Art of any type strikes fear into the hearts of most investors. It's emotional, it's unpredictable, it requires vast amounts of startup capital, and too often it's a giant sinkhole for their money.
While investors always look for passion in an entrepreneur, they'd prefer that it not blind the entrepreneur involved in an artistic pursuit to the realities of business development.
We're not talking about art collecting or other aspects of buying and selling art. Rather, we're discussing the financing of art production - writing that novel, creating that artwork, backing that movie, or staging a theatre or musical production.
There's a reason why they call them starving artists. And investors would prefer not to starve along with them.
Yet Edmonton's Mercury Opera bravely appeared before the Dragons and asked for $575,000 to mount a "re-imagined" production of the opera Pagliacci off Broadway in New York, the world centre for theatre.
It was a bold and gutsy gambit for leader Darsha Pareda to ask a collection of hard-nosed investors to put every fear aside and take a wild chance on a theatre production in the boneyard of so many other broken dreams.
Yet she almost pulled it off with an appropriate and beautifully staged presentation of the jealous clown Canio singing his most famous aria ("laughing on the outside, crying on the inside") to the Dragons. There's no point in "thinking small", she told them.
They were obviously moved and had to think for some time about whether to forget their reservations and fund the venture.
But then, as it usually does when someone asks financiers for money to get a business going, cold hard facts came into it. Passion is one thing, and is admirable, but investors usually look for some evidence of return.
When they put up money, they're essentially betting on a horse and they'd like some certainty not only that the horse will finish in the money, but finish at all.
Simply, successes like Cirque du Soleil are very few and far between. Theatre productions are among the most expensive ventures to undertake, and probably have the least success rate in business terms. For example, Jim pointed out that he lost a million dollars in one day on a production the previous year.
So while they thought about it - Kevin, surprisingly, being the most torn of all -- the Dragons eventually voted with their heads instead of their hearts. They had to send the Mercury Opera troupe off stage, crying on the outside this time.
Tony Wanless is Certified Management Consultant (CMC) who concentrates on the SME segment. He is a frequent business plan writer, pitch guide, and business plan judge for competitions. His businesses include Knowpreneur Consultants, a provider of Content Marketing strategy and services to SME's, Reinventionist, an innovation consultancy to professionals who form their own independent businesses. He is currently launching tonywanless.com, which provides communication guidance and real-time digital editing services for leaders in the technology, finance and academic sectors.
Tony is also a columnist and blogger for BC Business Magazine and the Financial Post. A former financial journalist and editor, Mr. Wanless has a long history as a communicator, writer and advisor with Venture Capital and angel investors in Canada. He is a frequent business plan writer and pitch guide for technology start-ups and often acts as a mentor and judge in business plan competitions. Follow Tony on Twitter at @reinventionist
Posted on Sep 22, 2011 6:00:00 AM