Eryan Cobham

Thinker-tinker. Web Developer.

The Business Side of Art

I went to this website last night, and it kinda pissed me off a lil’ somethin’. It’s the website of this guy that travels around with Raheem Devaughn and paints while Raheem is performing. He probably did the artwork on that Raheem Devaughn link. I went to a concert a couple of months ago, and it was kinda dope to watch, cause he did a whole piece during the performance. Plus, I actually like his work.

But, even though I like this cat’s art, going to that website definitely annoyed the shit out of me.

The reason for that is because I hate it when people that I think are pretty talented in any artistic way (i.e. music, art, whatever) don’t seem to pay as much attention to the business side of things. This could just be me and my non-artistic self hating and not thinking about how they want to devote all their time to creating the art (and making ridiculously gross generalizations, unsupported by any facts at all), but I don’t really understand why, in so many cases, it always seems like people think business and art have to be mutually exclusive.

What I mean by that is, take a look at that guy’s site. I visited it as a person that had seen his work before, learned about the site cause I cared enough to write it down when he said it, knew I liked his stuff, and would possibly interested in buying one if the price were right (which I doubted it would be, but hey, you never know). When I went to the site there was no way, that I could find, to actually buy one of his joints. You would think that, when you are trying to make a living selling something, you would make it as easy as possible for someone to buy it.

Even if there WAS a link somewhere on the site to purchase a piece, I didn’t see it. It should have been somewhere that made it IMPOSSIBLE for me to miss. It should have been so prominent that I could go there and immediately see it. All I could see when I looked around were: a page with contact info and a mailing list that I wouldn’t bother signing up for, and another page that required you to download some shit (that I thought that I already had on my computer and was unwilling to bother trying to download again, and I download everything, so I doubt less tech-savvy people would try) just to look at some of his works.

That website is straight out of 1997. All it does is present you with a couple of pages of information. I know that I place way more faith and confidence in the Interwebs (and technology in general) than most people, and my perception of what it can enable is a bit farfetched at times, but I think most people still underestimate it. For people trying to get their work out there and seen by people and make a living, the Internet is one of the best things to ever happen to them, because it both lowers the cost of self-promotion and makes it easy to do transactions.

He could pay $25/year and upload a picture of EVERY SINGLE PIECE he’s ever done to a site like Flickr and EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD WITH AN INTERNET CONNECTION would be able to see them. No special software necessary, just a web browser. If he wanted to, he could sell large, glossy prints of his work in addition to the actual paintings.

Maybe some people would just save the pics off flickr and put em as their desktop background or print em out on their photo printer at home, but it wouldn’t even matter if he missed out on those sales, because all the pics would still have his signature on them and act as free advertising when those people showed it to their friends. And no matter what, nobody can duplicate buying one of his actual pieces. Even if he made no money on everything else, it would STILL act as promotion for people to buy his artwork, because the more people that know about him, the larger his audience of potential sales. He can go to a site like Custom Ink and get his artwork put on whatever the hell he wants.

I don’t know anything about the economics of art, so I dont know if maybe he wants to keep his stuff scarce and expensive, but shit, he could do a limited series of full paintings, a separate limited series for shirts, one for bags. The possibilities are damn near limitless. He could do a set that connected a bag, shirt, photo and painting through a common theme, in a way that would make people want to buy all 4 to get the whole story. I won’t even get into the communication/blog issues, this post is already longer than I intended.

Sorry for the long rant, and I’m sure doing all that would offend the sensibilities of some true artists that have some vision for their art and think doing that stuff would be selling out in some way, or something like that, but I think that not doing stuff like that is just limiting yourself, and when you limit yourself you end up putting your future in the hands of others.

I need to hurry up and get my shit together and work on my execution of ideas so I can just be a consultant. Thoughts on making some money in music in a later post.

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P.S. – I must admit, I developed a lot of the ideas I talked about here based on the articles I read over at Techdirt that talk about how businesses need to react and adapt to change. They got some smart guys over there.