Coming into its second year, Big Hearted Business (BHB) from singer-songwriter Clare Bowditch, is running its second conference on May 3 and 4. BHB is about giving artists that upper hand when it comes to making money. All the while putting creativity and caring front and centre. We chat to Clare about all things BHB.
DA: Let’s start with you telling us about BHB in your words and what it really means for you.
CB: Big Hearted Business is great. It’s my love project. I had it in my head for 10 years and I finally found a time last January that just felt right, so we launched a Pozible campaign. And it just went gangbusters. We wanted $26,000 to launch our conference and we hit that target in 5 days. By the end of the campaign 305 people had contributed $46,000 to our project. It was people who got it.
Essentially the main idea behind it is to teach creative people about business and business people about being creative in a way that makes sense. The part I am passionate about is starting with the artists. I know what it’s like to feel that it’s impossible to make money out of your art.
The conferences are for people like me who are bored of traditional conference centers and environments. It will be very interactive and community friendly. It’s about combining business with caring. And we think caring is the super power of the future.
DA: What was the catalyst that really made you want to create BHB?
CB: I used to run self-management courses for artists. I knew from my own experience; I built my career by asking questions, having good support, and getting lucky. So I knew there was a huge demand for that kind of knowledge.
Another moment was when one of my friends who was a great artist just gave up because she couldn’t find a way to make a living. If there could have been more conversations around that or more support for her we could still have her art today. And I love her art. This would happen again and again and I realized it was time.
DA: If you could have any person, dead or alive, speak at a Big Hearted Business event, who would it be and why?
CB: I think Plato would be incredible. He really understood the importance of creativity and education. He just got that a society based on values like caring, and businesses based on those values would create a good world.
DA: When did it hit you that you needed to, or could make money doing exactly what you wanted to be doing?
CB: For me it was a clear moment. I was shy, I didn’t like being on posters, I didn’t like publicity, I found conversations with record companies or corporate entities excruciating. And I didn’t see women like me fitting into the model of what it meant to be successful as a singer songwriter at the time.
I realised I was being gutless. So I applied for a grant with Music Victoria, it was called Vic Rocks, and it was for $7500. We got it. So it meant I could record my first album and with that came community radio, and me realizing I could do it my own way. Technology had changed. If I wanted to hand stamp all my first EPs I could. And I did. I could do it my way. Then I could negotiate with the industry about record deals and licensing fees from a place of strength.
DA: If you had to give one or two pieces of advice to young creative people, what would they be?
CB: Be brave and ask a lot of questions. Do you have a contribution to make creatively? Is there something you are doing that only you can do? If you’re still in love with it after all the admin and bullshit you have to go through to have an arts career, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Another practical piece of advice is to make sure people can find you. Put some time and effort into how your website looks. Make sure people can join your mailing list. You don’t have a career without an audience. Why are they coming to you? To know what you’re about. So let them know you.
DA: Your website says, “Clare believes that “work-life balance” is an elusive beast usually seen only out of the corner of one’s eye.” How do you manage writing albums, acting, Big Hearted Business, and having a family?
CB: There is a story that we all live with, that we should be doing it better. And that there are people who are doing it better. Then you meet these people and you’re in the room with them. Then you understand that they create all this incredible stuff, but we’re all just asking the same questions.
I think this idea of balance is a story that sells magazines. And this insecurity we have that someone else is doing it better leads us to want to read stories of people who are doing it better. We can learn stuff from each other. But there is no one who can balance your life for you.
A balanced day for me is today. I wake up early. Make breakfast. Sit down with my kids and we made these stupid little kites out of wool. And I’ve done something creative. It’s never going to be in a gallery but it’s something creative, then we can have conversations. This afternoon after interviews, I might do two hours of emailing.
As an artist you always need variety, you always need conversation. You always need space. You need enjoyment. That’s where the teaching creative people about business comes into BHB. It’s about enjoyment in business and for me there is no divide.
DA: Do you have any tricks to keep yourself motivated when you might experience a set back, or are time poor?
CB: I love what Claudia Karvan had to say in her inspiration bomb on our website. We all have set backs, we all get rejected. We all get a no when we were hoping for a yes. What she says is feel sh*t for a few days, go to bed early, or have a few sleepless nights, and then pick yourself up and get on with it again. The number of no’s I’ve got, if I took them personally I would forget to enjoy the yes’s.
Also when I’m just exhausted and burnt out, I turn off my phone and my computer and try to have a few technology free days and do things that I love. It’s very simple.
DA: What are your hopes for Big Hearted Business, in May, and then beyond that?
CB: Our grand and ambitious hope is that we’ll be useful to people and that we’ll contribute something to the conversation in Australia that a lot of people want to talk about but don’t have the space to do so. And that we will help people build communities that support them. And keep creating things of beauty.
For more information on Big Hearted Business and how to get tickets to the conference on May 3 and 4, check out their website.