Crystal Ball: Three Trends for the Future

With the rapidly expanding emergence of social media over the last several years, I think the majority of artists—like most people—have looked upon the phenomenon with anything from mild curiosity to enthusiastic interest. Many of us have jumped on the bandwagon to one degree or another, thoroughly enjoying connecting with other artists in virtual communities. It’s been novel and fun and exciting.

But as the novelty wears off, I think artists will start to expect more from their virtual communities. Based on what the experts foresee happening in the overall online world, I’m going to make three predictions for artists participating in the virtual world of the future.

1. Virtual communities that involve both artists and collectors will open and grow significantly.

Up until now, art collectors have kept a low profile in online communities. There are plenty of artists’ communities in Facebook, for example, and the artists have been very smart to build their individual brand profiles by posting and sharing thousands of examples of their work. But the collectors have been reluctant to reveal themselves within these communities, perhaps for fear of being bombarded with too much art from too many artists. This makes it more challenging for artists to successfully sell their work. But I think this attitude is changing.

Digital marketing expert Alex Hisaka writes: “While conventional wisdom holds that people don’t want businesses to encroach on their personal lives, that’s far from the truth. Many customers today are utilizing multiple outlets, not just Facebook and Twitter, to ask questions, give feedback and share and connect with others (Hisaka, 2012).” While this trend has emerged sooner in other industries, I’d like to believe it will eventually come to affect the online art communities as well.

In other words, as today’s art collectors realize that you can control the volume of marketing messages that come from online sources, they will start to feel safe in getting involved in art-based communities. And on the flip side, as savvy artists realize that it’s unproductive to chase every possible collector, their efforts will become more appropriately targeted to the right segments. Bottom line, I believe collectors will start to reveal themselves because they trust they will attract only the artists with whom they want to connect, which will offer tremendous benefits to both sides.

2. Artists’ communities will become business networking tools, not just social networking opportunities.

At first, artists started connecting with each other simply because being an artist is often a lonely journey. We were just excited to meet others like us. Very rapidly, and aided by other players such as art materials manufacturers and others, the social networking evolved into forums for sharing ideas, information, and resources. It’s all great, but there seems to be an unspoken limit. Artists are also fiercely competitive and don’t want to give too much away. I’d like to see this trend toward more productive uses of social media continue to evolve even deeper into the professional realm, with artists using their social networks to set up shows, recommend other artists for commissions, find partners for collaboration, and so on.

As much as we’ve all been enjoying social media, I think many of us have come to realize that it can be a big time suck if you’re not using your tools and connections wisely, for a purpose. CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore states: “It’s clear that a fresh paradigm is next to emerge that will simplify our online activity, have richer content and control, be more meaningful to our interests and lives. I don’t see larger being the answer (Barrett, Moore).” So those artists like Paul Heard and Mike Kus who have already used their social networks to land real business will turn out to be leaders in a growing trend (Drell, 2012). They prove that we can all enjoy greater success when we use our time productively to help each other.

3. Artists’ communities will start producing art via the web.

I know I mentioned this in an earlier post, but artists are already starting to use technology and social media to produce and promote artistic creations, like the Creators Project (Drell, 2012). This is not surprising to me because artists are always finding ways to take things created for one purpose and turn them to their own purposes—it’s the heart of the creative spirit. Really, the sky is the limit in terms of creative collaborations that can emerge from social media.

What makes it all possible is that mobile technologies, social media, and mobile apps are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in our lives. Groundswell author Charlene Li notes: “What is interesting about the future of social media is how behavior is evolving. Users are learning, adapting and growing more aware of their surroundings. Photos and video are playing more dominant roles in how we communicate (Barrett, Li).” With so many artists carrying smartphones—a.k.a. art materials—in their pockets, it will just be that much easier to collaborate.

So what do you see in the crystal ball? What trends are you predicting for the future as new technologies and tools emerge and more artists get involved in online communities?

—Jennifer

Barrett, Jeff (May 9, 2012). Charlene Li: The future of social media, The Washington Time Communities, retrieved from http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/status-update/2012/may/9/charlene-li-future-social-media/.

Barrett, Jeff (May 2, 2012). The future of social media: CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore, The Washington Times Communities, retrieved from http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/status-update/2012/may/2/future-social-media-crushiq-ceo-tim-moore/.

Drell, Lauren (January 20, 2012). Artists and digital: why social media is the new art gallery, Mashable Social Media, retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/artists-social-digital-media/.

Hisaka, Alex (April 26, 2012). The future of social media and business, Social Media Today, retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/node/496960.

ArtVenue: A Mobile App That’s Launching Art Careers

It’s the classic conundrum for many a new college grad: No one will hire you because you don’t have experience, but you can’t get experience because no one will hire you. In the world of art, emerging artists often suffer the same fate. Reputable galleries don’t want to show emerging artists because they don’t have a proven track record of sales, but the artists can’t get those sales because they don’t have any places to show their work.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Fortunately, clever artists have found inventive ways to get their works of art before the public’s eyes in other venues, such as restaurants, coffee houses, libraries, and gift shops. Basically, anyplace with some blank walls will do, as long as the artist can hang up some pieces and stash a few business cards around to allow for contact.

Finding such venues can require a lot of legwork, but a new social media app out of the Boston area called ArtVenue is making the process a whole lot easier. Here’s how it works: Artists upload their profiles along with a small portfolio of work to ArtVenue. They then send requests to any venues in the system, asking the venue manager to take a look at their portfolios and consider setting up an exhibit. Meanwhile, any venue willing to liven up its walls with the works of emerging artists can peruse any of the portfolios and connect with those artists whose works fit the style and theme of the venue.

On average, each exhibit lasts about one month, and ArtVenue actually provides QR codes on placards hung next to each piece that will take people directly to the artist’s selling page within ArtVenue.com, the companion website. ArtVenue’s owners stress that the app is as much about making sales as it is about making connections (Thibault, 2012). There are currently about 25 artists and 30 venues in ArtVenue’s Boston-area network (ArtVenue, 2012), and the ArtVenue team is continually recruiting more (Morris, 2012).

The ArtVenue app and website are free for both artists and businesses to use. However, each venue takes a 20 percent commission off each piece sold, and ArtVenue takes an additional 10 percent. Still, most artists are thankful for the remaining 70 percent of every sale, and especially for the exposure.

ArtVenue’s website proves to be a valuable resource for emerging artists in other ways, as well. The site contains plenty of useful tips on marketing and selling artwork, developing portfolios, writing artist statements, and much more. There’s also a blog that features art-related news and events.

ArtVenue was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just last summer by co-founders Dan Vidal (who came from BzzAgent) and Casey Rankin and Jesse Rankin (the co-founders of the daily deal aggregator called DealGatore) (Morris, 2012). Celebrating its first anniversary, ArtVenue has already garnered a lot of attention. In fact, it has received funding from a local startup incubator, and it was one of only eight startups invited by the Startup America Partnership to participate in a trading day on the New York Stock Exchange in February (Thibault, 2012). If they can continue to make the numbers work, I predict we’ll see ArtVenue expanding rapidly into new markets throughout the U.S. and beyond.

—Jennifer

ArtVenue (2012). ArtVenue, retrieved from http://www.artvenue.com/.

Morris, Cheryl (April 13, 2012). Meet ArtVenue: Empowering local artists with technology, BostInno, retrieved from http://bostinno.com/2011/04/13/meet-artvenue-empowering-local-artists-with-technology/.

Thibault, Ally (February 1, 2012). ArtVenue enriches community, helps artists, The Suffolk Journal, retrieved from http://suffolkjournal.net/2012/02/artvenue/.