Most people who know me understand that I have been a lifelong fan of Nick Cave. Alerted via my Facebook news feed, I bought tickets to “One More Time with Feeling,” the 3D movie that chronicled the making of the latest “album” and the tough, personal story behind it.
I learned of new screenings via email, releases of singles from the album itself via native and targeted ads in both email and YouTube. Facebook ads followed me around (of course, well after I had bought all there was to buy). Nick Cave and his organization have been terrifically forward thinking as they look to activate his base of fans and drive us to some action we are all very willing to take.
I have noticed others following suit at least as it comes to Facebook-specific marketing. Iggy Pop, Drive By Truckers, Pretty Reckless. I know Nick Cave’s marketing team didn’t invent best practices but he was clearly at the forefront of leveraging them to connect with a big, highly distributed, yet still niche audience. We are not talking Beyonce, here.
Can other artists – visual, writers, performance – use a similar playbook to market themselves to those core fans? Is there a new, more efficient model of digital marketing available to artists?
Visual Artists Need Marketing to Connect with Fans & Buyers
I love visual arts. I go to museums and galleries. I browse arts magazines. I am no big bucks art patron. But I have bought a few pieces in my life almost always from up-and-comers or more likely, lesser, lesser known artists. I would love to discover more, maybe even buy a thing or two. While I respect many galleries and the job they are trying to do to give artists a commercial chance, I don’t trust the gallery “system.” Just look at the disturbing stories generated about establishment galleries like Mary Boone.
I know there are “digital marketplaces” like artsy.net that aggregate art. Unlike music, there doesn’t seem to be that magic Pandora, iTunes, Spotify relevance engine to aid in discovery in visual arts. How that might exactly work is a bit beyond me. But anyone who can crack the relevant search engine to aid in the discovery of artists is truly doing the gods work.
Once I “know” an artist, I am willing to follow their work and career. Much like I follow Nick Cave, I follow Pure Evil. Charley is both an artist, a gallery owner and a bit of healthy self-promoter. He has used social media prolifically because he knows he has fans and can speak directly to them. He routinely posts new work on Facebook.
Could artists sustain and grow a career of commercially viable art (make enough money to live or even prosper) by embracing the same best practices being used by musical artists to connect directly with fans, sell tickets, drive downloads and more?
Artists would need a steady body of work to feed the “stream.” Banging out a painting every two years won’t do. One of Nick Cave’s strengths is a regular flow of new work. Here are a few samples:
- The Lonely Giant story from Nick Cave
- The Sick Bag Song limited edition box
- The Sick Bag Song mass market book
- Shell Shock the Opera
- Mars, the Series, Soundtrack
- Skeleton Tree Pink Tee
and so much more.
Clearly not every artist has this prolific an output. But think of all those Picasso sketches or the bird prints from famed designer Peter Good. Artists have a lot to share. I realize I am dancing around some clear tension between the role and ambition of an artist and the crass nature of commercialism. But an artist may be more likely to find independence and a sustainable lifestyle with a great digital marketing strategy than to find favor with the art intelligentsia.
Components of a great marketing program for artists
- A steady stream of output preferably at multiple price points (not everyone can afford a big painting)
- A contemporary Web site that is user-centered and features the work well (and drives people to useful actions like “subscribe” and “follow us” and “share this”)
- An email marketing program for subscribers with terrifically designed emails that drive people to action
- A paid and earned Facebook publishing program with plenty of save-the-date alerts and timely posts (and great photography)
- Mobile opt-in alerts for the rabid fans
If artists used this digital marketing playbook, I would likely “follow” these talented artists among others:
(thanks to mojo4music for their awesome image of Nick Cave - read their article here)