The Revolution Will Not Be Televised | How Can Artists Survive & Thrive in the New Economy?

by Helen Aldous

There is revolution in the air. Unless you have spent the last four or so years on Mars you can’t have missed the restless loss of direction of the western world as it has struggled to make sense of the momentous economic catastrophes unravelling all around. Security, certainty and jobs have been sucked into a wild vortex of global meltdown.

But, it is in shifting miasmic times like these that revolutions happen… Rules can be rewritten, systems can be changed. Paradigms shift… Revolutions can create positive new opportunities…

The times they are a changing…

Seth Godin, in a recent post, talked about the fact that the jobs, as we know them, aren’t coming back…

“Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.” – Seth Godin

It’s not about waiting for the old jobs to come back. That isnt going to happen. It is about taking things into your own hands and creating the work that you want to do… and as artists and artisans we are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this change…

But revolutions are not always bloodless…

Anyone who has ever been made redundant, or laid in bed at night wondering how they were going to feed the kids or pay the mortgage or stop the car being repossessed knows that a revolution is a terrifying time… I have been there. Opportunities for change are balanced by loss. Dreams of a new start are often founded from the stomach churning nightmare of disaster. How can we move forward without being paralysed by fear of what the future holds?

The revolution of the mind starts here…

Poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron, talking about his spoken work masterpiece “The revolution will not be televised” said

“The first place revolution takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you’re living and the way you move.” Gil Scott-Heron

A new revolutionary mindset is called for. A realisation that YOU HAVE THE POWER.

“When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.” - Seth Godin


Artists and creative people have always had the kind of skills needed to survive in the artworld. Self motivation, Pro activity, focus, passion and a burning desire to create something wonderful. These skills now stand you in good stead.

The difference between the past and now is that you don’t need anyone else to sell or promote or make things for you. The tools available today offer the ability to connect and reach all over the world. We are in unprecedented times.

Don’t sit and wait for someone else to create a job for you. Create your OWN.

You CAN take the red pill and break out of the system.

Think laterally.

So how can we push forward? The failing economy has meant that it has become harder for artists to sell some kinds of work. Buyers cut back on non essential purchases, meaning that they might not buy a painting they wouldn’t have though twice about purchasing three years ago. Art sales are lower in some areas and it may seem like an uphill battle to find a place in the new economy. What can you do?

The answer is to think laterally and find a place where your creative skills and a NEED come together. Look around. What do people or businesses really need {not just want} and how can you help them with that?

When you find the intersection between what you love creating, and a need, then you will have found the sweet spot that will open work opportunity for you. Creating, solving peoples problems and getting paid for it. Perfect.

Focus on flexibility and improving your business skills. Understand how things work in business so that that you can ride the wave rather than getting swept along by it. Start to create multiple income streams from your skills all of which can contribute to your household income and offer protection against market fluctuations.  Maybe, in time you will be able to create opportunities for others who are less well equipped for the journey…

Brave New World.

The world is changing and this can be disconcerting and frightening but whilst every revolution shakes up the system, often what comes after is much better. The jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon and the shape of the new recovery will not be the same as the old way. It’s not an easy road by any means, but surely it’s time to reform the economic landscape to be more humane. To work in ways that are FOR people, rather than AGAINST them. You have the creative skills and mindset to be at the forefront of this revolutionary new landscape.

Time to be brave and grasp the opportunity of a new paradigm


The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat.

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments or share this post on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

kara rane October 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm

hi Helen-
first I must commend you for directing Our attention to Gil Scott Heron,
way ahead of his time and one of my favorite artists.
I am completely optimistic about the changes occurring and have felt they were necessary for a long time. love You Gil*


Helen Aldous November 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

Thanks. The older I get, the more profound, relevant and important I find his lyrics are. Great artist.


Helen Aldous October 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Megan Manske also wrote a brilliant post as a follow on from this one titled “Wake up and paddle”

You can read it on her great blog here


Megan October 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Thanks so much for the kind words Helen!


Helen Aldous October 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

No problem Megan. Great post


Elisa Choi October 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Helen, I love this entry and it certainly helped a lot of artists like myself to ride with the changes of the economy rather than be swept by it. I really love this part that you wrote:

When you find the intersection between what you love creating, and a need, then you will have found the sweet spot that will open work opportunity for you. Creating, solving peoples problems and getting paid for it. Perfect.

I guess the only thing that we have to do is to get better at we do each day and then we can be confident enough to face and offer what we are good at to the world. Thanks!


Helen Aldous October 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thanks Elisa
I really believe that we as artists have a brilliant skill set to adapt to these modern times. Our creative thought processes make us great at flexibility and lateral thinking. As you say though we just need to grow our confidence in ourselves [as we very often spend our lives being told we are wrong/not good enough/swimming in the wrong direction etc} We CAN do it.


Helen Aldous October 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm


Thanks for your comment and the links to the GREAT resources!. They are SO brilliant for anyone who has any kind of Etsy presence. Thank You!

and absolutely!… Occupy Your Studio!!!


Laura S Fisher October 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Thank you for this great and energizing post! I am completely in favor of going with the flow of the new economic paradigm. I want to share some free resources that will be VERY helpful to everyone as we brazenly take advantage of the best economic system ever for the small, creative business! Recently Etsy held an event called Hello Etsy Summit on Small Business and Sustainability in Berlin ( and other global locations) and the proceedings are archived at

It was 100% worth my while to get up very early to watch these presentations live in Berlin. I recommend them to everybody and to be honest, I was disappointed that only 500 people attended live and ~600 were watching via Livestream as I was. I hope everyone will take the time to savor these English language presentations because there are many ideas you can use right now to grow your own successful creative business in alignment with the new paradigm. Occupy Your Studio!
Laura S Fisher recently posted..Knitting Vintage Yarns for Fall


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