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November 18, 2009

empty.jpegArtists are becoming very savvy about marketing themselves these days. Everyone's out there on FaceBook and MySpace and Twitter sending out news about their work and related upcoming events to generate interest and hopefully sell tickets.

So it's a little disconcerting to hear about artists who are not only unwilling to promote themselves but seemingly against the idea.

An exasperated arts presenter shared with me a story about a group of musicians who had done nothing to help her promote a concert she was hosting for the group at her venue. The group has no mailing list and no web presence. They didn't put the word out at all. Consequently, there were 40 seats filled in a venue that seats 450 for their concert the other day. What's worse is that many of the people who came to see the concert were invited guests of the artists on stage who all expected complimentary tickets.

Luckily, the group isn't typical of the artists that the presenter brings in. But it seems as if she needs to adopt a different strategy vis-a-vis this particular set of artists and others who may be equally or somewhat reticent about pitching in on the marketing front. If I were in her position, I'd probably do the following:

1. Allow each artist only two comps.

2. Tell them that they cannot perform at the venue again until they get a mailing list together and some kind of web presence, even if it's just a free blog on Blogger.

3. Tell them the audience needs to consist of at least 100 paying customers in order for them to see any return from the box office split.


  • This is a question attracting considerable attention in a variety of circles. I was first drawn to it after Andrew Keen wrote about it in the London Telegraph last August. This post is very much along the same lines that Keen promoted. Naturally, I chose to
    write from an opposing point of view
    ! However, I think that the crux of the discussion extends beyond the creative arts to the nature of work itself and how one sustains oneself in the world today. Between the impact of the Internet and the blowback of economic crisis, we now face considerable uncertainty regarding the basic question of what we should be doing with our lives. Many of us would like to see creativity be part of any answer to that question, but then we have to address the extent to which creation and promotion operate at cross-purposes. However, until we come up with some useful platforms to deal with this question, I believe that our feelings of uncertainty will just keep growing.

    By Blogger Stephen Smoliar, At November 18, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

  • Actually, this group of musicians is on the edge of marketing genius. If they were promoted as “The Group Who Refuses to Promote Themselves” and even refuse to give themselves a name, they could draw more notice than if they had a web site, etc. Non-recognition becomes recognition, allowing them to leap over the hundreds of artists who expend so much energy facebooking, tweeting, trying to get on Spark*, and pasting their bumper stickers on the metal dividers outside the Bay Bridge toll booths. These nameless avantgardistas are truly onto something and should be encouraged to pursue this brilliant Dadaist tack. I, for one, will join their camp by refusing to find out who they are.

    By Anonymous Gary Carr, At November 18, 2009 at 2:18 PM  

  • Think Mr. Carr nailed it.

    By Blogger Carl Benson, At November 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM  

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