Jennifer Root, Hiring Assistant at DCM, Inc.
I am an artist. My great passion in life is opera. The expression of the music, the artistry of the performers, the set and the lighting, and the costumes and make-up all contribute to this incomparable visceral experience. I am a professional opera singer, and I have been lucky enough to perform some of my favorite roles on stages that once only existed to me on television. I was in the Houston Grand Opera Studio for four seasons, I stood in for Christine Goerke in a performance of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Glimmerglass Festival, and most recently I performed Senta in The Flying Dutchman with Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. When I was in school, I learned about music theory, music history, languages, style, and vocal technique. Essentially, all the basic components of “How to be a Performer.” This has all served me well, but one major component was lacking. Music is a business.
The Business of the Performing Arts
The longer I work as an artist, the more exposed I am to this reality. Music is a business. As artists, our education usually focuses on the production of our art form, and the business side of it is largely neglected. And yet, the truth is that arts are a business like any other. They have costs, budgets, goals, and deadlines. They have to make choices between projects, venues, artists, and a world of other factors. In the past few years, we’ve seen some august companies end up in hot water, or even become defunct for a number of different reasons. Artists are not only watching their favorite venues suffer, they’re watching their job opportunities disappear. At some point, we have to ask, what can I do to support my passion?
While there are many answers to this question, one of the simplest answers is to make sure there’s an audience. For most American non-profit performing arts organizations, ticket sales cover less than 50% of the costs of any given production. The rest is (hopefully) covered by private donors and underwriters. Both are essential to the survival of a performing arts organization. By concentrating on ticket sales, we not only ensure revenue, but we make sure there’s an audience for the performers. Believe me, nothing is as underwhelming as performing to an empty house.
Working in the Arts When I’m Not Working in the Arts
In May of 2015, I started working with DCM, Inc. as their Hiring Assistant. My main function is to make sure we have plenty of callers to support all of our non-profit performing arts and advocacy clients. I still continue to work as a singer, but now I also have a way to “give back” to the arts community. I gain great satisfaction from working on behalf of our clients. Instead of working a job that holds little interest for me outside of my paycheck, I’m working in a place that directly contributes to the success of respected arts organizations and advocacy programs. In addition, I’m surrounded by other artists who wanted to remain within the arts business when they weren’t actively working as artists themselves. My office is filled with actors, dancers, singers, authors, photographers, instrumentalists, and of course, salespeople. They come here because they love the arts, and want to see them flourish. They come here because they are great salespeople, and know they can earn good money. They come here because we offer flexible schedules that they can arrange around their auditions and classes. Mostly they come here because they love talking about their passion, and they want to share this joy with new and returning patrons. For many, this is a great way to earn money while they’re in school, or until they land a big artist’s contract. For some, it’s a great career opportunity. For everyone, it’s about serving non-profit organizations throughout the country.