Business considerations ... Q&A session ...

Q: How can full advantage be taken of advertising on the web?

A: (from Bill Ritchie) 'Full advantage' of the Web is quite a plate full! When you think about the BIG companies who have been experimenting with this for the past five years - companies like Microsoft, Time-Warner, etc. it makes you wonder if an independent artist can figure it out.

The answer is neither simple nor easy. I can offer a couple of pointers from my personal experiences. To begin with (1) I do not recall ever having sold a work of art on the Web, although I have made a few feeble attempts and (2) I met one collector who bought a painting when the Web first opened up; he said it did it as an experiment.

I haven't seen any authoritative statistics that summarize this. Art dealers are the only ones who are positioned to try it and then report their findings. A real business person, sensitive to his or her investment and responsibility to the producers, would not advertise that their efforts have been fruitless.

So, lacking any surefire way to get the most out of Web advertising for visual art, I look at a process that business and industry people call "concurrent marketing, sales, design and manufacturing." Picture someone at a trade fair booth showing a prototype and taking orders six months before the real thing is deliverable. Behind her stands another person watching closely the reaction to the product. And behind her stands an engineer, taking notes. And, behind her, a designer making notes on how to coordinate the whole thing.

On the Web, sequences are all intertwined. We who are experienced in hand printmaking are subject to linear sequences. First, the idea, next the preproduction, next the production, next the marketing and finally the sales. And, sometimes, after-sale services.

I am studying the question, "How do you get the most out of Web . . ." in the industrial fashion of active "concurrency". If you want to try it too, you will want to read "Net Gain" by Hagel and Armstrong to expand your understanding, and also "Digital Estates" by Chuck Martin.

And, of course, you may consider helping me write (in the manner of concurrent authoring) "Beyond the Art of Selling Art"! : )

Finally, as for the percentages that dealers take, consider this: There are buyers for your art out there among the millions; if only they knew how, they would contact you straightaway and hand you cash for your artistry. But who, where, when and how are they going to find you?

A sales person recently gave me a one point lesson: "Price has to have enough margin for the reseller." In other words, why should anyone help you? For money, perhaps, or love. "There has to be something," he said. If there is nothing in it for them, you must do it all alone. That might be fine if you have electronic slaves (AKA Electronic Agents).

But even silicon, electricity and interaction are not free, and can require almost as much care and feeding on your part as human dealers or agents.

Another artist recommended I take up juggling to help me figure out things like this. He meant REAL juggling - you know - keeping many balls in the air at one time! Cutting woodblocks, damping paper, doing e-mail ... it's probably the same thing as juggling.

A: (from Ray Esposito) Soon I will have a web site featuring my art work but without the intention of selling art. The web has grown so fast and expanded to such a degree that every individual and business is still experimenting how to even use the net. I doubt today anyone has a definitive answer.

Your site should simply serve as an introduction to your art. It should be the door through which potential buyers enter. The site should stress that additional photos or other information is available for the collector and include a telephone number and mailing address so they can contact you directly. If you make a direct sale, great ... but do not go into such a venture expecting to make a lot of money as you will be setting yourself up for disappointment.

The site can be useful if you participate in shows by listing where your art can be seen "in the flesh" so collectors can get a real life look at your work.

Place an announcement in your site that you update it regularly with new work and encourage visitors to return. Have a guestbook for them to sign and allow them to make comments about your art. Get them involved. Involved people become collectors.

Perhaps some day the net can become a real market place for us to sell our art. That day has not arrived but we can prepare for it by experimenting with our sites and trying different approaches. I encourage every artist to put up a personal page. There are many places offering free web pages. The experience you gain during these early days of the net will prove invaluable when the web becomes a true place to sell your art.

A: (from David Bull) My own viewpoint on this is that, provided the proper approach is taken, it is indeed possible to use the Internet to establish communication between yourself (the artist) and your possible clients.

Note the phrase I used - -'to establish communication'. I do not see the Internet as my 'store', but simply as a means of communication. For myself, I am not so interested in directly selling my work on the 'net. This perhaps partly stems from my distaste at the 'sell sell sell' that hits one everywhere one goes out there. When I visit a 'real' shop, I want a chance to look around by myself - I don't want a clerk running up to me trying to sell me things, and I feel the same way about visiting a web site. Just let me see the prints - don't push them on me. If I'm interested, then I'll make contact to find out more details.

And this has been exactly my own experience. I designed my personal web site with no prices - nothing at all that even implies that the prints are for sale. It is strictly for introducing my work and communicating with the 'outside world'. As it turned out though, I did start to receive mail from people who expressed interest in collecting the work, and some of these people subsequently became collectors.

I am not sure if I will maintain this same approach in the future, but so far at least, it seems to be working well.

A: (from ...)


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