Art Marketing Online Art Blog
by art_marketing , April 19, 2005—02:16 PM
In reality, no business that provides artists an online web presence should 1) make promises that they will sell your artwork or 2) charge you more than $20 a month for their service. Why? Let's take a look at how the industry has historically functioned and how the trends spawned by the Internet have opened a new road to how the art industry operates.
Traditionally when an artist is accepted into a 'bricks & mortar' gallery, the owner generally does not promise that they will sell your work. Hopefully they take in your work, hang it on their wall, perhaps have an opening reception for you, and/or possibly advertise in key magazines to promote their gallery featuring your work. Now you, the artist, is looking for sales to help boost your career and your pocketbook while the gallery owner is looking for sales to make that 50% commission to help defray the costs of overhead (rent, advertising and marketing costs.)
By tradition you do not have to pay a gallery up front to represent you. But because the gallery does not want to incur any additional expenses above and beyond their normal overhead, they make you responsible to professionally frame your work before they accept it. However, if your work does not sell, it could be moved out of the gallery into the storage closet or returned to you.
Galleries do provide wonderful opportunities for artists. If you happen to be one of the 'lucky' ones who have found successful gallery representation, often times the owners will require exclusivity so their competitors don't have access to the same 'work product'. However, a word of caution, be very careful when you lock yourself into exclusivity with a local or regional gallery. If you plan to make a living from these gallery sales, it could end up that they only sell one or two of your pieces a year. Make sure you can "live" on these sales.
But lets face it, there are simply not enough galleries in the United States to support the over 600,000 artists living in America who produce at least one piece of artwork a week! So, what does an artist do between the time they are struggling and the time they can make a living creating art?
Your artwork is a "product" that needs to be marketed, advertised and sold. If your artwork is not selling in a certain gallery, then you need to ask yourself if your work would be better suited for a different gallery with a more diverse local clientele, or a combination of various venues.
Here is a short list of other ways that artists can support themselves:
- sales through art shows
- sales through art consultants
- sales through the Internet???
You know how art shows work. When you decide to "show" your work in an art show, more times than not your work will be 'juried' prior to acceptance into the show. However, in an art show of any magnitude or importance (http://www.artexpos.com/">Art Expo New York or http://www.paradisecityarts.com/">Paradise City), it will require major time and financial investment. You must make certain that you have chosen the appropriate venue that is suitable for your level of work.
Now, what about those art consultants? They are a hard lot to find. They are as elusive as the "Jack-e-lope" and they like to keep it that way. Do you know why? Because art consultants represent their clients, not artists. The art consultant is busy tracking down clients and projects. Once they have the job, then they have to find the art. They don't knock on gallery doors because just like the gallery owner, they work on the basis of a 50% commission and there would not be enough profit to go around. The art consultant needs to deal directly with the artist.
Art consultants are often loners that work out of their homes and to find a professional art consultant or consulting service to work with is a dream! On average, an art consultant likes to have a varied group of artists to work with for a multitude of projects spanning restaurants, hospitals, corporations, private clients, or hotels. An artist has a much better opportunity to sell work through various art consultants because of their wide-ranging projects. One of the great benefits of working with an art consultant is that they want to work with images only, which means you don't have to spend money on framing. If their client purchases your work, they will be selecting the framing that will best suit their needs. Lastly, and most beneficial for the artists' state-of-mind, if the art consultant's client doesn't purchase your work for that particular project, the art consultant may use you for another future project.
NOW COMES THE INTERNET!
Why would you join an Internet art site/online artist community? What services should an Internet art site/online artist community provide? How can you determine whether it's worth the money?
First you should know that Minds Island has been in business for 5 years and we have learned a bit about how to provide artists with an Internet service to help them with their art career. We have also learned what an Internet art site should not do and that is that it should not promise, "We will sell your artwork." Just like a gallery does not promise to sell your work, an Internet art site should not promise to sell your work. What they can promise is to represent you and your art work just like a "bricks-and-mortar" gallery does, which in essence simply makes them another art gallery. But unlike traditional galleries, these Internet art sites are charging you $20+ a month or a handsome yearly fee for their service and also taking a commission.
However similar the traditional and online art galleries may seem to be, there are key differences. An Internet art gallery site can maintain your work for years. They can also continue to add more and more artists because it doesn't take up valuable retail wall space and there isn't the same urgency to sell the work because of this unlimited exhibition space. The traditional gallery cannot afford to keep an artist that doesn't produce sales for them. But if a particular artist doesn't sell online, the more artists the virtual gallery has listed, the higher the odds of a possible sale for the virtual gallery. But are these other Internet art sites in "gallery jumpsuits" really providing you a service? In part, the answer is yes because exposure to the Internet audience is vast and growing and you stand to gain recognition beyond your local geography. This now provides you, the artist; with an immeasurable marketplace of potential art buyers and clients. Minds Island's point of view is that the Internet art site should not just be an online variant of the 'bricks-and- mortar' gallery with the same business model. It should connect you to that broader market beyond your local geography for only a few dollars a month and NOT take a commission. The Internet art site should provide you with some basic services as outlined by the Minds Island services below:
The Minds Island Basic Services: Web studio (multiple pages optional) URL address that goes directly to your web Studio 3 free links posted in your web studio Guest Book Email up to 50 clients at a time and direct them to your web studio with a link to your Minds Island URL studio address Original Content Participation in online content by leaving comments under each article Participation in other online "sales" venues (trade members, live auctions or the eBay marketplace)
Why do you need an Internet Art Site if you already have your own web site?
- How many hits does my personal web site get a month?
- How many contacts does it bring in each month?
- Am I getting my money's worth from the expense?
Just like a gallery or an art consultant who spends years and thousands of dollars developing a client base, effective Internet art sites spend thousands of dollars to develop a traffic base for its artist/trade community to bring potential buyers/clients to its site. You have to decide whether you have the financial resources to promote your own web site in this same way.
Your own web site is a great electronic business card to showcase your talent but you pay hosting fees, domain name fee, and technology fees for someone to update your site (unless you're lucky and your relatives or neighbors are doing the work for you). But in order to drive traffic to your personal website, you have to take the next step and spend hundreds/thousands of dollars on advertising to draw in traffic. So we're back to square one. You have a much better chance of being found among a group of your colleagues without the high cost of advertising by becoming a member of an Internet art community. Similar to your participation in the traditional art league, art society, art gallery or art show, think of the Internet art site as a global extension and the next generation of these traditional art communities. Participation in any of them does not have to be mutually exclusive. They all work together to help you with your art career.
An effective Internet art site will not only provide you with the basic web studio services, but it will draw traffic, charge only a few dollars a month for membership, and not charge a commission if someone wants to buy your work as a result of finding your web studio (just like your own web site). Ask yourself, Would the local art league you belong to for $75 or less per year charge you a commission if a buyer found you simply as a result of your being a member at that local art league?
Just because you have your own art studio, the reason you joined the local art league is because, for a small annual fee, they help you gain exposure locally by pooling artists into one group and help bear the cost of this exposure. When the membership expires, you evaluate whether the service was cost effective. Ask yourself whether building your own web site and sitting alone on the Internet is any different than standing alone in your own "bricks-and-mortar" art studio without a local art league, art society, or art show presence? The answer is probably not. The Internet art site pools the artist community, charges a small membership fee and bears the cost of online marketing and advertising to a global audience.
The Internet art site is also similar to the art show(s) you attend. If you participate in only one art show and you didn't make a sale, do you give up on art shows completely? Of course not! You have to stick with the art show circuit for a while to make a success and continue to be in front of a variety of potential buyers. It's the same for the Internet. Just because you have a web site does not mean you will instantly be successful or be successful on your own. You are simply kidding yourself if you think it will work in less than 30 days! If you do not sell one of your pieces of art through your own personal web site after going live in the first 30 days, do you take down your own web site? Of course not. And that's because of all the time, effort and money you just sunk into it to get it live in the first place!
No sane business, be it a gallery, an art consultant or General Motors, would only commit to advertising for one month or participating in only one trade show and then stop marketing and advertising. Successful businesses realize it takes months and years of marketing and advertising to build a customer base and brand loyalty. Why would you think that joining an Internet art site for 30 days would be all it takes to land you success? Most likely, you are counting on the gallery or the art league to which you belong to spend the money it takes to get the 'word' out there about your talent. You should expect the same from a membership to an Internet art site. Remember, you are a business... just like a gallery, an art consultant or General Motors. The difference is you are, and will remain, a one person, very unique business!
So now you are beginning to understand that membership to an Internet art site should provide you with some basic services for a few dollars a month and should bear the cost of marketing and advertising your web presence to this vast new marketplace. As a result of this marketing and advertising, the Internet art site draws traffic to the site, which generates leads from potential buyers/clients for its artist membership.
Where are the leads/contacts coming from? Is it the retail audience or the wholesale audience?
In the case of Minds Island, we can answer, "both." As most of our members know, we are building a Minds Island membership service for the trade (art consultants, designers, decorators, etc.). These trade members will live along side our artist members looking for art for their clients, using images from Minds Island and from their own stock to put together password protected, private client presentations on Minds Island.
But what about the "retail" audience?
For an Internet art site to gain a retail audience, we would have to have millions of dollars to advertise to the masses through television, magazines, newspapers and the like. This is very improbable. However, there is eBay! eBay provide access to a vast retail audience for a modest fee.
The new eBay Marketplace
eBay has become a vast electronic marketplace that has taken on a life of its own. Internet based businesses can no longer ignore the fact that eBay boasts having 114 million registered users worldwide, a gross merchandise volume in the art category totaling $160 million in 2003 and a work of art is sold on eBay every 14 seconds. Thanks to eBay, art is now selling on the Internet. The art category on eBay has shown 30% growth each year, making it one of the more active areas of the site.
Minds Island has watched the art marketplace on eBay for the last 24 months and we are cautiously optimistic about its potential benefit for our membership (both artists and trade). eBay is single-handedly responsible for pushing the envelope and successfully proving that art sells through the Internet.
eBay has 3 venues for art sales:
- Regular eBay Listings
- eBay Stores
- eBay Live Auctions
Minds Island is now participating in the eBay marketplace by holding periodic Live Auctions and by creating a Minds Island eBay Store.
eBay has partnered with a company called http://www.liveauctioneers.com/">LiveAuctioneers.com. Live Auctioneers.com has about 150 customers who are actual auction houses located throughout the United States and abroad. LiveAuctioneers.com provides the window to a vast electronic Internet audience during the actual auction sale day. LiveAuctioneers.com has spent thousands of dollars on building a technology that integrates the sale of art & antiques to the customers sitting on the show room floor and simultaneously to a global Internet audience (replacing the need to telephone in while the auction is taking place).
Minds Island participated in this venue twice in 2004. We held two live auction sessions in March and April and four live auction sessions in October and November 2004. The Minds Island live auctions did not have a "show room floor audience", only an electronic audience. We took advantage of LiveAuctioneers.com and eBay Live Auction's 60,000 registered users to view and bid on the art posted during our auction. Minds Island asked its artist members to post their art true to its value, as it would appear in their galleries or studios. http://www.mindsisland.com/articles/index.html?cat=41&article=115">Results from these live auction sessions are posted in our article section.
Minds Island is now expanding its services for artist members by providing access to the Minds Island eBay Store. We are enabling Silver and Gold artist members, at no extra cost, the ability to click on any image in their studio and it will show up in the Minds Island eBay Store for sale.
What is an eBay Store? An eBay store is like a gallery that sits on the street. eBay stores are separate retail stores. Listings in a store DO NOT show up in the general listings and therefore keep one's art out of the "flea market" atmosphere on eBay. This way, a store can maintain its prices and level of product quality throughout its store without being undercut by the 'listing' next door of similar quality and style.
Participation is completely optional for our silver and gold members at no extra cost. But Minds Island can no longer ignore the vast network of contacts and potential retail and wholesale buyers that frequent eBay.
In summary, we hope we have outlined some of the ways an Internet art site community can augment the business tools you employ each day to help you advance your art career.