I’m An Artist, Not A Marketer

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I understand the whole “I’m an artist, not a marketer” thing, actually, but in this day and age, to not think about your audience in advance is not just poor business, it ignores the fundamental changes that have hit every business and every art form – that audiences are more participatory, so you can’t just try to engage them with a product and no conversation.

via SpringBoardMedia, thx j-carrier.

There Are 17 Comments On This Article.

  1. I have to agree that being an artist is a luxury (in terms of lifestyle) – and those who can successfully market their art are lucky and good!

  2. As a wedding photographer, trying to run a business, my primary role is a marketeer and sales manager, second, financial manager and the last one is photographer. I see that TODAY it’s almost impossible to run a photography business (and make money from it to pay all your bills and provide a decent lifestyle for a family) been an ARTIST!!

  3. Marketing is certainly important but I still find that no matter what I do 95% of my work comes from word of mouth recommendations. I have one client that is shedding employees faster than The New York Times and while at first this made me cautious about possibly loosing a good client I’ve come to learn that many of those who pass through the doors end up on the good end of a phone call to me when they land a new job.

    Being as I’m based in Japan things might be a little different for me cash flow is my killer. I’m still waiting on payment for jobs I completed last February, on from last November…

  4. if only picasso had done wedding photography , he wouldn’t have struggled his whole life . And what a richer legacy the art world would have inherited .

    • @stuart rayner,

      Picasso “struggled” his whole life?
      I thought he was from a poor background and then did quite well.
      If Picasso struggled it was probably not financially. Did Picasso do his art for others? For the “art world”? I doubt that.

      There seems to be this bourgeois sense of mind that only artists that are poor and struggling create valid work. There are artists that are financially sound that have done great art. (Damien Hirst, Edgar Degas …).
      Along the same (bourgeois) lines, one can’t be seen doing anything else to live but their art. If they do a commercial form of art (weddings) they are looked down upon. There is kitsch in all the genres of image making. Singling out wedding photography doesn’t serve to describe the situation very well.

      There is much dissonance in our society about art. On the one hand we (as a society) want to enjoy others products on the other hand we don’t want to pay for it. In an environment as this the artist has to produce something (other than art) which is valued enough that he/she can receive income to live and continue their personal exploration (Art).

      Art that is created to fulfill a preconceived project or goal such as creating a market or promoting a product is generally commercial art.

      Capital “A” fine art is usually created by artists trying to understand something. The art is the end product (artifact) the artist creates in this “struggle” to perceive, explain, know, understand, resolve. There is rarely a timeline this art is to be created within – as in commercial (and most editorial) art. The creation is based on the artists process of going through this journey. When the ‘audience’ is moved by the art it is usually because they are able to appreciate and feel the transformation the artist experienced as the end product was created.

      Creating art (or documentaries) with the goal being the market (audience) has (at least up to now) been consistent with a commercial product – not fine art.

      • @Bob,
        Art is so broad a term that all creatives who use their skills to pay the mortgage including the wedding photographer above and myself would love to talk about our work under the heading of ‘art’. But you cannot impose the above conditions to a community that vast and varying.
        What i was saying ,in an admittedly sarcastic manner ,was that a distinction does need to be made as to the qualification of ‘artist ‘. There must be a sliding scale of talent vs marketing/business skills which creative industries can apply given their ability .
        The timeline of art will show that every enduring movement has been a reaction to the previous one with no or little regard for market conditions and possible audiences , and in many cases grew in the face of outright ridicule from those audiences and peers .
        If an artist considers its audience in advance , if that artist is so concerned at practising ‘ good business’ , and if that same artist is fearful of the fundamental changes that effect the art and business worlds today , then the artist you are left with is Chase Jarvis and not William Eggleston .
        Will that endure and will that inspire ?

        • @stuart rayner,
          Much of what you say affirms my point. Comparing commercial art with fine art is apples to oranges. One begins with a a distinct production goal, the other does not.

          There are ranges of quality with both, but much of it is subjective, and open to one’s own frame of reference. There are also ranges of the degree and type of marketing and self promotion.

          I feel it gets messy when one tries to uphold commercial work in a same context as fine art. Is a documentary fine art? Is it appropriate to market or create journalism with an audience in mind?

          I do have some disagreement with your point about art movements. Many artists and their art is done outside of “movements”. As well, consider contemporary Australian Aboriginal art. It is a movement that is not reactive to it’s past, but embracing of it’s past. The work is incredibly conceptual, and that past being referenced is older than all the other civilizations.

  5. I find this interesting since it falls on the heels of a comment where I made reference to a business plan and CDB. A lot of focus is placed on a balance plan of marketing which includes mailers, media release and efforts to get some great PR through personal art projects that highlight the community I live.

    I know this is different form the commercial side, however, the things that have been brought ot the forefront here are great tools to use no matter the genre a photographer is trying to earn his living in.

  6. “Advice to aspiring photographers—follow your passion and work hard. If you are worried about career or marketplace, find another line of work…” – Richard Misrach

    If you love making photographs, regardless of the style, the subject, the expression, then I think you can make a living as a photographer. If you care about all those things and you aren’t willing to compromise, then you should forget about making a living making photographs. If you work hard AND you’re lucky, you might be able to put food on the table with your passion.

    Having said that, marketing could be viewed as making your own luck…

  7. Donnar Party

    If you create something designed to sell its not really art, now is it? Its a product. I’m not knocking it, I’m just sayin’.

    There is lots of crappy photography out there partially because shooters think only in terms of marketing and try to shoot what should be creative pieces with selling it in mind. Photos created in this way will always be compromised.

    I think that commercial photographers should stop thinking of themselves as artists and realize they are small business owners who shoot other peoples’ comps.

  8. E. Suarez

    I agree with Hannah. Now if you happen to make a photograph that transcends while you are completing your contract for a client…. sweet . Will it make the cut with editors? Don’t sweat it post it on your website and get paid for the job.

  9. Brandon Cook

    @ Hannah
    I have to say that I’m on the boarder if being offended by how you said what you said. I believe the majority of people in “Art” industries started off because of their passions for the art. Some of these people are equally gifted in the business world and can put food on the table with their artistic abilities. To call them “business people” in such a way that it separates them from artists, might be a rushed judgement.

    If our “Starving Artist” had created great works AND had buyers at one of his/her displays, would they accept payment for the work, or would they insist on giving it away for free? If our buyer happened to be an advertiser, would the purchase then change the artist to a business person, or does that depend on if the artist uses the money to pay bills versus buying more supplies for the next work of art?

    It just seems to me, that we’re surrounded by good business people that fortunately also happen to be artists.