Can Brand Management Help Artists Be Commercially Successful?

After diving headlong into the Sept/Oct edition of Australia Vogue Living – New Generation article, which highlights some of the brightest crop of design, art and architecture talent, it was interesting to see the very different paths the artists had taken to get the well deserved recognition. In the advent of the technology storyboard artist Sydney uses computer in creating the storyboards, they add animations as well.

There is a plethora of great talent in the visual arts, but so few are long-term commercial successes. If some retail brands worked half as hard as some artists, they would be top sellers. So should artists look to some good old fashion branding skills?

Miranda Skoczek, also featured in the New Generation article, has had her work featured in Cool Hunter, the Design Files, Vogue, Belle, exhibitions at the renowned Edwina Corlette Gallery and more. She says that her first international show 4 years ago in Hong Kong was ‘pretty cool”.

The Skoczek style has become contagious. So, is her rise in popularity due to a well-connected PR agent? No she’s never had one, only her dealer – other than that she does it all herself. She says, “By promoting ‘myself’, I’m promoting my ‘style’; my dress, my home, almost all facet’s of my life are an extension of my practice.” Her art is partly influenced by fashion, interiors and design, and therefore, imbued with a certain sense of ‘the now’, which keeps things relevant to today’s consumers – just like a good brand. Even though she borrows from the history of image making, she certainly has her eye on what society is responding to.

Miranda’s one piece of advise to emerging artists: “Work hard, be familiar with what others are doing, but DON’T compare yourself to them. Be true to your vision.”

London based artist Martin O’Neil has certainly had his share of ups and downs, but is now one of London’s most coveted illustrators.

He admits that it took him a long time to realise that ‘he’ was the brand and clients came to get the ‘O’Neill blender’ as he calls his collage style. He has an agent in London and one in Toronto, both he has worked with for over a decade, they drive 40% of his commercial work. The other 60% is all word-of-mouth – a healthy combination.

“I strike a balance between being a commercial artist for hire and being a ‘traditional’ artist who shows and sells. Social media works well for both and has brought my work to people all over the world. But I still think traditional marketing techniques are the best. I send out invites by post and have real art in real spaces.” His most exciting exhibition was a show called ‘PAIN’ in a dental surgery in Hackney’.

His advise to emerging artists is to; “Look further afield to more obscure subject matters and your references will be richer. If you can see a bandwagon you’ve missed it.”

An emerging artist who has found her unique style within the labyrinthine paths of Fine Art, is Debbie Mackenzie. Having studied Design before moving into the Ad agency world, she has come well equipped for the branded artist journey. She says her key challenge as an emerging artist is creating awareness – which she is doing through social media – and getting connected to the right people. She plans on engaging a PR agent shortly to help build her brand.

At the outset of any business cash flow is the tightest and never so much so as an artist. Debbie says, “My work mainly comes from private Commissions, Art Shows and word of mouth. I’ve found this is the most profitable way at the moment, galleries charge anywhere from 40 – 50% commission so it’s a big chunk of earnings.” She splits her time between her commissioned style as well as an abstract range, which she feel is her advertising background looking for satisfaction to please a marketable audience.

Whilst most artists would shiver at the word ‘management’ – it is a reality to gain commercial success. The core attributes of any great brand, is to have a fantastic offering, a clear core essence (the one thing that everything must relate to), be believable and trusted (don’t be a one night wonder) and challenge the status quo (don’t be like the others). And, these are all attributes any good and potentially commercially successful artist, should look to have too.

Also, there is something about the desperate artist that is part of the appeal – the drunken prostitute-loving Toulouse Lautrec, the poverty stricken and love lost Van Gogh – we want artists to live a life that is so markedly different to our own commutable-nine-to-five, a life that stems from a deep passion.

People remember stories not facts; hence all great brands have one that connects them with their consumers. Maybe the next emerging artist can imbue more of the misunderstood, anti-establishment troubled soul story into their brand!

Ellie Hansen for ishimodo

Visit Ellie on:
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