STUDENTS from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) are at the forefront of one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, contributing billions to the national economy.

Employment in the UK’s creative industries is growing at four times the rate of the UK workforce and this sector outpaces the 12 largest industries of the UK economy. In Scotland, creative industries contribute £4.6 billion to the economy and employ 73,600 people – it is now larger than life sciences and sustainable tourism in terms of GVA (Gross Value Added) and employs more people than the energy sector.

But entrepreneurship is not something young artists often consider when they decide to make a career in the arts.

Actor/writer Scott Gilmour and composer Claire McKenzie are Noisemaker Productions, creating and developing new musical theatre. They readily admit that recognising the skills needed to work as a business has been a steep learning curve.

“Almost every job in the arts requires an element of entrepreneurial spirit to get started," Gilmour says. "It’s a constantly changing field and the learning never stops. The skills we rely on most are actually the most simple and obvious; passion in your work and self-belief are enormous, patience, ambition, and remembering to actually enjoy the work. It’s a real treat to do what you love as a living and, oddly, it can be the one thing we forget when moments of stress or difficulty arise.”

Coming to terms with the balance between art and money was the toughest challenge, according to McKenzie: “Deciding to do crappy jobs because you need the money or taking work that pays little but offers a lot more in terms of artistic and personal satisfaction is always a difficult balance. The most difficult and most rewarding aspects of our work are when these two strands meet in the middle, when the payment you’re getting equals the work you put in and is also challenging you as a creative in your field.”

Enterprise is embedded in the curriculum at RCS as an essential part of an arts student’s education. Composer and concert producer Matthew Whiteside, who won the One to Watch award at the 2017 Sunday Herald Culture Awards, took the arts admin module, which helped with writing funding applications – one of the biggest challenges for arts entrepreneurs.

“Writing funding applications is a skill everyone needs to learn for themselves because everyone has a slightly different way of writing one,” he says. “Even with the module and advice from others who have been successfully funded, it took many failed attempts before beginning to see any success. Perseverance is something you need to have, and belief in what you are doing.

“You need to be able to consistently deliver within budget the project you proposed. I had the opportunity to learn how to project manage in relatively low-pressure environments, putting on concerts with friends during my studies. If it wasn’t for these opportunities, I would have felt very lost upon graduation.”