Grow Your Art Career

Who Needs Food Anyway?
The Basic Needs To Grow Your Art Career, And The Power Of Visibility
A message from art publisher B. Eric Rhoads

One of my friends is the well known CEO of a giant multinational corporation. I read recently that he has a net worth of over $400 million. We’ve known one another since we were both teenagers and he wasn’t yet famous. You would know his name, but he wouldn’t want me putting this story out for the press to pick up, so I can’t share it. Let’s call him Fred.

Very early in Fred’s career, he said this to me: “Eric, for most people the basic needs are food, water, and paying the rent. For me, if I want my career to soar, the basic need is advertising and public relations. I pay for it before I pay my rent because I know it will result in the best jobs and best opportunities.”

It worked. Fred is famous. He’s one of the super-rich, he has his own helicopter and his own jet. He has a giant apartment in New York, another in the country outside New York City and another in a billionaires’ ski resort town, and probably others he hasn’t told me about.

A Lifetime Commitment
Fred is one of the smartest men I know, and as I watched his career, he always made sure that his most basic need, advertising and PR, was his highest priority. In fact, at an early age he met a young PR person and cut a “lifetime deal” with her. When he couldn’t afford her services, he said, “If you help me now, when I get rich I’ll stick with you and be able to pay you lots of money.” He stuck to his promise, and they have been side-by-side business associates for decades.

He gets it. What about you?

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Most of the people who are rich and famous understand that the most important thing in boosting their career and staying on top is PR and advertising. Hollywood celebrities thrive on tabloid rumors because they know that if people are talking about them (good or bad), it’s good for their careers. In Hollywood, the kiss of death is no press.

How visible are you?

No one ever gave me this advice, and I wish they had drummed it into my head at a young age. It took me decades to really understand it. The law of visibility is a reality for anyone who wants to be considered a celebrity in their area of expertise. Stay visible frequently.

How Crass, Eric
In your world as an artist, you may be saying, “I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want to be a celebrity.” That’s fine, but you and your art are a product. And products that succeed follow that mantra: “Stay visible frequently.” (Please, no e-mails about my crass reference to art as a product. Like it or not, if you’re selling something, it’s a product. You are a product. You are a brand.)

12 Steps To ‘Stay Visible Frequently’

1. Make it your mantra.
Everything you do should relate to staying as visible as possible. Make it your goal to make a giant PR effort at least weekly.

2. Don’t be timid.
Chances are you can’t be exposed enough to be overexposed. Look for an excuse every day, every week, to get your name in front of potential customers.

3. Concentrate your efforts.
Ten impressions to 10 different audiences are not 10 impressions. That’s one impression to each of 10 audiences. Wherever you’re focusing your attention, dominate that medium with continual visibility. Most people can’t afford to dominate more than one or two things. It’s incorrect to think you will achieve better response if you buy five ads one time in five different magazines. NONE of them will work for you effectively. Yet the same money spent on five ads in five issues in a row of one magazine will bring you tremendous results. If you have a limited budget, dominate something with that budget.

4. Never ever stop.
This has to become your lifestyle. Like the film stars say, “If they’re not writing about me, I’m out of business.” If you want to be a giant success, you work your advertising/PR strategy every day and every week for the rest of your career. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of mind, out of business. Advertising and PR builds upon itself. Think of it as a house that is never finished. You start with the foundation, keep building until the house looks finished, and then you keep adding on.

5. Starting and stopping is like starting from scratch.
I know people who advertise for a couple of issues of one of my magazines. They will buy a couple of ads, lay low for a few months, then buy some more, then lay low. Each time you lay low, you lose share of mind because you’re not reinforcing your brand. Apple never stops. Ford and GM never stop. You can never stop if you want wild success.

6. Leverage your visibility strategy.
Seek ways to get others promoting you while you sleep. Get others acting on your behalf. The best tool ever invented for an artist is an art gallery. If you have five or six galleries in different regions of the country, you are being promoted every day to the customers in those galleries. They are professional sales agents. One — or six — more galleries showing your work can do more for you than you can do on your own.

7. Participate in co-advertising
The best deal going is when you can buy ads for your work at half the price. Many art galleries will run ads exclusively promoting your work if you’re willing to pay half the cost of the ad. It’s a great deal for both of you, drives customers to their gallery, and it builds your brand, which increases sales, buyer desire, and, ultimately, demand, resulting in higher prices.

8. Become a press release maven.
News outlets locally, local art pubs, even national art publications are always on the hunt for a story. If your release appears on their desk on the day they need to fill a page, you might get lucky. Frequency builds your brand with editors, so any chance you have to issue a press release (on something legitimate, like an award or a new painting), send a release to everyone who reaches the audiences you want to reach. Get to know the editors, ask about upcoming stories, and make suggestions as to how you might fit. If you ever wonder why some people seem to get all the press, that’s why. And if you can find someone to do press for you, especially a pro, they can pitch stories on your behalf.

9. Facebook and Twitter matter.
Brands are built by frequent posts with smart information, great photos, and interesting links. Build a giant friend list and post frequently, with relevant and interesting things (we don’t care about your cat’s hairball or your political opinions).

10. Bigger is better.
The psychology of advertising says that if you run bigger ads, or more ads in an issue, you are more important. That is how top blue chip art galleries built their reputations and how they keep them alive. You must be successful if you’re running that much advertising. Fake it till you make it. Run ads as big as possible and as frequently as possible.

But frequency is still more important than size. If you can afford only one full-page ad, I’d advise you that four quarter-page ads in four consecutive issues is better than one full-page ad in only one issue. Dominate with frequency, and then, as soon as you can, increase the ad size to grab more notice and stature in the eyes of buyers.

11. Advertising is perceived as editorial content.
Research indicates that consumers prefer newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations that have ads to those that do not. Ads tell about things people may want or need. In art magazines like Fine Art Connoisseur, which I own, our readers love paintings, and they look at the paintings in ads as much as the pictures in the stories. Readers love seeing those pictures, and may well not remember you as an advertiser, but as an artist they now know. One of my advertisers told me she became perceived as famous because she is in every issue of the magazine, without skipping, ever. Of course, it helps her business because she never stops and her image is always being reinforced.

12. Volume overcomes time.
A new art gallery once asked me if there was a way they could become as well known as a gallery that had been in business for a hundred years. Though time + consistent visibility is the strongest marketing tool, you can get very close to an equal position in the minds of audiences with a high volume of advertising, with a high volume of frequency, over a shorter period of time. I told this gallery owner that within three to five years, his gallery could be perceived as one of the biggest and most important galleries in America if he ran four to six pages in every issue for three years. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it realistic? Not for many. But this is one way to overcome the advantage of time.

But Eric, How Can I Afford It?
My friend Fred, whom I mentioned earlier, told me he invested in PR and advertising before he paid his rent. He knew that the investment would lead to success, and therefore he made huge sacrifices. He drove an old beat-up car, he lived in a crummy apartment and didn’t go out to dinner much. He put the good things in life on hold so he could buy the visibility that would eventually result in success. Did I mention that his net worth is over $400 million?

The Law Of Conflicting Values
One of the great laws of the universe is that two good things may be in conflict. Truth and justice are both good things, but one may have to be chosen over the other. In art, your conflicting values may be financial success versus the respect of other artists. For instance, we all know of a famous artist who is extremely wealthy but whom most artists do not respect. He chose wealth over the respect of other artists.

To accomplish frequent visibility, you may have to choose visibility over certain basic needs to roll the dice on building your career longer-term. Most successful people I know had to make those tough choices. You can always find a way if you’re passionate enough to make something happen.

The Agent In Me
Artists keep asking me to be their agent, but I simply don’t have the time or the desire. Yet I believe that anyone with some marketing skills like those I’ve acquired could make an unknown artist one of the most famous and financially successful in America within three years if they had enough financial resources and drive. I do this for businesses on a regular basis with my consulting practice in marketing, but those clients typically have the resources to pay my fees and spend the money on big campaigns for long periods of time.

For you, without a lot of resources, it will simply take more time. A steady drumbeat of visibility over time will eventually get you where you want to be.

Do Something Daily
I guarantee I will get 50 e-mails about how “my circumstances are different” and how someone doesn’t  have the money to advertise. I don’t doubt that. Yet you can still carve out one hour daily to create visibility without spending a dime. Some who see a clear vision will find the money from friends, family, and personal sacrifices. You just have to want success badly enough. Following this program is not for wimps. It’s for people committed to becoming a major household name among collectors.

Nothing good is ever accomplished without risk. Your success is 100 percent determination to succeed at chasing your dreams.

Go knock ’em dead. You can make great things happen.

Eric Rhoads
Read my Art Marketing Blog


One Response to “Grow Your Art Career”

  1. Martina Pook on October 19th, 2010 10:18 pm


    What is your comment towards art competitions? Another way to enter the market?

    We offer a listing of more than 1400 art competitions for visual artists within Australia and New Zealand in both book and searchable online database, as a subscription service.

    Artrillium House – The Art Directory

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