Midnight Oil Collective turns creating art into money

Genevieve Kim, Contributing Photographer

What does it mean to be a working artist and venture capitalist?

In a conversation Tuesday at Tsai CITY with Joseph Tsai ’86 LAW ’90 and Clara Wu Tsai, Frances Pollock ’25 MUS and Sola Fadiran ’22 DRA describe their vision for a system that treats artists like entrepreneurs, providing them with Agents and investors pursue their passion projects.

The Midnight Oil Collective, which calls itself a “risk studio,” lets artists buy from each other—every artist is an investor, and every investor is an artist. Structurally, the company operates exactly like a traditional fund, choosing different projects to create a diversified portfolio and achieve profitability. Therefore, the primary goal is first and foremost profit.

But the real payoff is in the process. Every new batch of projects is democratically elected, and every existing member has a voice. At every step since then, everyone is involved in the other’s business, helping each other find actors for their films, feedback on their scripts, or access other resources.

At the heart of this collective is a community, a support system for artists who can best help each other tell their stories. It also maintains its own – crucially – quality standards.

As Fadiran puts it, “artists can identify craftsmanship”, and “a more diverse…[and] The subjective opinion, the more accurate the evaluation” artists get from each other. So power is handed back to those best able to identify true creativity when it is seen, not executives, producers and studio gated content curators whose aesthetics are guided by perceived monetary potential (ahem, Restart).

Genevieve Kim, Contributing Photographer

The Midnight Oil Collective was conceived during the pandemic, when composer Frances Pollock ’25 MUS realized that the current entertainment ecosystem was untenable and that the hungry artist metaphor was all too true.

Three years later, with the addition of eight co-founders, Collective is starting to gain a foothold. Their mission has grown to include changing the general perception of the function and scope of art: by helping artists, they help art, help communities, and help society.

Art can be truth, but it can also be a solution. And, most fittingly, art can make money. “I want to turn STEM into STEAM,” Pollock said half-jokingly.

“Technology is seen as a miracle that saves the world,” she adds – but what if some of these ideas are too literal and mechanical for the complexities of modern problems?

With their most recent $50 million donate When they arrived at Geffen Hall, the Cai family also threw themselves into the power of art. As Clara Wu Tsai puts it, it’s about “meeting the moment,” which requires new perspectives. But according to Wu Tsai, in order for artists to thrive, they should have ownership and a better way to grow.

Joseph Tsai ’86 LAW ’90, pictured, toured the campus to give a series of lectures on art and entrepreneurship. Genevieve Kim, contributing photographer.

Fadiran also highlights the gap between potential and opportunity in the arts economy. Creators like Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Michaela Coel have been able to bridge the gap, but they are the exception, not the rule. The connections they have to make independently form the infrastructure Midnight Oil Collective hopes to initially provide, making success more accessible and achievable.

While the gospel was and still is for the artist itself, it also has greater implications for New Haven.recent New York Times The article builds the city into a vibrant urban center dominated by a thriving arts scene. Home to prestigious tuition-free institutions like the Conservatory of Music and the School of Drama, no one can deny that Yale attracts top talent in the arts — but then, everyone leaves.

The Midnight Oil Collective thus provides a new impetus to stay local, encouraging artists to experiment in a place that already has historical, spatial and appreciative value.

The biggest hurdle so far has been a change in narrative: According to the speaker, art is not seen as an attractive or profitable business venture, perpetuating the cycle of no money, no opportunity. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” developed over a decade and produced at least six times; “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a blockbuster blockbuster with a current return of 4x— however, the main hesitation remains the same.

Finally, when asked what success looks like to them, Pollock gave a practical answer: Success is when art is seen as a worthwhile investment that yields decent financial returns. If artists were reimagined as entrepreneurs, and creation was seen as innovation, and risk and potential were considered together, perhaps the game could change. But what does this require?

“A movement of the imagination,” Fadilan responded, soaking the audience in optimism.

So what does it mean to be passionate, visionary, and fully committed to a vision? Does it describe being an artist, or does it describe a founder? Midnight Oil Collective says both.

Laura Zeng

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Laura Zeng is a reporter for WKND. From suburban Chicago, Illinois, she is a first-year student in urban studies and cognitive science at Ezra Stiles College.

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