First off, let me insert a disclaimer: I am possibly the world’s worst at marketing and self-promotion. I closed my Etsy shop years ago and haven’t had a raise since I quit working for the City of Midland Department of Animal Control in 1984 unless you count the $5-a-day raise I got for substitute teachers on my second plea to the school board back in the 90s. So, yeah: I’m certainly no expert on this. But I hear a lot from people I talk to and email I receive and reports from friends who travel the art retreat circuit, and one of the things I’m hearing lately is that people are fed up to *here* with the constant in-your-face marketing of everything from DVDs to online class to bricks-and-mortar workshops, just a never-ending stream of buybuybuy.
I’ve really had to tighten up on my podcasts: when I started out, I thought they would be a great chance for people to tell about what they were doing and what they had that was new–new art, new workshops, new products. What I started hearing from listeners, though, was that they were so sick and tired of hearing people constantly marketing their stuff that they had no intention of listening to podcasts that contained any marketing at all, never mind that they had a lot of other great stuff in there, too. What I’m hearing is that people are so tired of being constantly bombarded by advertising in all its various forms that they click away–from blogs, from websites, from Facebook pages, from podcasts–wherever they encounter the hard sell. One ad and they’re out of there.
I can’t blame them. I know I steer clear of blogs and websites that are lined with ads and links and buttons and graphics that are all designed to get me to spend money on something–often something I can’t even identify. Is it a book? A DVD? Something real or something virtual? Who knows? But you do know that it’s $29.99 and there are only a few left, so you’d better hurry and buy it now! Never mind that you don’t know what it is; buy it now, now, NOW!
I can see both sides here. I can see the side of the working artist who’s been hit hard by the woes of the economy and is trying to find a way to make art and still put food on the table. I’ve written about that before, about how hard it is to work a day job and then find the time and energy to make art, design new classes, keep up with an online presence, do the paperwork–it’s overwhelming.
I also see the other side, the side of the person who wants to take classes and buy books and buy art they love but no longer has the luxury of doing all those things and has to be really careful about where they choose to spend what little expendable income they have. They would love to support working artists, but being constantly reminded that they can’t do it all, buy it all, go to all the workshops in Paris and Italy and Seattle–well. After a while it’s so frustrating that they do as I do, fleeing those places that keep nagging them to spend money they can’t afford.
What’s the answer? I don’t know. I do know that it doesn’t do anyone any good to seem desperate, to be so wrapped up in marketing that they lose sight of what they’re all about and lose any connection they ever had with the people who support their work. It’s not easy out there for anyone, but I think whatever solution we choose, whether it’s to set up an Etsy shop or take a non-art-related day job or drastically reduce our living expenses or any other not-what-we-might-have-dreamed-of solution, is not to become so desperate that we drive people away. Perhaps the solution lies not in thinking of us vs. them, the buyers vs. the sellers, the people with money to spend vs. the people who are trying to make enough to get by, but instead thinking of all of us as being in this together: people who love mixed media art, who love the tutorials and the workshops, the supplies and the retreats, the online exchanges and the Tweet-ups and the blog posts. How can we support each other when times are tough? Are there possibilities for banding together, for bartering, for trading services and supplies? How can we get through this together, finding new ways to make it work?
What are your ideas? I’d love to hear them~~
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
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