Yes, it’s possible to have a career in the arts: Read how a strong business model, an extensive network, and a love of music fuels ONYX Artists, an artist-run music agency.
As told to Hannah Cohen
We started a band shortly after moving to New York, playing music we loved with people we liked working with. After awhile, it came naturally to start booking for bands around us. Coming out of Berklee College of Music, we were surrounded by so many incredible musicians and it just made sense.
An extended network of us were all connected in this post-school web, all weaving in and out of each other’s projects and bands, so there was already an element of trust.
Our business model was based in keeping the bar very high in terms of musicianship, [which] kept everyone engaged and excited. The idea of creating jobs and some financial security for ourselves and all the talented people around us was really inspiring—that concept of growing a village of artists that’s in it together has always been exciting.
We all have a lot of projects: playing as sidemen with other touring artists, writing for TV and movies, developing our original music, finding other entrepreneurs and artists of different disciplines to collaborate in new ways…It’s a field with seemingly endless possibilities.
It’s all about perspective: Some artists think [ONYX] is a great idea; some will think you should never try to make money off your art. And then [ONYX] can still sound very artsy to Grownups with more traditional jobs.
Now that we’ve built a solid infrastructure for ONYX artists, our focus currently is refining our existing workflow so it works as best it can at this scale before trying to expand too much. We’re big on sustainability and keeping all of the artists/clients we work with happy, so you have to make sure that always comes first before trying to scale up.
There are many different ways to make a living as an artist nowadays. Don’t be afraid to explore outside your comfort zone and keep at it!
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Hannah Cohen is a storyteller, adventurer, and image maker based in Boston. See more of her work at hannahcohenphotography.com.