The artistic challenge (there are more obviously however this one is critical) has always been how to create art, sell it without selling so you can make money to spend your time creating more art. To have a cycle of creating, getting those creations into the hands of those who appreciate it enough to exchange money for it.
Great artists like Leonardo Davinci were commissioned to create pieces like The Last Supper. Commissioned pieces are co-created. The idea of what to create is suggested by the person commissioning the work and the pieces is actually created by the artist. For artists there is a unique opportunity to continue this process (see Mark Gonyea and his work with Kickstarter) with the aid of technology. A beautiful part of Internet technology is allowing access to a larger audience. That access makes it easier to get to a critical mass of support, generally recognized by some as 1,000 true fans.
1,000 True Fans
Here is a quick video as a window into the idea of 1,000 true fans.
As Kevin Kelly points out, “your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do.” In a way this means those 1,000 true fans commission your work.
The artistic challenge in the digital age is this: how do you connect with a larger audience of 1,000 true fans, fuel your artistic inspiration, and sell what you create?
The answer is you have a platform and feed your audience as much as they feed you. Once you have this you co-create with an audience and push art in ways you wouldn’t creating alone.
The secret is having an interactive process and setup. It’s having an audience that feeds you as much as you feed it. Part of the conduit for that process is a platform (your own website gives you greater control) for displaying who you are and what you create. Having a website means you could use something like Patreon which is a service designed to funnel audience support directly to artists.
Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to set up and maintain a website. Now instead of being another thing you have to do it becomes something you want to do because it’s a source of inspiration on your road to artistic mastery.
Once you have a website or if you already have one, how can you make it interactive?
Interacting with an Audience
If you want to be online you have to build up a relationship with your audience. That’s usually done through publishing content. Visitors come, read, and if they like they come back for more. The real problem with this setup is you are relying upon them to come back. An effective relationship is built is through ongoing contact over time. The best way to do that initially is through email.
Email Relationship Building for Artists
Most of the time when you open an email from a business it’s all about sales. As an artist or creator, you don’t want to do that. You want a relationship with your email list where what you send is a note to your audience not a traditional newsletter. That very difference right there sets you apart however it’s even beyond that. You are allowing your list to become part of your tribe, part of who you are as an artist. In a way you are inviting them inside your studio.
Literally having them inside your studio takes a bit of trust. What if they break something? What if you don’t like what they have to say? There is a bit of trust to the virtual part as well however the process of getting yourself out there and exposed to new people is one of the best ways to grow as an artist.
As your relationship builds your audience becomes a tribe providing you feedback with what they like and don’t like. It takes time as you grow and understand what and how to communicate. When you are in full swing you will have a process that feeds you and your audience. It becomes much easier to come out with a new piece of art or book and have support from an existing tribe than to do it alone.
Gradually there is a synergy between your website, your emails, and what you create as an artist.
The synergy helps answer questions like should I make more of this piece or this piece? There can also be surprises like a piece you didn’t think would do well is quite popular. These are experiences you might get if you took your art to shows however now you can get from a larger audience.