation and peak performance are their life blood. Being a mega-successful artist, as well as a savvy entrepreneur and business owner, Mike Rayburn is uniquely qualified to teach artistic principles in a business context,to give businesses and organizations the edge they so desperately need to innovate and perform at peak “virtuoso” levels…. and thus transform their success and significance.

The musician’s value transcends music performance. In Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, he discusses how a humble storefront music school in Dallas, Texas, produce Jessica Simpson, Demi Lovato and a succession of pop music phenoms. Or how music psychologists, tracked a young music student’s ability  to accelerate her learning speed by ten times, while not even noticing.

In the Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, the authors opine on how the rigor of learning an instrument can be key as an agent of change.

The history of transformational phenomena- the Internet, for example, or paradigm shifts in science, or the spread of a new religion- suggests that transformation happens less by arguing cogently for something new than by generating active, ongoing practices that shift a culture’s experience of the basis for reality. So it takes dedication, a leap of faith, and yes practicing to get them into your repertoire.

The art of practice  is something the artist is uniquely qualified for.  I will end with a quote from one of my guitar heroes, Mr. Guitar, Chet Atkins,

Approach your guitar intelligently, and if there are limits, don’t deny them. Work within your restrictions. Some things you can do better than others, some things you can’t do as well. So accentuate the positive.

A great lesson for all of us to learn.

Written by Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman

Jaimie Blackman — a former music educator & retailer— is a Certified Wealth Strategist & Succession Planner. Jaimie helps business owners maximize the value of their company through education & coaching. He is a frequent speaker at the National Association of Music Merchants, (NAMM) Idea Center and has spoken at Yamaha’s succession advantage.

As a financial literacy educator he has taught at New York University and has lectured at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount Manhattan College and CUNY.

His column is published in The Music & Sound Retailer and contributes to NAMM U online, as well as other industry trade magazines.

Jaimie is CEO of Jaimie Blackman & Company, President of BH Wealth Management, and Creator of MoneyCapsules® and the Sound of Money®.

To register for Jaimie’s live webinars, or to subscribe to his podcasts, visit

The purpose of this post is to educate. Our content should not be construed as advice. If legal, tax or other advice is required by the readers, professional advice should be sought.

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