How to Win the War of Selling Your Art and Become a Legend
Research done by museum curator Heather Bhandari and arts lawyer Jonathan Melber shows that on average, artists earn about $10,000 a year after taxes (Zimmer). If artists are talented and make an effort to market their art, why does success not follow? Consistent, intentional marketing is a key component of any successful business, but according to the Journal of Marketing Management, “The marketing orientation and activities undertaken by visual artists deviates significantly from the assumptions underpinning traditional marketing theory” (Lehman 664).
Promoting art is different than promoting other products and services because the strategy needs to revolve around an artist’s brand and career as opposed to his or her products. This briefing discusses art-marketing techniques specific to the following four phases of an artist’s career: the hustle, the sensation, the friend, and the legend. Understanding and implementing the marketing techniques relevant to an individual’s current career needs will open a realm of new opportunities.
Every remarkable athlete, movie celebrity, and mad scientist this world has ever known began with a very small fan base before they proved themselves and became legends. Artists are no different. Their job is to let the whole world know they are achieving remarkable things. As daunting as that task might seem, only a dream that big and an effort to match it will make the artist a legend. Part of that effort must include attending competitions, dominating art festivals, and reaching out to numerous local businesses.
Attend physical and online art competitions. Doing so will create three critical opportunities. (a) Fellow artists and viewers alike will give valuable feedback to creators who can then learn and grow in their craft. (b) Influencers in the art world who like what they see can make a positive impact on an artist’s career by opening doors to gallery representation and museum exhibitions. (c) The galleries that host competitions benefit winners by promoting exceptional art on gallery websites and in monthly newsletters.
Dominate art festivals. Venues where artists can sell their work are generally packed with competitors, so simply attending and hoping for the best will not cut it. When looking at Figure 1, all the booths blend together in a crowded market (Dalton). Now, picture a colorful booth with red-carpet flooring, a tall circular centerpiece displaying art all around it, and exotic plants standing left and right. Create an experience to remember, not a shop to sell crafts.
Reach out to local businesses. This may include local retail shops that might sell an artist’s work, news companies that can report on an exciting new project, or restaurants that will display art for free. Artists will not only better promote their art but also create fruitful relationships as they go to local businesses and offer something of value.
Digital marketing has become increasingly powerful throughout the years, and to go beyond the hustle stage, artists need to take advantage of social media, personal websites, and online galleries. Those who become influencers on the internet can reach thousands of people with the click of a button. Becoming an internet sensation takes time but is not as difficult as one might think and can result in the creation of a very efficient revenue stream.
Actively use social media. Millions of people use social media every single day, and if artists can learn how to leverage that power, their brand and impact will grow faster than a rocket ship climbs the atmosphere. The International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing did a study on seven art organizations in Greece and found that internet marketing strategies including social media led to the growth of younger audiences and an increased loyalty from older audiences (Tsourvakas et al. 142-43). Artists need to use sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest to (a) engage new customers with entertaining, informative content, (b) update current fans with new projects, and (c) create a place where art enthusiasts, potential customers, and other users can learn how an artist does his or her craft. The primary purpose of social media is to create a relationship of trust between artists and their fans through meaningful interaction and service.
Create a personal website or hire someone else to do so. After effectively using social media to build an audience, personal websites can be used to create revenue by using links on posts and pages that send the audience to artwork and content on the website. To build a website without the assistance of a paid professional, artists need to learn about the following four tools:
• Page Builder
• Web hosting
WordPress is used to build the website, Page Builder simplifies the process for those who don’t have coding experience, WooCommerce turns the site into an online store, and web hosting makes the site accessible to anyone using the internet.
After building a website with personal stories, project updates, and other engaging content, artists can also use inexpensive advertising like Google AdWords and Facebook ads to generate new leads from a bigger audience. An artist who constantly sends potential customers to personal websites, will begin to build revenue sources and create new connections with people across the world.
Take advantage of online galleries and stores like Etsy. In addition to having a personal website, artists should consider selling through other online galleries like Etsy or Amazon’s handmade section. These online stores have active shoppers who are frequently looking for new artwork, but finding the right fit based on the size of the artist’s business is essential in having success and not losing money. As seen in Figure 2, Etsy has a smaller customer base but a much friendlier fee for selling art there, so artists who are just starting out and can’t afford to give 15 percent of their profits to Amazon would be better off focusing on Etsy (Pilon).
After artists have hustled and become internet sensations to the extent they can, making influential friends in the art world is the next vital step to a successful career. Granted, artists should be doing that throughout their entire journey; however, the particular jump from emerging artist to established artist requires the influence of friends. Two key methods to accomplish that goal are sending art to key influencers and seeking out gallery representation.
Send art to key influencers at both local and national levels. Key influencers can be experts in a particular art medium, high-ranking politicians such as the local mayor, or heads of well-known organizations. People who might enjoy displaying an excellent piece of artwork and are in a position where others trust their opinions are prime targets to send art to. Doing so will build an artist’s reputation and lead to potential sales.
Seek out gallery representation from groups like Agora Gallery. Most galleries offer services that take care of a large majority of the promoting process and greatly extend an artist’s reach. Benefits of using gallery representation include (a) access to the gallery’s clientele, (b) extra time to focus on creating art, (c) gallery events that can boost revenue, and (d) a multitude of networking opportunities (Singh). Gallery representation is essential for artists who want to get to the point where they can spend free time working on their art and not on promotional efforts.
When artists, or people in general, achieve a certain level of success, they will sometimes stop seeking out greater fame. To truly become a legend, one must move past the feelings of self-satisfaction and strive to make service the center of his or her life. Service in the form of a marketing event is one of the most powerful tools any business can use to generate interest, ignite growth, and impact the lives of others.
Host legendary marketing events. As seen in Figure 3, legendary marketing events are created using five key techniques (Rhoads). Artists need to ensure that their art is the main focus of the event, make the event gorgeous (because event quality reflects brand quality), connect the event with a local cause, have a specific audience and objective in mind, and send home a personal souvenir with guests. Incorporate those techniques in a service-oriented event and participants will never forget the artist’s remarkability.
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