Recently, I was invited to speak on a panel about ways patrons of the arts could better support creatives (artists, musicians, writers etc.) in their communities. It was my first time public speaking and I was the youngest person on the panel, so I was understandably a bit nervous.
The questions from the moderator focused on what creatives would find helpful in terms of support as well as how their fans could best promote them and distribute their work.
Many wonderful ideas and suggestions were shared by my fellow panelists as well as by the very vocal crowd that evening. But, my answer was ridiculously simple, and — luckily — well-received by everyone present.
My message was this:
“Creatives need to learn how to help themselves.”
May not sound like such a novel idea, but unfortunately, many are not doing much to put themselves get out there. I think there are a couple reasons why this is the case.
Not sure how
For one thing, a super talented creative is not always entrepreneurial or business-minded just as an entrepreneur is not always so gifted in the arts. A person may have a great deal of skills and creative talent, but not may not be so educated or interested in the business side of things.
However, if a creative wants to have any hope of monetizing their art, they need to approach it like a business. No doubt, a great creative spends a lot of time making great art and honing their craft. But, a financially successful creative who makes a good living from their work also has to learn how to be their own best advocate.
Not comfortable with promoting themselves
The problem is many artists don’t feel comfortable selling themselves. They prefer to be “discovered.” They hope their work will speak for itself. I totally understand this, because I once thought the same way. Promoting myself seemed fake and kind of sleazy to me.
If you’re a creative struggling to get noticed, please listen to me. Advocating for yourself will not cheapen your art. It will not compromise your creativity. The patrons, talent scouts, and recording labels are not going to come knocking on your door. They aren’t coming to you. They don’t even know who you are and they don’t care. You need to give them reason to care or, better yet, just bypass them!
The traditional gatekeepers — radio stations, art galleries, television stations, magazines, book publishers etc. — no longer have a monopoly over deciding what creative gets out to the masses. Today, digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Medium, and Instagram allow you to easily connect to those who would appreciate your art and build a following.
The best part is you don’t even have to do much “self-promoting.” In fact, that’s not always a good idea, especially on social media where content that doesn’t provide value gets lost in the feed. Instead, share your genuine passion for what you do and authentically engage with your audience, no matter how big or small. And share regularly!
Fear of rejection
Perhaps, you create art for its own sake and you don’t care what other people think so long as you’re proud of it. If so, mazel tov! Good for you. You don’t have to show your art to the world or try to get it out there.
However, if you do want to earn some recognition and/or profit from your art, then you will have to just get over this one. There’s not much I can say other than don’t be afraid to face the market. If you’re paralyzed by fear, there’s no hope of getting off the ground.
Save your creativity for your art
First of all, you need to be on social media and you need to post content regularly. If you have any hang-ups or bugaboos about it, please try your best to get over them. Because, if you don’t have a presence on the major online platforms and channels where most consumer attention is directed (YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram etc.) and you don’t put out content that is mobile friendly, you essentially don’t exist. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes. So, make the time.
But, here’s the good news. You don’t have to be super creative in your branding and marketing. Save that for your art. And you don’t have to spend so much time trying to figure out what to create, share, or talk about. Simply document your creative process or your journey of trying to get your art out there and make your dreams come true. Don’t overthink it. Share your story. Share your work, show people how you do it, and engage, engage, engage!
Talk to your fans and interact with them even if you only have a handful. Directly message or tweet at those who might be interested in your stuff or who might be able to help you and offer them something of value in exchange. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Be proactive, go on the offense, and boldly seek others out. I’ve been doing this for about a year now and I promise you that it really works! In fact, I know that I’d be further along if I only did it more often.
F*ck being a starving artist
The stereotype of the “starving artist” is a harmful one and it needs to be done away with for good. Be your own best advocate. Go get what you want, actively pursue meaningful relationships, don’t be afraid to talk to people who can help you, engage with your followers, and share your stuff with the world! Enough sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or waiting to hear back from the publisher. Take matters into your own hands. This is the only way you’re going to get your stuff out there and find a market for your art, which will support you and enable you to spend more of your time creating and less time waiting.