Artists critiquing, defying, disowning and re-contextualizing the popular narrative, clockwise from top left: multidisciplinary artist Hasan Elahi, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, singer-songwriter Eddie Vedder, and musician Santigold.
Part One in a series, The Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing: Tools for Artists to Advance Their Careers and Communities.
“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood
In 2012, I gave a presentation on strategic marketing at the Creative Capital Artist Retreat for first-time awardees in Visual Arts and Film/Video. They seemed instinctively wary of the topic, which I understood. Marketing is often used to exercise commercial, cultural or political influence over how we live our lives. The process can also suggest manipulation and illusion, a spectacle of bright lights and electronic billboards dedicated to making something much bigger than it can or should possibly be. The artist generally stands in contrast to this. She may have the same conflicted response to public regard as anyone else, but she is driven by a call that begins privately, often inside a workspace where she won’t be sucked into or sucked dry by what feels like an endless popularity contest.
Singer Eddie Vedder, whose band Pearl Jam was caught in the ’90s media glare on Seattle, addresses the consequences in the song, “Blood.” The lyrics switch from first person to third person as if vampiric forces of promotion have made him into separate people, one of whom he loathes: “Spin me round, roll me over, fuckin’ circus… Paint Ed big, turn Ed into one of his enemies.”
But as artists and as people, we seek validation—from an audience of one or of 100. We also know that, as a practical matter, while we make art in private, we make our careers in public—what some call “the real world”—and doing so requires learning how to talk about ourselves in a self-empowering way. Continue reading