There’s a growing phenomenon of artists who are making a living by taking their work to their fans directly. They are making a successful living by going around the galleries, the agents, and the managers and instead taking their work to their fans. They come from different backgrounds, engage in various forms of artistry, but all have one thing in common: they refuse to starve, so they make sales happen in whatever way possible.
Amanda Palmer – Lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, cabaret performer, and visual artist. Amanda Palmer has become a lightning rod in the music industry for her bare knuckled approach to marketing to her fans. She has over 80,000 followers on Twitter and she maintains a relationship with her fans that borders on the fanatical. They love her – so they’re happy to support her, whether it’s buying one of her shirts, her CD’s, or having a Twitter party with her.
Hazel Dooney – “Art is War” is the rallying cry for Australian painter Hazel Dooney. Hazel has made a lucrative career out of sharing her thoughts on her blog, Twitter, and other social media pages. She rails against the gallery and auction systems, frequently commenting in interviews that the system needs to change. Her work speaks for itself. I love the bright colors of her enamel paintings.
Jason Parker – Jason’s blog, One Working Musician, is a banner for those musicians who have a passion for making a living as artists. Jason holds down the fort by playing the trumpet and teaching, and has done so for years. In addition, he and his Jazz band sell their CD’s online directly to their fans.
Amber Jean – Montana based artist Amber Jean creates sculpture, drawings, and storytelling CD’s. She lives in a cabin in Montana’s back country. She not only sells her work directly to her fans, she also has a membership section on her Website called the Patron Place where people who are big fans of her work can pay a small monthly fee for exclusive access to Amber’s videos of the Montana backcountry and of Amber creating her unique sculptures, not to mention a bunch of other great content.
Felicia Day – Actress Felica Day had a great idea to get around the Hollywood agent/casting director/studio system: create her own Web based series called The Guild. With millions of views on Youtube, The Guild became a cult hit. It was then picked up by Xbox Live and has since become a major success. Felicia Day is a celebrity in certain circles, though in a recent Wired interview Felicia said Hollywood executives still don’t know her face.
Natasha Westcoat – Natasha is a painter and has done an amazing job building a fan base using social media. In addition to her corporate sales, she sells her work by connecting with her fans via Twitter, live-streaming painting sessions, and her blog, Natasha’s Art Candy.
David Hoang – I met David in Seattle, Washington. David also leverages Twitter and live streaming painting sessions. He told me that he has tons of fun drawing things suggested from his fans. His website has a whole gallery of alternate reality images that he’s drawn that his fans asked for – and then his fans bought them! How simple is that?
Val’s Art Diary – Val has leveraged social media to create a major career for herself. She uses live streaming sessions, Twitter, Facebook (her group has over 2,000 members), and her blog, ValsArtDiary.com to share her work with people and build media buzz around her work. She has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and many other media outlets.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more, please leave them in the comments below!