The 3 Rules Disruptive Artists Follow
Tips for creatives to bend the rules and make money doing what they love.
The art world has never played by the rules. Part of what makes art so necessary in today’s culture is that the artists behind great works don’t allow themselves to be boxed in by conventionality. They decide how to create, when to create and, ultimately, how to share their work with the world. I believe we’re all artists in our own right, some more creative than others.
Because the art comes first and the business comes second, artists don’t always receive credit for pushing the needle forward when it comes to marketing and sales. Many play by the “if you build it they will come” rule. And while that does work to an extent, many artists also realize that in order to survive as professional artists they have to focus on more than just their creative endeavors -- they also have to find new ways to connect with audiences.
My boy Mark Brazil is a lifelong entrepreneur based in Los Angeles and is scheduled to be on the next episode of my Entrepreneur show Action & Ambition. Starting in the fashion world, Brazil built his career around his passion for building brands. Most recently, he helped artists create and distribute their work. He quickly realized that artists in the fashion world faced the same challenges as artists creating paintings, sculptures and photography: with audiences moving online and becoming more dependent on mobile devices, artists and fashion brands alike needed to find new avenues to connect with consumers digitally without sacrificing artistic creativity.
In a direct response to this new age of immediacy and digital experiences, Brazil created Ikonick, an online art gallery, alongside his co-founder Jeff Cole. Despite contemporary artists’ willingness to push the envelope, galleries and art distributors have never been viewed as pioneers in the ecommerce space -- and Brazil and his team sought to change that. With Ikonick, their goal is to make it easier for artists to connect with audiences and, conversely, for audiences to find and buy meaningful, and culturally relevant work from today’s artists.
Throughout his tenure as the co-founder of Ikonick and manager of popular artists Cole and Timmy Sneaks, Brazil has realized that it is possible to disrupt even the most traditional fields by following three simple rules:
1. Establish content segmentation.
Consumers are swamped by a deluge of content. Too many brands and artists think that producing higher volumes of content is the answer to getting on consumers’ radars. But sending out reams of inconsistent, irrelevant content only confuses audiences and clouds brand power.
When Brazil first began managing Jeff Cole in 2015, he only had 5,000 Instagram followers who tuned in to see pictures from his personal life. Brazil realized that by simply segmenting his social content, Cole had an opportunity to enhance his social footprint. Soon after, Cole began running a personal Instagram account: @jcolegraphix, as well as a professional Instagram account: @cole. Fans of the artists knew that by following @cole, they’d be treated to a stream of rich media content featuring Cole’s sneaker art. The segmentation strategy worked; today, Cole has more than 197,000 Instagram followers who flock to his account knowing that he is committed to posting images of his Sneaker Art.
2. Align wisely.
In today’s digital content environment, no single entity can expect to achieve success on his or her own. However, brands and artists alike need to be strategic regarding who or what they choose to associate themselves with. Brazil’s other client, Timmy Sneaks, has found success by making hard decisions when it comes to brand partnerships.
Early on, the two made a pact that no amount of money was worth polluting his personal brand. As a result, he passed on multiple five-figure brand deals to stay true to himself. Taking those deals would have likely lost fans and the opportunity at more prestigious brand deals down the line. By staying true to his art and his fans, Sneaks has built up a wholly original and authentic presence that has quickly gained notoriety in the Art Scene.
3. Work hard and smart.
Talent only gets you so far. Anyone who has achieved any taste of success knows that work ethic is more staying power than natural ability and luck. However, simply killing yourself by working 24/7 is not the answer. As an artist trying to make a name for himself, Sneaks often had to devote 15 percent of his time to going into stores and shipping his pieces directly to buyers. Although he was happy to take on that task, it meant that he had to sacrifice precious work time. By trying to manage every aspect of his artistic brand, Sneaks was working hard, but he wasn’t necessarily working smart. Together, Brazil and Sneaks realized that his time was best spent doing what he does best: creating.
Sometimes it is hard for an entrepreneur to give up control, but in the end, the art of delegation is the most profitable skill one can acquire. And, as one of the most prolific artists of time said, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” So, heist these pieces of wisdom wisely.
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