Creatives. Colorful, passionate, expressive. They create the most beautiful pieces of art and music and performance. They challenge us to shift our thinking, they inspire us, and they make us shake our heads in disbelief. I love creatives. Truly, a world without art would be misery.
But—there is always a but—we can’t forget the other side of creativity and the changing face of the art, photography, music, and performance scenes.
Back in the old days the key to success was access and distribution. You needed an agent, a gallery, and a distribution network. This was the only way to get your art in front of the people who would lay money down and buy your works.
That system actually worked really well for artists. The path was clear. You had to work your butt off to get to the point where an agent would sign you. And with that stamp of approval, finding clients and making a living became easier and easier.
You see, artists are creatives for many reasons. Below are the five most important.
- They have no choice but to express what is inside of them.
- They are completely unemployable (I count myself in this group) or are too opinionated.
- They believe rules are meant to be bent and broken.
- They despise the rat race and the notion of working only for a paycheck.
- They MUST create or they die inside.
That is all wonderful and admirable, yet there is one more thing about creatives that makes the list above difficult to maneuver.
CREATIVES HATE SELLING.
That is why the original model from the good old days worked so well. If you had an agent or representation it meant someone believed in you. You made the grade and whatever you produced held enough value that someone else wanted to sell it for you, for a small fee. The more representation you had, the more valuable your creative contribution.
Then the middle-man model collapsed. Suddenly, shameless self-promoters, narcissists, and ego-maniacs who knew how to work the new system became more successful than the hard working and more talented.
Wait a minute, so many of us thought, here is the disrupter model at work. We were right, and it has a name: cutting out the middle man.
It’s a huge game changer. I predicted a few years back that artist representatives would, for the most part, go away except for a few power houses who manage the elite. We already see the trouble stock syndications are in, and the trend of getting lots of “good enough” for much cheaper is already reverting to fewer sales although of higher quality.
This creates a big predicament. Creatives are realizing now they themselves have to sell their ideas, creations, and expressions. There are very few alternatives left. Sure, you can still find representation in a diminishing market. However, many of my former colleagues (I used to be a rep) have gone out of business, expanded, or shifted gears into different industries.
(Not sure if you can claim to be a creative entrepreneur? Here’s a fun article that will help clarify your status.)
So how can YOU go it alone? The first step is to build your authority platform. Tell the world who you are and why they should want to work with you. I taught a course on exactly this not too long ago. Here is the link to the CreativeLive course that will teach you how it’s done.
The pressure is yours alone to get the word out there about how amazing you are. It really is a double whammy.
In my next article I’ll explain the path to success for creative entrepreneurs and how you can build your following from the ground up.
Beate, you are so “right on” with this piece! I lived through the “good old days”. I subscribed to a company(can’t remember their name) that tracked art directors/buyers in a certain geographic, gave you a written list and address labels so you could send out your promo pieces. Being in Cleveland, I chose Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Columbus and Pittsburgh(which was pretty far). By the time you sent out your promo piece and followed up later(I always followed up in Cleveland in 3 days, 4-5 for the other cities) with a phone call, you discovered that the person you wanted to contact, had left there months earlier! I was able to meet with a few local people, but that was it. I finally found a rep, but he only got me two jobs, and that was only because his top people were booked. My wife said I should fire him, but I was scared since he knew people and could “bad mouth” me. We just parted ways. Today, my work can be as easily seen in Paris as in Cleveland, but the art director can also see photographers from all over the world. You do have to change the way you market yourself these days, to stand out from the competition. For instance, I only recently set up an Instagram account(talk about teaching an old dog new tricks…even if they aren’t exactly new)! Anyhow, Thanks for helping to stress that we have to go out and constantly explore new ways to stand out in todays market!
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Jon! It certainly is a changed landscape, and learning new tricks (even if they’re just new to us) will allow us to thrive in this new environment.
Thanks for discussing this subject Beate. We are creative and innovative and odd and very individual in our work practices and style. That’s what makes us unique. I recently had a corporate experience that I found uneasy and disappointing. I was hired as a casual employee for a large retailer to photograph items for their online presence. I was excited to join a group like this as I could look forward semi-regular employment especially around the holidays. They taught me three new software systems that I understood pretty thoroughly within a month of being there although, after telling me I would have another month to settle in with the software I was told after one week that I should not be asking questions anymore. I should understand everything because my ‘training’ was over. This didn’t make sense to me and it wasn’t what they initially told me. The head office people continued to be unsupportive and so was the ‘friend’ who assisted in getting me hired. I’m not sure what happened to be honest other than they decided not to use me beyond a month of work but I will take some precautions away with me from this experience. I’m not about to say I’m not built for corporate work as I would have enjoyed being called in from time to time to work for these guys. I like working for different people but the sense of being unsupported in my time there was palpable. It was ugly actually. I’m disappointed with my experience and will see it as a sign that I should stay freelance and not turn to corporations for extra income. The main woman who scheduled each of us for the following week said to me “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it”. Wow! So unprofessional to say something like that especially as they didn’t hire me again even though I had learned three software systems within one month of part time employment.
Hello ZeroGirl – sounds like you were in a very unsupportive environment. Thank you for sharing.