Understanding of the Creative Portfolio

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What capabilities do musicians need in order to create sustainable careers in twenty-first-century, what does the creative career look like today and what is the implication of education, current economical landscapes on creative people today. In order to understand such statements it is important to review recent research into modern-day creative work, especially regarding what is known about the distinctive portfolio career patterns of professional creatives. Hopefully initiating a deeper understanding of key elements in the creative work sector.

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It has been thought that the attitude to how we work is changing. Researcher Richard Florida describes a new economic creative class, which he believes will dominate economic and cultural life.

“We work more independently and find it much harder to cope with incompetent managers and bullying bosses. We trade job security for autonomy. In addition to being fairly compensated for the work we do and the skills we bring, we want the ability to learn and grow, shape the content of our work, control our own schedules and express our identities through work.”

Also, Charlie Ball, director of research at careers website Prospects states in a Guardian article that multi-strand careers are a growing and is a part of the job market that many graduates are choosing over other careers. “In 2013, only 20% of those with portfolio careers were doing so because they needed to take more than one job to make a living,” With that in mind, workers tend to no longer stay with the one company their whole life and it seems normal to shift industries more than once in a career. People are seemingly demanding more options in regards to flexibility with work. This new option for a career is what professor John Hartley calls an individual portfolio career. To define the term; it is when people do a combination of jobs; this could include temporary or casual jobs, contracts, short term projects and freelancing. This type of work suits people who have multiple interests, who are good at multitasking and are organised and self-motivated.

However, this way of working is also an option for people who can’t find full-time work in a difficult economic environment. The portfolio career suits creatives very well because the uncertainty of a consistent salary shapes the decisions and work arrangements throughout the creative work sector.

This could be blamed on companies and cultural organisations that manage their work with project-based objectives and flexible employment, using short-term contracts to hire artists to do jobs on a case-by-case basis, avoiding high employee costs while remaining adaptable to the shifting marketplace demands. Artists and creatives manage this uncertainty by holding multiple jobs, using on the job learning and work that allows them to compete for many different types of jobs and roles, developing and maintaining strong networks in order to seize opportunities and to secure jobs through their career connections.

After reading on the positives and negatives of the portfolio career, is the portfolio career a solution to the ever-changing workplace or a hindrance to the economic and social growth of the young today, are we creating a multi-talented workforce capable of adapting to whatever society throws at us or are we creating a jack of all trades master of none workforce? While traditional specialisation continues in some artistic fields, the overall pattern, many argue, is toward generalisation, flexibility, and broad competencies, rather than specific skills.

To support my previous thoughts, in an online news article Madeline Dore interviewed creative freelancers who explained that building variable skills was vital for their success. Continuing to learn skills was important to the growth of their careers and the way they developed career skills was through education, mentorships and online courses. The interviewed freelancers expressed that they were happier with this type of career as they got to discover what made them happy and were not confined to a specific position. Manager, teacher and volunteer Christian Stena states in the article:

“It’s really about us being able to bring to life all the different components that make us up and make us who we are, rather than investing everything into one particular basket.”  One downside to a potential portfolio career could be that artists will need to spend as much time working on their skills as they would on a job and some of these diverse skills might not seem at all related to their current creative practice and therefore a waste of time.

As we now know the workplace is moving towards portfolio careers, it is out of necessity that many musicians will take on an evolving range of simultaneous and overlapping paid and unpaid, predominantly part-time and freelance work in order to carve out a practical living . A report on employment in the Australian arts states about six in ten musicians maintain their own businesses, so with that data, it’s possible that applies to even larger business markets around the world.

Musicians have the opportunity to be a part of multiple avenues in the music industry, this may include: performing, teaching, composing, managing and other roles, its also possible for a musical to work within multiple styles of music such as pop, classical, jazz and so on. You only have to look at world-renowned musicians such as; Ludwig Göransson who has Grammy awards as well as an Academy Award for film composition, Tom Holkenborg  who has scored a number of successful films as well as having pop music hits. Those are just two examples of many musicians I can name who work different avenues in music.

But more relevant is that the music-related work may also be supplemented by additional work such as the ‘day job’ in order to maintain financial viability to support your creative passion . A recent analysis of Australian Census data (Cunningham & Higgs, 2010) suggests that musicians’ employment options can be quite diverse. It seems most university-level music students such as myself view performing as their eventual and preferred work destination, but there are few performance jobs in music, so spreading out the opportunities is preferred for the modern-day musician.

Continuously developing your skills is key to maintain a portfolio career. The report ‘Creative Graduate Futures’ states that; active learning through project-based enquiry is seen as central to the creative curriculum in higher education. Students not only learn to solve set problems in a creative way, but they also develop the ability to identify and to redefine problems and to raise and address appropriate issues. Many of the skills and attributes required for creative employment, such as creativity, problem-solving, independence, innovation, enterprise and collaborative working are embedded within the creative learning process . From my experience, as a music student, I hesitate to agree with this, as independence and collaboration in my higher education experience have been vital.

The explicit value of a creative education can be difficult to define although there is data to suggest the alignment of the current portfolio career workplace and creative education. Graduates felt that their creative education had developed the skills required for their careers, rating most highly creativity and innovation but had less well developed; networking and client facing skills. Self-confidence and self-managmentement were considered to be the most important to careers, yet they were felt to be less well developed than creative skills. Entrepreneurial skills were the least well developed and also perceived to be the least important for career development, which confuses me as with a portfolio career it would seem entrepreneurial skills should be highly valued in education. Just over half the graduates (52%) felt their course had prepared them very or fairly well for the world of work . This statistic may highlight the issue with music education, hopefully, music education has progressed since 2010 and based on my experience we now seem to be well prepared for the world of work.

I wanted to have a better understanding of a PDP (Personal Development Plan) before I undertook the task of creating my own. As previously talked about, in a portfolio career one of the major components is the parallel journey of personal and career development. This constant work and development can take a toll on a person, every so often I believe you need to step back and take a look at your situation and how it can be improved.

For my PDP I started with the end result in mind. Once I had my long term goals in mind, I then chose to have short term and mid-term goals too. After setting my goals the next step was to outline my strengths and personal limitations; for example, I said that one of my strengths is my music production knowledge and my competence in music theory.

My PDP is I believe a good honest reflection on my thoughts to my potential career plan. I know what will be a block to my goals and what is achievable and what isn’t personally in a career. Critically I think my long term goals may initially seem difficult to achieve but with the context they are much more realistic as personally I do not care huge financial gain I just have a passion for my craft and want to be able to live a decent life while creating music and achieving professional satisfaction. I know personally, there is a lot of work to be done to achieve my developmental goals and some of them are about improving myself as a person such as improving myself socially in relation to networking and creating professional relationships, something I currently struggle not achieve .

My online portfolio consists of a website with a brief introduction of myself as well as a showcase of my music and works with some links to email me and go to my social media pages. I myself have experience with web development and I was able to create my own page using HTML and CSS techniques meaning my website should be completely original and tailored to me and my creative personality. I wanted my website to be a simple, quick, easy and straight forward website without any unnecessary extra content, so far in my early career I haven’t got the largest amount of content anyway so I wanted the focus of my website to be my music.

While studying at ACM we were given a document on the psychology of fonts and colours (See Appendix F). I used this graphic to decide my own fonts and colour schemes, meaning they will align with my personality and career aspirations. The font used on my whole site is called ‘Karla’ it is a sans-serif type font which according to the previously mentioned graphic (See Appendix F) the sans-serif font style could mean; stable, clean and modern. I used one font for the whole site to create a consistent tone throughout my website making the experience of using the site better on the eye, I also used similar colours throughout the page. The colours I used were; white, black and grey. Using these colours according to the psychology of colours graphic  means that my website and the presentation of myself would be considered with the colour of black means there is a prestige, value and exclusiveness to my site and with the use of white my site could portray a clean, fresh and pure image.

When coming up with initial ideas for my website I thought what do I like in a website and what do I want. I decided that first I want my site to be a seamless transition between desktop viewing and mobile browser viewing, so I created a responsive website with a mobile optimised design that also looks presentable on a desktop. I also wanted my website to be unique to myself so the presentation of my site when viewed on a desktop I believe looks different most other portfolio websites with its sing strip one-page design thus presenting my creative thinking and unique personal style.

Now I want to get into a little more detail on my decisions to my websites. The first you see on my page is a large image playing the piano situated next to my name, what I do and buttons to the different parts of my websites. I chose to have my landing area as this as it’s simple and clean, it also gets to the point quickly and tells people what I want them to do.

The following sections all have similar formats and looks to them to stay consistent with the rest of the site. The actual content of my about section is just text, an introduction to who I am, where I am, what I do and what brought me to where I am today. I then follow up with what makes my style of music unique to myself and my process as well as some small promotion of my recent releases and what I offer to people. I wanted to sound approachable yet professional.

The section labelled ‘My Music’ is the largest part of my page and the most important as I wanted my actual creative content to be the focus of my page. I have embedded links to my Soundcloud where currently all my music resides, I decided to have the latest release be first and then playlists of all my content; compositions, beats and more.

Next up I have small contact me section with provides links to my social media profiles and a link to email me for work. This section is simply easy on the eye and is designed to make it easy for people to get in touch with me and view my online social presence. To me the little things you don’t initially think about when borrowing matters on a website, one small thing I implemented was that when you pressed on my social media links while viewing on your mobile device, the link should ask you to open the relevant app. Furthermore, I do not have for example; Soundcloud the website will open the link on a new tab rather than making you leave my website and it works the same on desktop, this is a small touch you may not think about but I think it matters as you will not be leaving my website when viewing my socials. Clicking on the email icon will open up your email app on phone or desktop.

If I were to be critical of the website I created it would mainly be on the fact of I’m so early into my career that I do not have much content to put on there in the first place, for example, I am not currently performing live thus a live section of a site from other people is missing on my page. You could argue though that because the small size of my site and the ease of viewing is a benefit but also viewers may think I am just a novice and inexperienced musician which in some part is true but I do not want to portray that to people.

Now to the actual music, I have online available is predominately a mix between my compositions and production beats, the level of my content does vary as I have some work on there that has been around for a long time but I want to keep them available as a way for people to enjoy. On reflection, I could have improved the organisation of what my music is.

The weakest part of my online portfolio is definitely my social media presence, after being at ACM I now understand the importance of social media in regards to a creative career but the issue is, I have never really used social media despite the regeneration I am a part of as I found social media troublesome and a nuisance to everyday life. Improving my knowledge of social media and increasing my presence is something I am working is part of my personal development plane . I created social media profiles after going to my ACM Portfolio lecture as I then learnt the importance of having them, currently I don’t have any post to Instagram or Twitter and I have yet to create a Facebook profile as I am taking small steps to do something I have never done before which is using social media. Firstly I want to focus on using and understanding Instagram and Twitter first and creating a presence on there and Instagram itself after using it for a brief period seems very useable for a musical to post content to their profiles for viewing. So I understand I almost have no presence online, socially but it is something I am working on and hope to improve in the future.

To conclude, in terms of this reports theme: Understanding The Creative Portfolio Career, Its Implications and Relationship to Creative Education and My Future, I believe after doing my research I now have an understanding of my potential future in the industry and what it will take to have a career. When talking about my online portfolio I have may be quite brief but I hope you understand exploring my theme was more relevant as I think it put my portfolio and ideas into context for the current workplace. I think my portfolio showcases the strengths and weaknesses I had outlined in my personal development plan , such as creating thinking and music productions as well as my weakness in; social media and my limited experience. I can answer why I may a smaller portfolio than most and that’s simply because I put all my time and effort over the last three years at ACM into each project. To summarise, this research report discusses the theme I set it out to talk about in depth; ‘Understanding The Creative Portfolio Career, Its Implications and Relationship to Creative Education and My Future’, as well as an explanation behind the thinking of my online portfolio, the weakness and strengths of my personal career development in relation o this assignment.  

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