written by Maurice Cardinal …
Interestingly, and regardless of whether it’s a traditional analog painting, a photograph, or an animated 3D NFT, the base knowledge of how to effectively promote art has not changed for decades.
It rarely changes because humans are genetically coded. We have had expectations naturally ingrained into our DNA over tens of thousands of years.
On the nurture side, we are also conditioned to act the way we do, and that part, we can change with a bit of effort. DNA based emotional responses however, evolve very slowly over millennia.
I’m a professional artist and art promoter and producer, and have helped many high visibility artists promote their work for several decades, both live performance and visual art. I’ve also written many art-promotion articles over the years, this early one too, CryptoArt & NFT Promotion.
Surprisingly, many artists wonder, “Why do I even need to promote my art when my art is so much better than everyone else’s art?”
You need to promote your art because a million+ artists think exactly like you, and unfortunately, you’ve become tacitly, and inadvertently, delusional – it’s a common industry malady we all take in stride. Don’t worry though, because you’re far from being alone.
Creating art is mostly fun, and not usually considered the hard part.
We can create art all day long, and we know it, but we don’t want to say it out loud because artists mistakenly believe most collectors need to think that we’re “struggling,” and that our struggle gives our art value. Unfortunately, some collectors still do think this way, but they are old school and in a rapidly shrinking minority. Today, modern collectors often want to be part of the growth of an artist. It gives them satisfaction and is sometimes why they collect.
With experience, creating art is relatively easy, although it is clear that some artists do it considerably better than others. Practice makes perfect.
Selling art in a saturated market is the challenge.
So, how do we connect with art collectors?
First, we don’t promote art. At the beginning of a career, we promote ourselves–the art will follow.
It works better when you introduce your art to a collector like it were a secret lover.
It used to be, when there were more collectors than artists, all an artist had to do was throw a party and invite interesting, eccentric, and wealthy people who like art. The Art of the Art Party was one of Warhol’s greatest attributes. Andy knew how to bring down the house.
If you don’t know how to party, or don’t like to party you’re at a serious disadvantage, and you should either learn the nuances of relationship-promotion, or hire someone to do it for you.
The word “party” today, and for a number of reasons, the pandemic being a major one, has a different spin on it than yesteryear.
When I say party in 2021, I mean that you host an art event (virtual for a while), invite potential collectors, and depending on your style, you entertain them, on your dime. YOU don’t party – THEY DO. YOU WORK THE PARTY and only pretend to slam all those virtual tequila shooters.
Party today mostly means community.
You don’t have to party like Warhol if you’re a conservative artist, but you do have to bring value to your community.
Where did art promotion go so wrong?
It started when galleries fueled the notion that artists weren’t capable of selling their own art. Considering that artists had a penchant for lazy Sunday afternoons on any days of the week, galleries provided a service, and still do, but today it’s different. It now has to be more collaborative, and transparent, and without galleries exerting so much covert control.
The part about galleries that most artists hate is the wall between the artist and collector. Somewhere along the line, too many galleries also slipped into compliance sales mode, but until the pandemic killed art flow, hardly anyone noticed, except struggling artists of course.
NFT artists are noticing now though.
NFT is not spelled L O T T E R Y
When NFT was heating up in early 2021 artists danced in the streets celebrating their great impending wealth, and then just as quickly, the party ended. Artists innocently thought art lovers were buying their art, and they were partly correct, but it turned out it was mostly tech entrepreneurs seeding blockchain and NFT ecosystems–big difference. It also turned out that this new found NFT wealth, was destined almost exclusively for artists who actually knew how to market and promote their work. Wait. What? Did I just write that the NFT artists who did the best “consistently”, are the ones who are actually professional artists?
Thankfully, NFT HYPE shook out quickly, because now, pro artists, and those on the verge, can actually do some real NFT work and make real gains. Certificate of Authenticity is still the most powerful aspect of NFT, but most artists still don’t understand what it means.
Geek Gods who built and own the ecosystems that support NFT have a vested interest in artists adopting and embracing this new art market. Consequently, they did, and are doing what any smart, forward-thinking, and enterprising CTO would do–they dumped mega-money into it to get the party started … $69 million to be exact.
The really cool thing is that geeks, nerds, and tech of all stripes are also inadvertently becoming serious art collectors. Big TECH collectors already own many of the NFT FIRSTS, while most traditional legacy collectors are still scratching their heads in wonderment.
Tech Gods are still hoping though that the art community is smart enough to figure out this gift that technology is offering artists. For the most part, pro artists are still thankful, but we also know that the tech community, as a respectful follow up, needs to SHILL the arts another $BILLION to buy even more NFTs to keep the party going. Don’t stop giving now, because if your DISRUPT PLAN was to destroy pro artists while building a new market, the legacy industry has the economic power to undermine the roll out, and will react if pushed.
You are either with artists, or against artists.
It would be economic suicide for the tech community to alienate today’s contemporary artist icons. Tech needs a greater number of experienced high visibility artists like Lawrence Lee / AKA @NotoriousGangOfOne who already has several pieces in the @Metapurse collection, and who also wants to see radical change. Allies are important during a revolution!
@Twobadour understands the importance, but not everyone in tech gets it.
When the push to promote NFT was launched, the tech community didn’t even look to see the damage they did to all the independent community art orgs like International Artist Day.
Everyone understands why tech wants to compete with analog galleries, but art orgs were already struggling with the pandemic, and NFT only made it worse by creating polarization.
The painful irony for us at iAD is that we’ve worked hard as volunteers for almost twenty years, and in three months NFT dismissed our blood, sweat, and tears without even a blink. I come from FinTech, so I still believe in blockchain and NFT, but many art orgs like ours are seriously struggling and doubtful.
Now that NFT dust has settled, it’s easier to see who the real art collectors are, as opposed to the SHILLS. BTW, do you know what shill traditionally means, the common definition? Here’s what the Oxford Dictionary publishes; “an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others.”
Punks benefit by associating their art with loud abrasive campaigns because it’s part of their gamification “act”, and it is acceptable, but it’s not a good look for all artists. You need to pick your method carefully, and make sure it complements your style.
Also, don’t automatically buy-into everything tech tells you. Coder hearts are in the right place, but they are sometimes as bad at communicating as many artists–maybe worse 😉 ... I know because I’ve written technical and promotional copy for software development projects for two decades for artists and geeks.
Crossover collaboration is incredibly powerful.
Do you know which type of artist really knows how to communicate, collaborate, and promote their art? It’s MUSICIANS! Visual artists can learn a lot from watching how musoids romance a community. This group knows how to party and how to turn a Green Room into a money making empire. A lot of deals are hatched in the Green Room … visual artists need a Green Room too. BTW, look soon for a new GREEN NFT SPACE for music co-funded by Quincy Jones called OneOf.
As an artist, it’s important to realize that YOU are the CONDUCTOR of your CAREER.
Think of it this way … you, the conductor, assembles your symphonic team of promoters together in your collective headspace. When you TAP YOUR BATON everyone should immediately focus on you. Then, when you raise your hands to begin your opus, it is a signal to your team to play the piece as you’ve clearly described in your arrangement. The secret is for everyone, in-house and third-party, to simultaneously launch and move toward the same climax. Leveraging each others’ momentum is incredibly powerful.
Every professional artist I know, when they saw noobs using the word SHILL, they at first laughed, but soon also became sympathetic when they realized that artists, trusting souls, once again were being misled. Unfortunately, when pro legacy artists criticized shilling, they were portrayed as haters. Not many artists use the word shill today though, for obvious reasons.
Here’s a million-dollar meme you can take to the bank.
If you want to meet an art collector, first, connect with them on any level except your art.
If they like horses, and you like horses, there’s your connection.
If they like chocolate ice cream and you like any ice cream, there’s your connection.
If you have to talk about chocolate ice cream for two months before an opportunity to talk about art comes up naturally, then talk about chocolate ice cream for as long as it takes – 6 degrees.
Here’s another million-dollar piece of art promotion advice; Have someone introduce you to a prospective collector.
It’s the best way of all because when you come recommended by a trusted party, you jump the queue and go straight to the front of the line. If you have to pay someone to make the introduction, do it. Invest in yourself. Pro artists do it all the time.
If you don’t know who collects art, buy a list – Larry has a great one.
You’ll see that real art collectors are not anonymous – shills are.
Over time, you’ll build your own list.
Do you know who is closer to art collectors than most artists?
You’re gonna love this because it’s someone artists often love to hate.
It’s Art Writers and Critics!
Art writers often know, or are connected to a lot of collectors, so go ahead and undermine your career by attacking art writers and critics–it’s a reflection of you, not the critic. The internet has a very long memory. And yes, critics and collectors check to see what artists are saying in general on social media, because it’s such an easy way to learn about an artist’s personality. There are exceptions of course, but most collectors do not buy art from haters.
We curate a great little LIST of ART WRITERS and provide it for free on our iAD365.com Twitter account. Following other artists is fun because they stroke and support you, but it’s important to also engage with art writers who can help you grow and make connections to collectors.
We’ve done free stuff like this for artists since 2004.
Why? …‘cause we’re artists too. Chris, my business partner and friend (he’s a painter), launched International Artist Day in 2004 with his wife Marilyn Hurst, also a painter. I’ve been a co-owner and managed iAD for the last seven years. It’s mostly just the three of us and a few incredible volunteers who help us manage International Artist Day/iADX365. And although the pandemic made it insanely challenging for us last year, over 20,000 artists tagged or reached out to us in 2020 to either gives us moral support, or to seek help. The rush was overwhelming and took us away from our paying jobs as artists, but we thought it was so important to help that we dropped almost everything.
Many pro-artists were fearfully struggling, and wanted to know how to survive, and how to promote their art. We’ve always advised and trained artists to appreciate that serious collectors almost always look very carefully at an artist before they will invest a considerable sum on a piece. They buy the heart of the art, and that means they buy you, and your character, philosophy, and way of life.
Collectors often live vicariously through artists, which should give you a hint as to how to connect.
“Buy what you like” is great advice, but at best, it’s only a place to start.
Think like a collector … be the ball.