Getting it Right; Getting Rights

August 14, 2013

Publicity 1

Recently, I was asked to consult with a local visual artist who presented similarly to many other artists with whom I consult: They feign an interest in improving their business practices but reject all advice. What this person really wanted from me was approval of his existing practices. His problem: he was not selling enough art even though he was getting a lot of publicity.

This young man enjoyed seeking and getting publicity and he was really good at it. But my sense was that he does not like selling. He wants gallery representation but does little to secure it. He is always seeking publicity believing it will lead to sales but when I spoke with him, he had no show or sale plans in place.

He is a very charming man; he is extroverted and articulate and that is why he is so successful with media. When we met, he was ecstatic because a local TV station had agreed to interview him. So I asked him, “what delivery are you seeking from the exposure?” I wanted to know what action he was hoping to provoke in viewers of the upcoming interview? In other words: What was the point of the publicity?
Publicity is “free advertising” for those who use it most effectively. It is most valuable for a visual artist when it precedes an event that brings you a valued return be that viewers, students, critics or customers. When publicity happens at a time you have no event planned, it may advance public awareness of your name (brand), but that awareness lasts mere days.

This young man was getting a lot of publicity, but it had no purpose. It was publicity for publicity’s sake; it was not part of a business/marketing plan. He is mounting an effective brand advertising campaign that provides no delivery for the audience he reaches. And what is worse is that he is very likely to find the media far less accessible when he does have a show or sale event.
Good publicity serves your purpose and happens when you need it. Bad publicity is when you are merely serving the media’s insatiable need for content when they need it.

Publicity 2

When you sell work, always legibly sign your work and print your name and contact information on the back. Keep accessible online contact information up to date. What else can I say?

My friend, Dawn, is your friend. She is not rich; she has great taste. She is a thoughtful, conscious person and her house is full of lovely original artwork. Recently, I went to her house where she showed me works by two artists whose work she loves and then she asked me if I knew the artist and how to reach either of them. She had taken several initiatives to find the artists, but she had failed in every attempt. She wanted to find the artist because she wants to buy more work!

She purchased one piece at Emily Carr University and the other she bought at the East Side Culture Crawl but the artists had just disappeared. Worse: She had specifically given one of the artists her contact information so that she could be informed about future sales and shows by the artist but she never heard from that artist again.

I almost felt sick thinking about what she had told me as I walked home. I kept visualizing “starving” artists at work not realizing that there were people wanting to buy their work. So, for all you artists who are painting away and wishing for more sales: Don’t leave things un-done, unfinished, forgotten, or postponed for a day that will never come. Realize every day that someone may be trying to find you and make sure they can.

And it all starts with signing your name legibly on everything you do (with contact information on the back).

Re-Sale Rights
I am a life-long advocate of visual artists rights and carfac. I have to be, therefore, an advocate of their drive to introduce Artists Resale Rights (ARR) to Canada.

First introduced as legislation in France in 1920, the ARR gives artists the right to claim 5% of all future re-sales of their work. Sixty-six other countries, including every nation in the European Union, have since adopted the arr and impact studies suggest it has not affected sales.

I must support an initiative designed to help artists earn a fair share of any increased value of their work. It is, as is said, a no brainer, but I wonder if this idea will succeed in North American culture where monetary return often outweighs moral integrity.

I wish we could encourage and nourish our visual artists in a better way than the ARR. The ARR seeks economic fairness for artists but I wish the objectives of the Status of the Artist (SOA) movement were the method of choice in North America The soa movement seeks to align the rights of artists with those of other workers as outlined by UNESCO (Google “UNESCO Status of the Artist.”) The ARR is better than nothing, but the SOA would help a far, far larger constituency of visual artists.
If you believe in the ARR and want to see it happen, what are you doing about it? Find out what you can do by visiting the CARFAC website:

Chris Tyrell Loranger is the author of Artist Survival Skills and Making It!, an arts writer and educator. His popular opinion pieces have appeared in our newsletter since its first issue in 1986. Visit his website, or his art marketing blog, to learn more.