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It's an Exciting New World Out There

I’m guessing that we’re all trying to catch up on placing our creative businesses and products online.  You may think that people don’t buy art without seeing it in person first, but the fact is that many people do.  Take a look at statistics around the “art market". The fact is that people drop some serious money, tens of thousands of dollars, for artwork they see online.  Even artists at lower price points are reporting that sales and subscriptions have gone up during this crisis.  I think we have to embrace the fact that internet sales will be part of our creative business from now on.

It always astounds me how ill-prepared many artists and galleries are for an online business model.  And it’s not just the “art world”.  I know of an established advertising firm here in Houston that still does not have a website.  They say they've never needed one, and are happy working from referrals.  I applaud their success, but I think it makes them hugely vulnerable.  They remind me of a candle that has burned down to the end.  Sure it still gives off light, and it may still be hot, but everyone knows it’s just a matter of time before it burns out, and another candle will replace it. 

How many of us still use a typewriter?  They’re not even teaching cursive writing in schools any more.   There’s little point.  With the advances in LED lighting, how much longer are we going to be buying light bulbs?  There are new technologies constantly making old ones obsolete.  So our challenge now is to try to figure out what will change with our customers during and after the pandemic scare is over.  I think we can all safely assume that we need to be online, and offer a percentage of our products and services for sale via the internet.

I figure there are going to be some basic societal and economic changes due to this epidemic.  Sure people are going to buy more over the internet, but they may be looking for more online experiences too.  Look at your own shop or studio, or remember the experience of visiting one if you don’t have a shop of your own.  What is that whole experience about?  Is it just about the excitement of seeing the artwork.  Of course not.  People want the feeling of visiting a gallery or studio. Can you offer that feeling through an Etsy shop?  We all know that many stop by to meet the artist in person, and to hear the story of the artwork.  Can that experience be recreated online as well?  I’m afraid that by dumping all my artwork onto social media and into online shops, I’m just extending the sale of my version of light bulbs. 

So what does the post coronavirus art market look like?  I believe we need to use video to allow our buyers to meet us, and to develop a relationship with us.  We need to produce content that draws people in, and entertains as well as instructs them.  We need to be approachable, and that means opening up email, chat options, and live streams to be actively involved in our collectors’ lives.  We have to subscribe to their channels and participate in their discussions.  We have to have structures in place for people to buy things at any hour, or subscribe to our content at any time.  We also need to create “special” access for “special” people.  Everyone loves to be considered a VIP.  Give them the opportunity.  This seems to be what is evolving from all of this confusion and tragedy.  You know that art will survive even the worst economic strife.  So the more we can guesstimate what our clients will need, the more inevitable we will be in their lives going forward.

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