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  • Ben Carter

Kanye West: A Starving Artist Who Just Wants to Create

I believe Kanye West Rants to be a national treasure, worthy of showcase inside Washington, DC’s most important museums. I’d suggest the placement of transcripts of major Kanye-Rants a few rooms away from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or at least next door to First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2013, Thom Browne inauguration coat.

Any time over the last decade we’ve heard Kanye Yeezy West give an in-depth interview, author a tweet or publish a letter he wrote to his pen pal, we knew there would be some nugget of insight waiting to be unraveled from its unclear, meandering and occasionally narcissistic gift wrapping.

When you analyze controversial actions and/or statements made by the Chicago native and rapper, there is often, at least a thread of truth one can point to to say, “He has a point”.

Days ago, in the lead up to music’s biggest night, The Grammys, Kanye West began a string of tweets all giving clues to his current financial situation. The tweets covered a number of topics including his appreciation of Adidas for supporting his artistry, his desire to encourage others to dream big and hope that Mark Zuckerberg would utilize his wealth and connections to fund his dreams.

Frankly, I didn’t read every Tweet considered part of this particular Kanye-Rant, but I got the picture. It appears Mr. West is in personal debt surpassing $53 million. In music, M.C. Hammer is held up as the one of the most epic financial failures to ever go from having excess to much less in personal wealth, filing for bankruptcy in April of 1996. If Kanye’s tweets are a true representation of his financial reality, he may end up dethroning M.C. Hammer as the most incredible rap artist to lose complete sight of his personal finances.

I could easily go into all the things that probably went wrong for Mr. West to find himself indebted $53 million. However, I always try my best to stay positive and upbeat about finances rather than condemning people for having allowed money to get the best of them. In searching for a replacement for the “Kanye did X, Y and Z wrong”, it was brought to my attention that Kanye West, despite his acclaim, awards, opportunity, music and fame… is still a starving artists.

Starving Artists or Incompetent Business Person? At Manage Your Damn Money we interview artists and entrepreneurs to arrive at a better understanding of the best ways to continue to be able to create art and to live. I’ve heard a number of stories and perspectives about how artists and entrepreneurs make ends meet. What’s very clear is artists are (at some point) required to become competent business people. This is what Kanye, M.C. Hammer and other “rags-to-riches-to-rags” stories seem to have in common; an ineffective transitions from “artist” to “business person”.

The Problem with "I Just Want to Create" We hear and see this statement all the time. People who make music, paint or write love to say it -- “I just want to create.” Cooked into this statement is a desire to avoid the responsibility of earning income and becoming an intelligent business person. It would be far easier if artists could go to the Office of Art and Creation to submit for a grant large enough to live on until we are 73. Unfortunately, the Office of Art and Creation is a figment of my imagination and so is not a viable business plan for paintings, musical compositions or a beautiful singing voice. There are far too many stories to count about musicians and artists who could think of nothing more than creating; they couldn’t think about the aggregate costs of their art. They couldn’t think about whether or not the contracts they signed minimized their exposure and maximized their guaranteed income. They couldn’t think about whether their gravy train would ever end and what their plan would be if it did. If creating for the benefit of being paid for your work, you do not have the luxury of forgoing becoming a competent business person. There is no guidebook for becoming the next successful mogul, but if you read enough books (I’m on page 145 of Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” right now), watch enough interviews and read enough posts like this one, you’re more likely to be able to do so than if not. There are likely 623 reasons why Kanye West is in the financial situation he is in now. But those reasons don’t matter if we don’t agree to learn something from his mistakes. If your dream is to become a great artist, then it must also be your dream to become great at figuring out how to be paid for your art (and invested in secondary streams of income). This is the cost of becoming a full-time “creator”. I’d suggest you get about the work of figuring out how to do it, or you can wait to see if Mark Zuckerberg decides to open up that Office of Art and Creation.

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