Ding – ding goes the cash register in the old stores from Five & Dime stores to old grocery stores every time there is a sale made. Even in today’s stores, as the register drawer opens and closes, there is a plastic swush that is is recognizable with every sale. In art, you don’t get that.
I’m thinking of putting a bell somewhere to note when someone buys one of my artworks or designs on the products being made through Zazzle – but it would probably be pretty annoying after awhile – both when it rings and when it doesn’t for awhile.
Sales in art is not based entirely on subjective criteria. However, it can be noted that in many cases, art is sold as part of something else (inclusively.) The designs and artwork put on products in big retail stores are already made into whatever you are buying and when you go to have a tshirt made or business cards – art is partly included in the price or charged for being done as part of the print job. Meaning, the art is not purchased separately in many cases, though it is there providing sellable visuals that make the product desirable.
Architecture firms pay artists to visually conceptualize the buildings, public spaces and homes they intend to build. Landscape designers either hire an artist to render their plans for landscaping so the customer can understand it or do that themselves. Magazing rely heavily on illustration and have both in-house artists work for them and hire illustrators specific to articles whose work they already know.
There are art publishers that publish limited edition prints and those who mass produce for the interior decor industry where most, if not all of the artwork seen in retail stores and local frame shops at the mall are bought for resale.
After a tremendous number of years making art, selling art and learning about selling art, it is something to be said that I am numb to it all now. I’ve watched brilliant sculptors of our time go into ice carving because the public wanted that and not big sculptures for their homes and businesses. I’ve watched ridiculous things being made using materials that are absurd to get the public’s attention whether sculpting in butter or hand-rendering famous works of art on tiny chocolate squares.
It is a strange time. Nothing surprises the public anymore to the extent that it has become a joke played upon by advertisers trying to find something more ridiculous than the last to get the audience to speak about it, remember it or repeat any of it on social media or around the water cooler.
At one time in the fine art world during the last forty years, artists have castrated themselves and filmed it, calling that performance art – only to be ignored anyway and their work denied by the apathy of the public and then committing suicide over it. That doesn’t even make the news at the time it was done and certainly wouldn’t today.
But, in the midst of this strange landscape, there is more creativity and imagination, wonderful artworks and artistic endeavors than ever with a vast array of amazing types and avenues of interpretation. It is staggering. And, the public is mostly not buying any of it regardless. Nor, supporting it. Nor desiring to be supportive of any of it, for that matter.
As Banksy came through New York City and made his secret tagging project with its social messages, he did everything right according to the public relations playbook and still barely had a couple sales of his work in person when he set up to sell it in Central Park before he went back home. The news coverage and social media, the public’s interest in it didn’t matter – they still didn’t want to buy it from the artist. That says a lot.
Experts call it the “gig economy” where it used to be called freelancing or making something and then selling it directly to the customer. And, today much of that is done online with large platforms delivering what seems like opportunity to those who make things, create things, craft, sculpt, do art, write, do music, invent, and have skills in those areas.
Well, okay – gig economy. And, building a brand. And, becoming an expert in your field by knowledge and skills marketed effectively online. Those can work despite the walls of competition coming at you every given moment.
But, when I wrote the post on my old blog the other day about Toys R Us going into bankruptcy when they enjoy a 15% share of the toy market – and how it happened, and as I keep watching people at the top of our government spending millions of dollars to go on a golf weekend or take trips at our expense or plan a $50 million dollar parade while my sales give me none of those things – it occurs to me that creating anything is not how money is being made necessarily. And, probably not for some time now – like years upon years.
Where someone like Thomas Kincaid was able to bring his art vision to the public marketplace successfully, millions of others did not and were not given the access to even take that road successfully at all. It is as if, for one to get in the door – 500,000 or more did not. The odds are worse than playing bingo.
So here is what I wrote a couple days ago after doing the research on why Toys R Us is being dismantled because of a private equity group who bought them in 2005 using “equity” from their portfolios of investing other people’s money and leveraging 80% of the price which was then charged to Toys R Us to pay off ultimately destroying them as they threw $400 million out the door every year to service loans which shouldn’t have belonged to them since they were made to purchase the company in the first place.
That is a long winded sentence and I was about to change it – but damn, that’s exactly what they did. It can’t be said in two or three word sentences.
So, rather than tell you all about how to make a great art business and share with you what all I’ve learned about it, from fine art to illustration, art publishing and surface design, showing in art festivals to showing in galleries, to the amazing online opportunities which are mostly work and not really opportunities – I’m going to share what I’ve learned about really making money – if you’re going to –
The Anatomy of Business in America –
- Open a firm. Make it an LLC and get a nice address for it, even if it is shared.
- Print a bunch of slick looking brochures and paperwork. Buy some nice desks and expensive chairs.
- Hire some men and dress them in very expensive suits.
- Get people to give you their money to invest. Borrow against the money they give you to invest more than you have available.
- Charge them for investing their money and every time the investments are handled, traded, bought or sold.
- Use their money and portfolios as collateral to buy up an existing company in the US – one that has been around for years.
- Borrow 80% – 100% of the price the company purchase would be by using these other people’s money and portfolios as you “equity”collateral on the loan promising the company will payoff the loan from its cash earnings inflow
- Pay yourself several million dollars for making the deal by taking it from the company you are buying.
- Put the entire purchase price of the company you are buying into debt owed by that company and not you and not your company even though you did the borrowing to get ownership of it.
- The collateral wasn’t yours, the equity stake put up never moved anywhere and is paid off by the company being bought plus paying for its own purchase by you without any of your money ever being used.
- Rob all the cash resources and assets that you can possibly liquidate from the company you now own without ever having to pay anything to get it.
- Charge management fees to the company you’ve bought while you dismantle its assets and cash diverting them into your pockets and those of your firm.
- Force the company you now own to borrow from you and from your firm some of its new loan money that will satisfy paying off your debt for having bought it, so they are effectively paying you interest on the money you did not actually borrow to buy the company in the first place which is now owed by the company you “bought” who is paying for its purchase price.
- After 2 – 5 years of bleeding all the cash possible from the company, either A.) sell it by taking it public and then finding a buyer for it to cash you out, or B.) going into bankruptcy as the company is then required to pay you again three times over in the bankruptcy process.
- Get payouts again from any credit default swaps you took out on the loans your firm made to the company that you forced the company to take to pay the money off that you “borrowed” to “buy” them. Make sure you get hundreds of millions from the bankruptcy of the company while its vendors, landlords contractors and many other creditors get nothing.
- Make sure executives are given big fat bonuses by the bankruptcy court because they are your friends and any pension funds or other employee benefit funds are depleted so they get nothing but a layoff notice, (or not even that.)
- Enjoy the hundreds of millions of dollars that now are yours which you never built in the first place through hard work, gaining market share, challenging the competition or any other basic tenets of capitalism and market based economics.
- Do the same thing to as many companies as you can while continuing to run your firm convincing people to give you their money to invest and charging them while using their money and not yours to be the “equity” / collateral to buy these companies and do the same thing to them to bleed them of all cash resources which you didn’t earn.
- Tell everybody how great you are and how nobody else in the United States is worth anything unless they are like you.
- Deny you put tens of thousands of families in economic hardship by taking their jobs away, destroying their communities by shutting down large employers and cutting the income from contractors and landlords who had provided real services and goods to the company. And, run for public office.
- cricketdiane, 03-13,18
Well, that’s it – that is how money has been being made in America since the 80’s and otherwise, you could –
Go to an art school, get a portfolio of work together in your own style however many years and dollars that will take, if a gallery will take you on because your work is already selling and has an audience it brings to the gallery.
Or become an illustrator – but first, go check those books in the library that are put out every year of illustrators and understand that the competition is well placed to already get the work where you would need to get those opportunities. And, spend the years and money to get really good at illustration with your own style that is distinctive but not too distinctive and that fits the marketplace but is different enough to be marketable.
Or, paint and craft a bunch of items, frame every piece and make packaging for it all, lug it out to the art fairs and festivals, pay them a bunch in fees, sit with the work for three days while watching people pass your booth to go buy something from a wholesaler that is in the booth three over from yours on their way to buy funnel cakes and watch clogging.
Or, find a way for your work to get in the big fine arts shows and be judged worthwhile – Basel in Florida, the Armory Show in New York – places like that, but know that it won’t guarantee even one more sale even if everything you show there does sell.
Or, put your work online with art on products made as they are ordered at one of the print-on-demand sites for art prints or products, like Zazzle – but remember that once it is online, no one will believe you are an artist or illustrator or anything except an affiliate marketer for the platform even though you are the one designing the product’s visually appealing elements or doing the artworks that are going on them. And, remember that most of the competition there will be using art they have purchased from a clip art service like shutterstock or istock, a freemium service or something that was illustrated by professionals over 75 years ago that they are allowed to use now in the public domain.
Or, try to get licensing deals for your work through the conventions at LIMA and Surtex for 2-d surface art and designs where for about $8,000 and several days paying to fly there and stay out of town with those expenses on top of it, a few artists and designers actually have been known to get licensing deals from the separate independent artist space they provide. Although, a couple years ago one of the big paper product and office supply companies had a licensing employee that noted, they rarely go over into that area except to see what they’ll be up against and the trends to take back to their in-house art department.
Or, go online with video content about painting and how-to / DIY. You might want to check what those look like right now. It would be surprising if anything hasn’t already been done well by 14,000 video content makers already but hey, it could happen.
Or, go into other absurd uses of materials that haven’t been done yet – Easter peeps have been made into arches and other sculptural art, clear packaging tape has been used to make sculptures of people life size, butter has been carved into life-sized pigs, already chewed chewing gum has become a palette for a visual artist to use to make “paintings” of an entire group of things and I think one artist from Asia came to New York and made a two or three story tall sugar sculpture in a warehouse. But, it can’t be that’s all the absurdity that can be created, I’m sure.
Or, you could plan, build and locate somewhere, kinetic art that moves and does things, light art sculptures for the light festivals, or 3D projection art that is put on buildings for the light festivals, do massive building sized murals like those being done all over the world, sidewalk art that looks like you could walk into the sidewalk, steampunk style art that uses all sorts of gizmo pieces put together – but recently, it was a virtual rose made on a blockchain platform that made a million dollars – not any of those other things.
Or, you could invent something – but I keep remembering this:
This man finally got $25 million for his invention but not till having fought for years in courts for it – and the company never had to steal it that way to begin with –
Before Michael Powell came along, Home Depot employees were slicing off fingers left and right, resulting in nearly $1 million a year in worker’s compensation claims. But Powell devised a simple guard for protecting workers’ digits and let the company test it out in eight stores in the area. The trial was a huge success—and cut worker’s compensation claims down to $7000 the following year—but instead of ponying up Powell’s proposed $2000 per device, Home Depot just went ahead and fabricated copies of the saw guards without Powell’s consent.
Nope, as much as I’ve told everyone including myself that the way to help America is to invent, to build, to create and to make things – that isn’t what has provided people the money in this country in my lifetime. Not even building a business offers that anymore, not unless it is the kind of firm described above in the Anatomy of Business in America that I wrote.
As many of the inventions made by Americans have ended up the property of foreign nations because companies sold them or corporate raiders sold them or through the bankruptcy process described above – the novelties of a company are taken, it is hard to say that building, inventing, creating, harnessing new things, or even creating new art – is at all worthwhile. I still do it, you may still do it, but the chances are – it will get none of the money that corporate raiders get through that corrupt process being done every single day.
And, it won’t get the kind of money that is given respect and freedom to live in this country. The United States does not honor its inventors and creatives as some other nations do, instead treating all of us with derision and contempt.
It never changes.
- cricketdiane, 03-15-18
In the event that you do come up with something new, remember – you are up against SALY (Same As Last Year), before ever getting your foot in the door to sell or license any of it.
If it is new, it isn’t proven in sales and track record – so nobody wants to chance whether it will sell or not. That’s why 90% of the tshirts being sold and worn by most people have nothing on them – just a solid color. Strange isn’t it.