Sell More Art - Market Research for Artists
If you're like most artists, you probably live and work with artists, eat with artists, socialize with artists and recreate with artists-- and likely with other fine arts professionals as well. When you're on your own, you probably read about artists, visit art websites, attend art lectures, visit galleries and museums and more. You're basically all art all the time. And that's excellent. But if you want to maximize your chances for success as an artist, you've got to do more. What kind of more? You have to continually broaden your horizons or in other words, learn how to present your art to a progressively wider and wider range of people in a wider and wider variety of circumstances.
You see, the problem with the all-art-all-the-time lifestyle is that the more inside the beltway you are, the more removed you tend to be from typical everyday people who like art, but who may not know that much about it-- there's plenty of 'em out there, believe me. And when presented with everyday opportunities to talk about your art with everyday people who aren't art savvy, the greater your risk of lapsing into pretentious art prattle and rapidly rendering any such interested parties comatose. The worst part about these casualties of incomprehension is that given ideal conditions, some of them may have turned out to be buyers.
Think about this: Anyone who's interested enough in your art, no matter who they are, to (1) take time out of their harried life to stop and look at it and (2) ratchet up the fortitude to ask you about it, has got to be considered a potential buyer-- not instantly of course, but assuming your impending interaction proceeds in ways that increasingly engage them with either you, your art or both. The tricky part? Doing this without intimidating, insulting or overwhelming them or just plain frightening them away. This is not easy-- having a casual encounter evolve into a sale-- but it is possible. And the better you get at guiding inquiring minds through the perilous intellectual thicket surrounding your art, the greater the number of sales you'll ultimately make.
The easy part? You already know how to talk about your art with art people. No problem there. You understand each other perfectly. That's taken care of. The hard part is learning to talk to everybody else (aka the other 99% of the population, pretty much all of whom like art). The sad fact is that many artists don't have clue number one about how non-art people respond to their art (or about how to respond back). The hard-to-believe fact is that many of these artists don't even care about that 99% and dismiss them as irrelevant. Perhaps they see no upside in terms of personal advancement, they enjoy the perks of elitism, they regard confusing the shit out of people as an ego wonk, or whatever. The one minor detail they overlook? Profit potential.
You see, at some point you gotta think about buyers-- those blessed individuals who may actually pay money to own the art you create, each and every one of those potential paydays enhancing your chances of making your living making art. Yes, the brutal truth is that you need to somehow generate income from your art in order to survive as an artist. So the greater the range of buyers you pay attention to, the greater the opportunities to expand your client base and the greater the probability of making your artistic survival a reality. Who these people are or how little or much they know about art makes absolutely no difference-- as long as they buy. Why these people like your art makes absolutely no difference-- as long as they buy. And since nobody buys anything they don't understand, it behooves you to acquire the skills to effectively present your art to as wide a range of people in as wide a variety of circumstances as possible.
So OK. Have I convinced you to at least hear me out on this one? Excellent. The goal? Understanding how different kinds of people respond to your art so that you can learn to respond to their responses. The methodology? You do what's commonly called "market research" or "focus groups," or put another way, you watch people respond to your art, listen to people respond to your art and most importantly, talk to people about their responses to your art. I'll explain:
The more you know about how your art affects people and about what types of information they need in order to maximally understand, appreciate and enjoy it, the better able you are to keep those people in the game, to hold their attention, to keep them asking questions, to progressively deepen their experiences, and hopefully, to make sales or get shows or whatever else you're looking for. Remember-- we're focusing on typical everyday people who like art, not art people. You've already got art people covered. The most important people for you now are those you know the least about, those you've been ignoring for whatever reasons or those you've made assumptions about, but have never bothered to test whether those assumptions are the least a teensy bit accurate.
How do you gather the necessary data? One of the best ways is to host a show or soiree or reception or party or gathering around your art. Better yet, have someone host it for you. Contact people you know and ask if they'll help you out, especially those who like your art, especially those outside the art world. Hopefully someone will offer or have access to a space where you can display your work and throw yourself a show, even if only for a night. Then again, if you have to do it all yourself, that's fine too-- as long as you do it.
Hold your event in a non-intimidating location like a private home or apartment, common area of a building, meeting room, specialty store or lobby-- not an art gallery or art studio or place where art people hang out, but preferably some neutral area where non-art people generally feel comfortable. That way, they'll have their guards down and be more likely to respond to what they see and to communicate their experiences. And make sure there's no pressure to buy, just to come, look, enjoy and have fun. Then again, if someone wants to buy something, go for it.
Invite as many non-art people and as few art people as possible while also minimizing the number of friends, family and those who already know your art-- they won't be any help. In fact, they'll distract you from the matter at hand. Encourage those you invite to invite friends they think might be interested, and for those friends to invite their friends. The goal is to get total strangers through the door-- people who have nothing invested one way or another in either you or your art. Save your fan base for later. Remember, this is not about people you know; it's about people you don't know. Sure, you'll probably feel awkward, but that's exactly the point. You're here to learn and in order to do that you have to get brave and explore unexplored territories.
You see, since most artists have no idea how typical people respond to their art, they don't know how to speak about their art in language that typical people can understand. This is what you're here to learn. Pretty much everybody likes art and they have all kinds of questions about it, many of those questions unrelated to any formal aspects of art or art history, questions like how long it takes to make, how much it weighs, how hard it is to move, what you hang it with, what it means, why you put the red circle in the corner, how long it takes to dry and so on. Most importantly, people who don't know that much about art ask questions you don't anticipate, some of which will be so off the wall they'll take you totally by surprise, some so totally that you won't have the slightest idea how to respond. To repeat-- this is what you're here to learn. A surprise question can only surprise you once and once the surprise is over, it's time to craft an answer. Why? Because hardly anything is worse than saying nothing or "I don't know."
And this is the key-- learning to respond to all kinds of questions from all kinds of people. Experienced artists are good at this; many are so good, they go so far as to make preemptive strikes on a wide variety of questions before they even get asked. Remember, no matter how uninformed or irrelevant certain questions may sound to you, I can assure you that they're of utmost importance to the people who ask them, and furthermore, that your answers are critical to advancing and enhancing people's experience of your art, so critical in fact that some of those answers may ultimately lead to sales.
The moral of the story? In order to effectively transit artland and survive as an artist, you are required to answer all kinds of questions about yourself and your art from all kinds of people all the time-- quick, credible, compelling, easy to understand and most importantly, with respect. Your mission is to give people a grip, to get them involved and once you master that, you're on your way. The better you are at getting people comfortable around your art, the better your chances of succeeding as an artist. It's that simple and no more complicated.
Additional tips for your art market research:
* Have several confederates attend your event, listen to people talk about your art, perhaps even get involved in the conversations. Then have them report back to you when its over.
* Whenever possible, either at your event or elsewhere, encourage people to talk with you about their responses to your art. If they ask why, tell them their feedback will help you to better explain your art in ways that anybody can understand.
* Pay attention to the most common questions people ask about your art. These are the questions you should have the best answers for.
* No matter what people say, don't take it personally. In fact, learning not to take it personally is critical to your success as an artist. Remember-- these are not fine arts professionals; they're people who like art and who respond based on their own personal tastes and feelings. It's not always about you.
* If you can't put an event together, invite interested parties to some neutral place to look at and talk about with you about your art. Tell them what you're up to-- that your goal is to learn how to explain your art in ways anybody can understand. Encourage them to be direct and honest in their responses... and promise you won't hold anything against them.
Services for Artists and Collectors
- Art Consulting From Me Helps You >>