TL;DR: Don’t neglect the fact that pursuing a livelihood as an artist is the same as running a business, and to excel, you will have to incorporate business strategies to maximize market saturation and exposure. Yet don’t reduce your interactions with your fans down to a rigid business transaction as being an artist means being in a relationship with your fans, and to maximize symbiosis, it must be a mutually beneficial and rewarding exchange.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know I run giveaways. Giveaways are when I give away free stuff made from my art (stickers, posters, art, etc) to fans to help me promote a shirt or some thing that I need to expose to a larger audience than my social network. Or sometimes I just give away free stuff, because it feels good to know that I caused an unexpected, pleasant surprise in someone’s life.
I know there are some artists out there that erroneously perceive my actions as a cheap method to “get fans,” as if I am “buying fans.” I know there are artists out there that think like this because I’ve seen comments in online forums that express this notion, and I’ve heard artists snipe about other artists in such a way.
That… is epically small minded and idiotic. It probably stems from jealousy and envy that another artist is successfully getting attention. Don’t listen to them.
The fact is, it’s not cheap even in the literal sense, because it costs money to give away free stuff that costs money/time to make, and there is nothing cheap or wrong with the methodology.
The fact is, if you want to make a living creating an income from art, there comes a point where you have to come to the realization that ART IS A BUSINESS.
Let me veer off the topic a moment, I’ll come back around.
I started giving away free stuff years ago, because at the beginning of my artist career after thinking I could never make a living out of being an artist, people started buying my stuff, and praising me for my work. You know how good it feels when after you feel like you’ve been climbing up some humongous mountain all by yourself, and all of a sudden you find yourself on the climb up with an audience cheering you on? I can honestly say it’s utterly the one of the most brilliant moments of my life. It’s as if the clouds opened up, and the universe proclaimed, “You are not a turd.”
Giveaways became a way for me to return my gratitude. There are fans who still follow my work who knew me when I was just making $10/hour at my first art job in podunk Gallatin, TN designin Nascar tees.
It wasn’t until I recently stumbled onto some business and marketing literature that I realized that my actions were apparently somewhat related to basic business practices with terms like Cost of Acquisition, and Reciprocity.
Cost of Acquisition “is the cost associated with convincing a consumer to buy your product or service, including research, marketing, and advertising costs.” SOURCE
Reciprocity “is a mutual or cooperative exchange of favors or privileges. It is exemplified by the American expression You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours (unless it’s really pimply) and the
Latin Hannibal Lecter expression Quid pro quo… Clarice…” SOURCE
Upon discovering the terminology, I started to understand why artists would have an aversion for giveaways, and perceive that running giveaways were some underhanded method to attract new viewers.
I would assume they think it’s subversive or disingenuous, that the person running the giveaway has an ulterior motive, which is money money money (which “Cost of Acquisition” seems to indicate), which is also some odd ethical topic that artists love to mull over as if the connection of art to commercialism is somehow evil and takes away from the pureness of creation. But they neglect the truth that, if you are going to utilize your artistic ability to sustain a livelihood or for any sort of reciprocal reward like praise or recognition, you have already stepped into the realm of commerce and exchange.
Being an Artist is Being a Business is Being in a Relationship.
Unless you’re a hermit that creates art in a vacuum and you show no one your work, you can’t deny the fact that creating art is at least partially motivated by the pursuit of some need, whether it be praise, money, fame, etc from another party.
I’m not saying that you need to look at everything in a rigid, business transaction point of view, but unless you view being an artist as encompassing some business aspects, you might as well forget making a livelihood from your art and go work your 9-5 and lie to yourself that you are an artist because you don’t do art for money, you do it for love, after you spend 8 hours a day selling out your artistic abilities making unexciting brochures and leaflets or whatever you do because someone told you too… for money.
So I give away free stuff, not because I’m in the mentality of thinking if a guy takes a woman out for three dates that he is entitled to getting laid, but because I’m seeking to serve my fans because I appreciate my fans because I know I’m in a relationship with them. I also know that inherently, by being gracious and sharing the success they’ve helped to create by giving back (reciprocity), it will foster a healthy, trusting relationship and help to build new relationships (cost of acquisition).
Zig Ziglar, a successful author, motivational speaker and business man once said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
And you know what, it’s true. Being an artist isn’t some one sided, look what I made, I’m so original, you should buy it, and make me rich scenario, it’s more like…
I’ve been in the lab working mad hours trying to perfect my craft, this is what I made for you guys, I hope you like it. [Curtsey Curtsey] I’m going back in the lab and gonna try harder to make some more stuff you guys hopefully like. THHHHAAAANKKK YOOOUUU!
Your Favorite Artist.