Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thoughts On How Promotion and Selling of Art Has Changed Because of the Internet

Recently, I've been thinking about the art business (not just visual art, but literature and music) and how the Internet has changed artists' careers, promotion tactics, and production. I've started translating and fixing up my grandmother's books, and have promoted one of her works on several blogging sites (if you're interested, check or (I haven't written much on it, but I promise I will catch up during the summer when I have more time). I've also been working to get her own site up. Also, recently, I was allowed to get my friend to allow promotion of her artistic skills (she's incredible, if you want to see her stuff go to

Either way, I've been getting really interested in how artists have to change to get with the times. I watched this video and it really made me think about how people promote and sell their art nowadays.Before the internet (and really, before TV), to listen to music, you had to actually go and buy the band's CD. You had to pay money for it. If you wanted to see the musicians actually play, you'd have to wait until they came to where you lived to play live, or you'd have to travel to a venue. You'd actually have to make an effort and you had to pay money to see them. Once TV arrived, you could see their hit singles on MTV and such, but you wouldn't be able to listen to all of their music unless you bought their CD (or listened to them live), both of which takes money. However, now that the Internet's arrived, you don't have to get off the couch to go to the bookstore or the music store and buy music. You can download it illegally or watch it off Youtube. All the music you want, you can listen to for free. And that's really great for you, since you're not spending that money on music, but that's not the best for the musician. Now, if the musician is some major mainstream pop star, it's unlikely that they'll suffer too much because of the lack of money. But if they're some unheard of band, they will suffer. The CD you would have bought or the iTunes song you would have bought, though most of the money would have gone to their record label (if they have one), they would see a small portion of that money. And now, that you already know their music, it's up to you to decide whether paying the money to see them live or not is worth it.

The video that I watched that made me think about this is Amanda Palmer (the lead singer and pianist of the band The Dresden Dolls and a solo artist to boot) talking to students at Harvard about how the Internet has changed how musicians can now get their money. Her solution to the decline of the music industry because of all the free music is to "get back on the box" and to ask her fans personally for money, to go up to her fans and say 'If you like my music, then you'll give me money, not through a record label, not through intermediaries, but directly to me and you will help me make a living". The free music will happen and it cannot be stopped and musicians have to deal with that. They'll also have to deal with having to personally ask their fans for assistance and their fans to be devoted enough to give them that.

I think it's an incredible idea, personally, and I think this solution goes across the board to all artists, not just musicians. Before, artists could stay in their attic and compose or draw or write their work and they'd contact one person who'd promote it for them, and they would or they would not see the money that would come out of their work. They were not so connected with their admirers (fans), and artists could keep themselves at a distance from the world. Artists can still do that with the internet, and somehow with it, it's in fact, easier. But at the same time, it's harder. People can find you easily simply using the Internet. And you can communicate easily with your fans. So why not do so? Nobody has anything to lose, except you. The only effort you must make is to reach out and contact your fans.

The issue is getting a fan base that is devoted enough to make you a living. That's a different issue though. Your art has to be good enough as, Palmer says, for more than your mother to like it. That's an issue of whether what you write is actually good (or popular enough). How do you get a fan base? You promote your work. Visual artists and writers specifically have blog sites to promote their pieces on (deviantart, blogspot, xanga, livejournal) and can accumulate enough of an audience that might be interested in supporting and buying their pieces. By promoting your work in more than one place, you get a better chance at a devoted fanbase. For example, I've been recently considering writing as a part-time job and I'm planning to self-publish a book in early summer (stay tuned for that, for those who like my work). I already have three blogs where I post my work (xanga, livejournal, and blogspot) and though xanga is the place where I get the most views, each blog has a purpose (livejournal is more private, while blogspot is the "professional" blog where I post all my finished articles and prose/poetry pieces). I already have a devoted enough audience that's willing to buy a book written by me. And that's incredible, obviously. But honestly, it couldn't have been done without the internet.

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