By Kristian Riis

As a creative entrepreneur it’s important to go with your gut feeling and not to compromise your integrity. In my view we only move in quantum leaps when we embrace the many commercial opportunities that are out there – we just need to ensure that the art and our integrity aren’t compromised. I know that there is enough room do it all.

I’m a Danish musician, artist and businessman. I love music. I make a living from music but it’s not my sole income. I eat out and I go to the theatre and the movies. I’m fascinated by paintings, I live in a house and I like to travel. I earn money and I spend money – just like everyone else. I’m dependent on money to be able to eat, travel and live. But I don’t let money control my life. Financial matters shouldn’t take up too much space in a person’s life and I’ve discovered that it’s most often the case when there isn’t enough cash around.

I need space – I need to be able to relate to whatever context I find myself in in order to be good at what I do. Without space I don’t get inspired at all. So I’ve built my professional life around two different spaces: a creative space and a business space. The two are strictly separated from one another. But reality isn’t as simple as that. It’s crucial that my creative space isn’t disturbed by the business space, but on the other hand it’s okay that the business space gets a bit of noise from the creative space.

It’s important to me to keep my art pure. It mustn’t be dictated or controlled by commercial interests. But I don’t believe art can’t exists only for it’s own sake… But then again, my art is the tool I make a living from in the same way a farmer uses his plough. And me being an artist doesn’t make me wiser or more important than the farmer. On the contrary. Our lives are pretty similar; we live in Denmark and enjoy the same things. From my point of view there’ll always exist alternative art and niche-culture that never enter the commercial sphere. These art forms need support and attention because they’re what inspire those of us who produce art with a broader appeal.

A work of art can be judged as right or wrong – it’s still art. Art is as diverse as our culture and hurrah for that! My life would be way too boring without this diversity. Through my work as managing director of the Bremen Theatre, as a partner in Volcano and as the guitar player in Nephew, I’m exposed to the commercial aspects of culture – that’s something I value. And as an artist I think commercially to some degree.

In Nephew we’ve collaborated with commercial brands such as Audi and DSB Wildcard, and again – I feel good about it. It has resulted in more time for us to focus on making music instead of making money. Is the farmer commercial because he digs, plants and harvests in order to pay his rent? I don’t think so. Are artists commercial because they collaborate with commercial brands? I don’t think so. I don’t want to pass off opportunities to make money as a musician and as an entrepreneur. And I view my audience as people who not only exist for music; they also watch movies, eat, dance etc. and hurrah for that once again.

As a creative entrepreneur it’s important to go with your gut feeling and not to compromise your integrity. In my view we only move in quantum leaps when we embrace the many commercial opportunities that are out there – we just need to ensure that the art and our integrity aren’t compromised. I know that there is enough room do it all.