Ray Kroc became a billionaire with McDonald’s because he realized the real money was in the real estate leasing business. If he had thought he was in the hamburger or restaurant business, he would have made many errors in judgment on how to build his business empire.
Granted, Kroc also took standardizing fast food preparation to a completely new level, but had that been his primary business model, he would not have enjoyed the same success. By buying real estate and leasing it back to his franchisees, he created a completely separate source of revenue from the franchise fees. The leased land is an asset that gains value as it ages. Due to Kroc’s vision, the McDonald’s Corporation became one of the world’s largest owners of prime commercial real estate.
As an artist, if you consider yourself in the “art” business, or even the “art publishing” business, you are off on the wrong foot and headed up the wrong path.
You are in the business of building, nurturing and replenishing a direct buying collector base and a dealer network. (Dealer being galleries, individuals and businesses that resell art.)
In my new Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Art Career book, I tout the virtues of visual artists building a solid core of loyal collectors who buy from them directly. A dedicated cadre of fans, friends, and patrons can immunize your career against galleries closing, Facebook flopping, or any of your third-party distribution channels failing.
If you concentrate first on finding and developing loyal direct buyers and overlay those sales with additional orders coming through your dealer network, you give your art career the best chance for sustained profitable success.
Of course, you need to make great art that your fans want to buy. As a visual artist, when it comes to the business side of your career, think of it this way: Job One is to come to work every day with the goal of finding and converting new direct buying collectors and building your distribution channel of art retailers and art dealers.
Here are your four steps to success with collectors and dealers:
I believe it is vital now for all artists to control as much direct distribution of their work as possible. This means you must realize, accept and act upon the clear understanding that your business is building your own distribution channels of collectors and dealers.
While I advocate building a direct buying relationship with collectors, I firmly believe there is every reason to embrace building a dealer network through galleries because the potential for repeat sales from them remains strong.
The rise of e-commerce, affordable digital marketing, social media and changing consumer-buying habits give artists opportunities to affordably build a direct buying collector base. These same conditions also give smart marketing artists new ways to forge powerful relationships with galleries and dealers.
When you bring your own following and a way to ignite action from them, and show a willingness to share your resources with your marketing partners, you have the opportunity to create dynamic relationships with dealers that artists of previous generations would not recognize.
As visual artists, it is up to each of you to take advantage of what is available to get your art to market. You start with the realization of what business you are in and act accordingly.