Hotel Signs (from the series Insomnia: Hotel Noir)
In discussing the marketing of your fine art, the Promotion is basically all those activities that take place to help sell your artwork. In a sense, every thing that you do to make a name for yourself or let potential buyers know about your art is promotion. Promotion is further refined into two types, Indirect Promotion and Direct Promotion.
Direct Promotion is probably the easiest to understand as we are constant bombarded in our daily lives with direction promotional activities, called advertising. Direction promotion includes billboards, television commercials, signs and the advertisements in newspapers and magazines. If you are paying for anything that promotes you or your artwork, that is direct promotion.
Indirect Promotion on the other hand is those events that occur that promote you that you are not paying for. There are some subtitles to the indirect promotion that you should be paying attention to, which I will discuss shortly.
A full page advertisement with your artwork displayed, perhaps a photo of you and your contact information in an art magazine is Direct promotion. You paid for it, you probably had a big say in the layout and the copy of this advertisement. You controlled this promotion. If that same magazine ran an article about your artwork, such as a gallery review or an editorial piece, also included your artwork, perhaps a photo of you and your contact information, that would be considered Indirect promotion. You may not have any say in what was finally written about you, even if you were interviewed by the writer. But your cost for the indirect promotion may be absolutely nothing (zip, zero, nada, nothing, something for nothing) other than taking time for the interview and preparation and sending digital files of the artwork that was illustrated in the article.
Both forms of promotion are important to an artist and their career. As a rule of thumb, you control the Direct Promotion, deciding who, what, where, how and when. For Indirect promotion, a lot more chance is involved in being written or discussed.
For your career, you need to keep a certain amount of visibility ongoing, and that you control with the Direct promotion, sometimes called an advertising campaign. This would include the simple things such as a web site, business cards, stationary, and if you have brick and mortar gallery, the signs out front and the phone directory advertisements. To what extent you can maintain a direction promotion program depends on your budget to pay for this expense. If you are represented by a gallery, they may be coordinating a direct promotion program that might include you in the listing of artist or perhaps an image of your artwork. You may find that they may want to co-promote you where you buy an advertisement and you list your represented gallery(s) and they have pay for part of the expense. A lot of variations on this theme.
If you are on a tight budget (or even have a budget) then the Indirect promotion can look very appealing. Just as the song goes, it seems like you are getting something for nothing. There are also some very attractive aspects of Indirect promotion. It is one thing for your paid advertisement to state that you are the Great New Art Wonder, but it takes on a whole new meaning if one of the leading art critics in New York claims you are the Great New Art Wonder. This is called third party validation. You can’t pay an art critic to say good things about you or stop them from trashing you either. So collectors listen to the critic’s, editors, curators and others to see what they think.
Now that being said, there are also individuals and companies that can help you with Indirect promotion, call Public Relation (PR) firms. You pay for the services from the PR to help you with Indirect promotion and as they say, the results very. Good PR firms that work with artist know a lot of the editors, writers and others who are involved with art markets. They can help write the copy for an article about you, discuss it with various editors and help the article get placed. They are not responsible for how a magazine or newspaper will finally do with the information. PR firms can help you with connections that would take you a long time to make on your own, thus freeing you to work on your creative projects.
Last you are now reading my blog, which is free and it has my images and contact information. This blog is considered Indirect promotion. I am not advertising anything for sale, but providing some hopefully useful information. But I also hope that you look at the rest of this blog and get to know my art projects. And perhaps someday, you may want to add my artwork to your collection.
Finally, you do need a promotional program and you do need to spend some time thinking about how you are going to become known. I was always amazed that after having an art supply store in a mid size community, that after ten years of direct and indirect promotion, we would still have customers come in the door, claiming to have lived here almost all their lives and that they did not know we were here in town. It seems like you can never do enough.
Best regards, Doug