Column by Perttu Pölönen: It is the best time in history to be an artist

The best way to feed your creativity is to surround yourself with people who have as diverse views as possible, writes composer, entrepreneur and inventor Perttu Pölönen.​

If my song gets played on the radio, I will get more plays than Mozart did during his entire life span. I can upload a recording of a concert to YouTube and sell shows on the other side of the world. Mozart, on the other hand, had to get on a horse-drawn carriage and travel weeks on end just to play a concert at the neighbouring country’s court. I can reach more people through social media than any of the artists in history, even if they had had access to the country’s biggest printing presses and newspapers. I bet Mozart would have had fans on other continents, too, but there was not much he could do about it.

If Mozart had been born in the late 1900s, he would have his own website and probably live in Hollywood right now; composing music for films. We’re living in the renassaince of possibilities, where digital tools have opened up a whole new world to artists, as the number of audience members has grown from thousands to millions. Access to information, collaborations, publishing, advertising and activism, for example, are unbelievable privileges that previous generations had to work a lot harder for.

Artists have the opportunity to be more ver- satile than ever before. I myself have a de- gree in composing, but so far, I’ve set up four different businesses and studied exponential technologies at a NASA research centre in Silicon Valley. Nothing has given me more ideas to my art than technology, science and the business world. Working with coders, lawyers, entrepreneurs and teachers has also taught me one thing about making art: If I get stuck, it’s because I’m surrounded by too many people who think the same way as I do. The way out is getting stimulated by people with a different mindset. I believe that creativity means expanding your soul by sharing it with others.

We who are artists in the 2010s have unparalleled opportunities to create a diverse and interesting career as an artist if we open up ourselves also to fields that we don’t see as having a connection to the arts – such as to the business world. Digitalisation has also forced us to acquire new skills that haven’t traditionally been considered as part of artists’ daily life.

The idea that art is a calling that requires complete dedication has long prevailed in our field. The general notion seems to be that there’s no time for anything else. Personally, I believe that stepping out of your comfort zone is a prerequisite for reforming art. If artists can’t study something that they have negative feelings about, it means that their develop- ment has come to a halt a long time ago.

If you were born again as an artist, what year would you like to be born in? Choose carefully.

Perttu Pölönen
Composer, entrepreneur and inventor who has graduated from Uniarts Helsinki's Sibelius Academy.

Photo: Eeva Anundi

The text has originally been published as part of Uniarts Helsinki’s annual report. Read the pdf version of the annual report here.