My Disco DJ Days And Meeting The Ultimate Art Agent
An Art Marketing message from Art Publisher B. Eric Rhoads
Plus a handful of tidbits for artists....
Someday, if you corner me in a hotel lobby and buy me a cup of coffee, you might get me talking about the exciting days of being a kid in a crazy business like radio broadcasting. I was 14 years old when I first went on the radio as a DJ, and by the time I was 17, I was on the air on the number one station in
Leave It To Beaver
I grew up in Leave It to Beaver land, in a small Midwestern town and was exposed to nothing as a kid. If someone offered me drugs, it was an aspirin. But suddenly I was offered a job at a top rock 'n' roll station. So I put everything I owned in my 1968 VW bug, moved out of my parents' home, and drove down to live in
The Square Kid
Being on the radio in 1973 was a whole lot different than it is now. I became a local celebrity, and I even had groupies. Being 17 with groupies and a job on the radio, making more money than I'd ever thought possible, was a dangerous combination. My ego swelled. Fortunately, my parents raised me well enough to resist most of the trappings of rock 'n' roll radio. Everyone else was indulging, but I remained the square kid from
A Moment With Barry Manilow
In the 1970s, I was responsible for breaking several records on the radio from artists who became household names. Two years ago, I ran into singer Barry Manilow in Vegas, and I asked him what was the most exciting moment in his career. He said it was visiting
Hanging With The Bee Gees
A very big part of my life was the disco era. I had a shiny Nik Nik shirt, a white leisure suit, puka shells, two-toned patent leather shoes, and a Fiat Spyder convertible. Life was good. I was hanging out with the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, and with several artists responsible for the famous
That was the
What does all this have to do with marketing art? Read on.
Meeting A Super Agent
One of the gifts my father gave me was to always ask me what I'd learned after meeting someone, getting me into the habit of trying to learn from everyone I met. One night in a hotel suite hanging out with the Trammps, the guys who did "Disco Inferno," I met a man who was a well known super agent of the time. We started to talk, because neither of us did drugs and it seemed like everyone else in the room was high.
We talked and talked, and of course I was curious about what I could learn from this man about what it takes to be a super agent. And you can apply what I learned to marketing your art.
Turn Down The Right Things
Though being an agent for a rock star, a film actor, or a television celebrity is a lot different than being an agent for a painter or sculptor or photographer, the principles are the same. The agent's job is to help the artist make the right decisions for his or her career, which includes turning down the wrong things. It also involves building an image and connecting with the right people.
This agent told me that one of his biggest challenges was knowing what to turn down. He said most eager artists want to do everything that comes along, and they hurt their careers by jumping on the wrong exposure opportunities. Managing your image is an art, and it's critical to success.
Do You Need An Agent?
I receive a lot of questions from visual artists about whether they need an agent (and I've turned down many requests to act as agent for some well known artists). The answer? If you can get an agent, you probably don't need one. If you need one, you probably can't get one.
What Agents Don't Want
Agents would much rather sign a developed talent who is in demand than try to build the brand of someone unknown. They make their income on your sales, which means they want someone who is already selling, already in high demand with collectors, and already commanding high prices. From that point, they can help artists increase their sales and build on their reputation, and make even more money.
The sad reality is that those who want to build their careers, those who most need an agent, are not likely to get one. Most agents are not willing to invest the time waiting for your career take off.
So do you need an agent? Absolutely. Are you likely to find a good one willing to take you on as a client? Probably not.
A Bad Agent Is Better Than No Agent
Many artists I know have assigned the task of agent to a spouse or good friend -- someone who is volunteering their time or who has a financial interest in the artist's success. From time to time I meet these people, and some of them are highly qualified. More frequently I meet those who not well qualified, but are better than nothing.
The bottom line is that anyone other than yourself promoting you is generally positive. Most artists cannot comfortably blow their own horn, and artists usually appear stronger if they are being represented by someone else. If you can get anyone to be your agent, you should be better off than if you try to do it yourself. Most artists are better at art than they are at marketing and managing their careers.
Very few artists are in a position to sell enough artwork through their own efforts. A website is of little value unless you can drive substantial traffic and convert those visitors into buyers.
"Secret Agents" You May Not Have Thought Of
The most frequent agent for an artist is someone you really wouldn't consider an agent at all, but who has an interest in your success, is willing to give you a good dose of reality, and really should have your best interest at heart. These "secret agents" are art galleries.
The Perfect Partner
Being represented by an art gallery is not possible for every artist. There are a lot more artists than galleries to accommodate them. But if you can get one, I believe the art gallery provides the perfect relationship for an artist.
Galleries earn their commissions because they provide career advice, they will tell you which paintings will sell, they have developed a strong client list, and they know which customers will probably love your paintings. And they love marketing and sales. Having a great gallery is like having a great agent and a trusted partner.
The Bottom Line
Careers thrive when artists become known. Awareness and continual exposure are critical to success. It is rare that the art stands on its own and you'll get discovered. If you can find someone with some business experience, some marketing savvy, and the ability to keep you continually in the public eye, that person will be worth their weight in gold. Every artist should have an agent. But someone who is not a professional agent but who is making noise on your behalf every day of the week is more beneficial than none at all.
So if you can get an agent, do it. Find a spouse, a friend, an out-of-work salesperson, and give them a small percentage of your sales for making your art sales grow. If you can't find an agent, I believe finding a gallery is your next best alternative.
PS: In this issue I've included a lot of artists' tidbits that I've found interesting. Scroll down to the bottom. And if you want to learn more about how to get into a gallery and make it your agent, read on and I'll tell you about a product my company offers.
The other day I was approached by a frustrated friend who'd spent about two weeks creating demo CDs of his work, writing letters, and sending packages to a few dozen galleries hoping that they would bring him on board. He phoned me, frustrated. "Eric, I did not receive so much as an e-mail or phone call that they had received my package," he said.
Gallery people are busy, and most receive hundreds of unsolicited artists packages, e-mails, and calls each month. Most never get opened or viewed.
Do The Math
Don't get me wrong. These are not bad people. They are busy people who have to run their businesses, deal with their artists, market to and talk with their customers, and pay their bills. One gallery owner recently told me he gets 800 solicitations a month. That is 9,600 a year. If he spent five minutes opening each solicitation to look it over and another five minutes to respond, that would be 96,000 minutes, 1,600 hours, 200 eight-hour days, or 6.6 months a year. Just giving 10 minutes' attention to each solicitation. Do you understand why they're not calling back?
Falling On Deaf Ears
Though this gallery owner feels bad and knows he might miss the next great master, he simply cannot take the time. Therefore, those solicitations never get seen. The mail, e-mail, and phone calls you're putting out there may be falling on deaf ears.
How Will You Stand Out Among Thousands Of Artists?
Is there a better way to get a gallery? We think so. Following a conversation with a gallery director who told his story of annoying solicitations from artists, I asked if he would read a magazine four times a year that was full of available artists.
His response: "Yeah, bring it on. That would be great. I could flip through it, see if there was anyone of interest, and could keep an eye on his or her progress from issue to issue. And I can keep the magazines in one place and refer back to them."
So I created Artist Advocate magazine. And recently, one top
The Process To Get Into Artist Advocate
Here's how it works. We create a profile page about you… an image or two of your art, some writing about your work, your contact information, and a link to your website. We print the magazine and mail it to 6,500 art galleries (and art publishing houses). Plus we e-mail another 8,000 digital versions of the magazine, which can also be found at ArtistAdvocateMagazine.com . Done. You'll be seen.
How can you increase your chances of getting contacted by a gallery?
1. Put your best work out there. You'll need to be able to demonstrate with your other work (on your website) that you can consistently produce.
2. Edit. Don't post every piece you've ever done. Galleries need to be convinced you have a body of work and consistent quality.
3. Make it easy. If visitors have to jump hoops to find your work on the site, or if they'll see messages that drive them away, change it. Help visitors see a showcase of your work immediately.
4. Keep the goal in mind. If you want to get picked up in a region, than perhaps something that reflects that region will help you. But if you want to get picked up by a gallery in the East, chances are a painting of
5. Test, test, test. Get some outside opinions. Of these paintings, which are the 10 best? Which is the very best? Ask experts, not family. Use those paintings on your website and the best piece on your showcase page.
6. Answer the phone. One gallery told me he gave up after trying to call an artist whom he could never reach on the phone and who didn't return his calls.
7. Repetition builds awareness. Galleries are not always in the market at the moment they see your profile. They may think, "I'll keep an eye on that artist." But unless you continually remind them to do so, they won't. Repeating your ads will increase your exposure, get you noticed more, reinforce what you do, and build your brand as an artist.
It's the reason ads run over and over and over on television and radio. It works. It increases response.
About Artist Advocate Magazine:
- Two covers: Abstract/Contemporary cover and Representational cover
- Features painters, sculptors, multimedia artists, photographers, high-end craft and custom jewelers
- 6,500 printed magazines distributed to galleries
- 8,000 digital issues sent by e-mail
- 14,500 total exposures
- Four issues annually
- Plus viewing online, and on Facebook and Twitter
- Premium positions and cover positions available
- Ask about our special four-time exposure package discount
- It works. Lots of successes to report.
To learn more, contact Charlie Bogusz at 970-227-4878 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.artistadvocatemagazine.com and you can join our Artist Advocate Facebook page.
PS: My ever-curious nature is always seeking cool things. Here are a few of tidbits for painters:
1. My Marketing Secrets of the Masters Seminar -- Free!
As you know, I've been talking about doing some art marketing seminars. I did a sample three-hour version at the Salon at Greenhouse Gallery this past spring, and within 10 minutes of my session, one artist used my technique on a person looking at her painting there in the gallery and sold it.
The word spread fast, and I've been contacted by a group who wants to rent a hall for a day in
2. Some new projects: This summer I've been working on developing three new projects for the art world, which I'll reveal soon. I'll post them on Facebook and Twitter first, so I hope you'll friend and follow me.
3. Panels and panel carriers: I've been painting outdoors a lot this summer, and I'm thrilled with the panels I ordered from Raymar. It's humid and rainy here and they don't warp! Also I love their panel carriers, which are sturdy yet lightweight.
4. Off to
I plan to paint in
Scott Christensen, his wife, Kristie, and a couple of other artists will be joining the cruise. Check out www.russianartcruise.com to learn more about it, and watch Twitter and Facebook for posts.
5. Great Paint, Great Price: Artist Tom Hughes turned me on to this paint company when he painted my portrait. The paint comes in jars, not tubes, which I like for the studio, and the quality and price are both wonderful. You may want to contact Rolf at RGH and try it.
6. Art Books: I love art books. I get a lot of review copies for the magazine and I still buy a fair amount of them. This morning I awoke with the sun and tore into a book I revisit a few times a year. It's Juliette Aristides' The Classical Drawing Atelier, which is a wonderful drawing refresher. I think it's a must-have book.
6a. Another book I'm really impressed with is How Successful Artists Study by Sam Adoquei, which reveals the common problems artist have learning how to study and focus. It's packed with wonderful illustrations and ideas for artists and has become one of my favorite books this summer.
6c. Every summer I leave a copy of Harold Speed's book by my bed at the lake place and I re-read it every year. This is my fourth re-read and I always get value from it.
6d. I also always re-read Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting, which is the best book ever written for plein air artists.
7. Excellent Site for Serious Figurative Painters. For those of you who don't know, I too am trying to grow as an artist. Currently I'm studying color and figurative work with artist Graydon Parrish, who is teaching me the Munsell system. You may want to explore www.rationalpainting.com, which is a wonderful site for serious figurative artists in which Graydon is involved. I feel very fortunate to study with him. He has become such an important artist. (See the painting that made him famous: The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy. You have to see this giant painting in person at the New Britain Museum of American Art.)
That's all, folks. I've got more items, which I'll save for next time. Let me hear about interesting art items you've learned about. If you haven't signed up for my art marketing blog or art gallery marketing blog, please do.
I'll see you after