The bitter truth is that in the artistic world agents, labels and publishers will not come to you to change your life out of the blue. Differently from decades ago when some had headhunters who went looking for talents and new faces to the market, today they base their research on results, most of the time in social media results. It is risky to invest in an unknown artist. You never know if this new face will convert to increased sales and make the investment worth it. Because it is now accessible to every artist (or at least most of them) to create an online platform and generate a fanbase, for the agents it is easier and less risky to sign a contract with those who already have something out there. Without a platform, you are simply not worth the risk to them. So let’s put the work in and get established – before we think about attracting an agent.
I don't want to break the magic for you here, but the other way around. Knowing how the market is working nowadays will make you save efforts in the wrong direction. Maybe it is time to stop sending material to galleries, cold calling agencies and pitching publishers if you don't have a platform, a fanbase that is already buying your art. Instead of it, it is time to invest in your independent career and then show them you are worthy of investment.
Working on your independent career can help you to have access to these big guys in the industry. But more than that, it can make it seem that you don't need them at all. Building and growing your business directly with your fans will give you the freedom you want. You will become your own boss and create a lifestyle on your own terms, where you can travel, work from home and set your own schedule.
Let’s go through everything you need to get started, in the form of a checklist. Obviously, there are a lot of nuances that go into setting everything up. What follows is an overview to help layout the most important baseline activities.
Set Up Your Basic Business Infrastructure
1. Your website. Online hub = required.
Start with a simple “landing page” site; expand it into a portfolio.
Tell your story in clear language and images.
An About page and a call-to-action (a contact/subscribe form).
No “digital sharecropping,” this has to be on your own site.
2. Your email list. Start this immediately.
Email is your “conversion instrument,” way more effective than social media.
Pick a provider and set up a way to capture addresses.
Collect names at appearances/events whenever you can.
It’s OK to start slow, but don’t wait to get it started.
3. Your social presence. Meet new fans.
Do a “land grab” on every social media channel.
Pick one or two “fertile” channels to focus on. One with short-time consumption, and another one for long-time consumption.
Do not treat it as a broadcast channel; make connections.
Primary goal: Get people from Social Media to your email list.
4. Your online store. Allow people to pay you!
It’s OK to start small but set up a basic e-commerce site.
Connect it to your site and make sure it’s easy to find and easy to use.
People can’t pay you if you don’t give them the opportunity to do so!
Offer multiple pricing “tiers,” low, medium, and high.
Have your own online store inside your website. Shopify, Etsy or other platforms will not help you to print your brand and cause an impact on your fanbase.
Create an Online Portfolio
5. Your creative work. Showcase it on your site.
Set up a page on your website for each particular project.
Do not have a separate “book site” or “album site.” You are the brand.
Pick URLs that are easy to speak and easy to remember.
Connect these promo pages to your online store.
6. Your creative work. In other outlets too!
Pick appropriate “marketplaces” where your work can get noticed.
Try multiple outlets, then focus on your most successful one.
Support each product with good, clear, descriptions.
It’s OK if fans prefer a certain outlet rather than purchasing directly on your site.
7. Your blog. Content that supports your work.
Yes, we need a blog – or some way to publish content regularly. (It can be a podcast or a YouTube channel as well. All of them are considered long-time consumption platforms for your content)
A blog is not for random thoughts – it’s a strategic business instrument.
Every blog post must be optimized for SEO (search engine optimization).
Every blog post must have one call-to-action – something for the user to do.
Build a Powerful Audience Platform
8. Your art matters. Get it in front of people.
Let your creative work do the talking. Keep producing – and sharing it!
Don’t hold off releasing something because you’re waiting for “that call.”
Share some work before it’s ready – fans love behind-the-scenes stuff.
Make some of your work exclusives ONLY to your subscribers.
9. Your presence. Show up and converse.
Seek conversations on social, NOT just spraying one-way content.
Ask questions. Observe. Watch your fans’ behaviour – what do they share?
Measure activity data and constantly change one variable in your strategy.
When you get a nibble, try to move them along to the next step.
10. Your funnel. Create a path to purchase.
Mix your art and supporting content to build a must-see site.
Use your blog to keep fans coming back and feeling involved and engaged.
Repurpose blog content to create social posts so that you are efficient.
Expect multiple “touches” before you can ask for the sale.
Is it already looking like a business? Well... It is because that is exactly what it is. When you decide to make a living from your talent you are creating an independent business that sells your artwork as products creating revenue. When agencies look for an artist they are really trying to discover if this creator is worthy of investment. They think "if I invest my money and work with this person, would I have a return on investment?". That's the question you need to answer. If your response to that is "I don't know", you are not ready for the market yet. And you are not being picked. It's simple as that.
But what if you have your platform established and thriving? What if you have a large email list? What if you have an active, engaged fan base on Instagram or TikTok or Twitter? What if you get tons of comments on your blog – and a bunch of people sharing your work with their friends? What if you have people coming to your openings and virtual events? What if you even have people paying you for your work?
You look a lot different from potential industry partners, don’t you? For example, what if they’re considering two different artists – both with equivalently great work. One has a platform as described above, and one doesn’t. Who do you think they’re going to pick? It’s pretty obvious, right?
Building your platform is the single biggest thing you can do to attract the attention of the industry, and get the deal you’re looking for. Or you can just opt for work directly with your fans, without any external representation. This is always an option.
After having all these parts set up it is time to pitch. But you cannot do it without the right material support, right? You will start with your Media Kit.
START TO PITCH
1. Build Your Media Kit
The first and most important step is to create a media kit. This will have all the basics about you and your creative work:
Project name, plus some background or story.
About you and your work; why you do what you do.
Simple project “pitch copy” or descriptions for others to pick up.
Photos – portfolio and headshots (or group shots for bands).
Links to your site and social for easy reference.
Contact and booking info.
Include some numbers. It can be your followers on social media, the volume of sales in a period or any other relevant information that show your business is stable and growing
Awards, recognitions or public appearances on media
Target Market information
You can have this all collected right on your site on one page. The standard industry format is: yoursite.com/press-kit or yoursite.com/epk (“electronic press kit”).
2. Identify the Right Outlets
The next step is to go after agencies, publishers or labels that could work with you. Be strategic on it -- it is not about sending your media kit to everyone, but for those who can be interested in what you are doing. The artistic market has niches. It is true for musicians, visual artists, painters, sculptures, fashion designers, authors, so on. You need to send your material to those who are interested in this type of art.
Look for similar artists in your city and see who represents them. Look for galleries and labels who can work with your type and size. Major companies don't always invest in new talent, so maybe it is better to look for some independent ones. The same happens with your niche. If you are a punk rock singer don't look for hip-hop labels. I know it can seem to be obvious, but don't start pitching all the planet. As much as we want to believe that what we do is for “the whole world,” not everyone is going to care about our work.
Make a list of about five to ten potential industry partners. Hunt down the contact information for the person at the office who takes “cold” submissions. Before you start your outreach, have your list prepared so that it’s nice and efficient to just work your way down the list.
Most industry people will prefer email to phone calls, simply because it’s less intrusive. Respect that.
3. Make Your Pitch
When you start contacting people, make your pitch relevant to them. People have more interest in themselves than in others. If you can make your business be good to them, it is possible that they want to buy from you. Show how much they can make with you and how it will be easy for them to sell you to the audience.
This is another difficult thing for creatives to do. We all think that we produce art for others to enjoy. It feels like a one-way process, but really what you’re doing is providing value to someone else. When you’re running a business, your primary goal is to serve others. Sometimes this requires a shift in mindset, but it can really help your pitch stand out.
You need to be seen as a partner, a helper. Of course, you have talent, of course, your artwork is unique. But what really counts here is how much and how easy is to transform this talent into money. Building a business you need to put yourself in a position where you are serving your community, bringing value to them, helping them to grow and connect. This is how you will be successful in your endeavour. This mentality will get you a long way when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
Lastly, don’t waste their time. Get right to the point with nice, crisp copy and easy links to be able to sample your work. Get them on your site so that they can experience you and your brand, with the portfolio you’ve set up. And don’t forget to demonstrate to them how strong your platform is. Testimonials are great for this, but I can also just revolve around highlighting active audience interaction.
To finish, don't rely on agencies. Even after you have a deal. You need to keep yourself relevant and your work valuable to the other even after you got the dream agreement. Things can change fast, and there is always a new face that can take your place. The competition is real. My tip for you is to use the agencies, labels and publishers as helpers. You are outsourcing your salesforce to have more time to create and to take care of your strategy in business. It is not about letting all the work in their hands. It is a partnership, remember?
Suira.art offers both coaching programs to every single different market with the Artistic Business. Music, Visual Arts, Dance, Cinema, Architecture, Design, Fashion, Literature are the industries we work with. Understanding deeply the starters' struggles we believe in offering business support we can have more and more artists in the near future making a living from the talents.
If you want to understand it better, click here and let's talk about your goals in art.
*the pictures have references to the artistic in alt text and they are links to the artists' platforms.