AGENTS and MANAGERS for ARTISTS
We artists are usually one-person businesses. We are loners.
That is in the studio anyway. We don’t naturally work in groups. Gilbert and George are a rare exception.
Neither are we likely to be employed as artists. Those days are gone. You cannot go down to the labour exchange and ask for a job as an artist. Well, you could, but they won’t find you one.
Vic Ellis… a real one man band
Artists are also often destined to be a ‘one-man band’ or a ‘one-woman band’.
And, to make matters worse, we are usually rather bad at being an art business.
Art business consists of production, administration, marketing, selling and accounts. Production yes. But yuk, how boring is the rest?
The solution that quite a few artists have found is to be represented by a joint marketing/sales agent and manager. Some use this person to do the admin and accounts as well as marketing and selling. [I have noticed that often artists marry them first and then persuade the partner to take on the job.]
But suppose you’re already married to someone who doesn’t want the job?
Are there professional agents and managers for an artist who just wants to produce?
Agents are middle-men who represent the artist in the marketing and sales part of the art business. The will usually do the selling and take the money from the buyer then give the artist their share.
The most common solution for professional ambitious artists here in the UK is to sign up for a contract with one of the few big publishers who own and control a chain of high street galleries. They will do the marketing and selling, and even do a lot of the record keeping and accounting bookwork. You just produce!
But you have to produce what they want. And the other snag is that they keep most of the sales revenue.
However there are a few good independent agents. But they are rare and often they specialize in a specific sort of artist for a specific art need.
One example would be the agent that supplies art for rent to business premises.
Another area of the art business would be publishing. Calendar and greetings card publishers are regularly looking for new artwork. Agencies supply this and so they will represent suitable artists.
A new unknown artist won’t know how to find these buyers or agents. So the trick is to physically visit the sort of places where they meet up and do business. An example would be a trade fair like the Brand Licensing Fair in London in October, or Spring Fair in Birmingham in February. [See previous blog post…LINK]
There are many other special world-wide trade fairs for niches in the publishing world. Visit the foreign ones online to see who is exhibiting from your country. That isn’t as good as actually visiting but much better than just waiting for the phone to ring.
That is how you might find an agent. They will probably be established and you would approach them to add you and your work to their list. There might be a queue.
But it is probably not the way to find a manager.
So managers are the people who would help to run the rest of artists business. Crucial tasks like finding the agents for instance, plus doing the books, keeping records, negotiating exhibitions, research and feeding back to the artist.
Finding one in your family is the best idea. That is because a manager has to do so much work and would need you to produce huge amounts of business income to justify the work involved.
But self-management is still the best if possible. It is quite reasonable to delegate out the book-keeping and accounts, and record keeping. It really can be very enjoyable doing the marketing or building brand awareness.
And maybe have a mix of selling yourself and agency selling to widen your reach.
DO WE HAVE TO DO IT ALL OURSELVES?
Being an artist is a solitary, one-person-against-the-world, existence.
Or is it?
There are artists groups, societies, and clubs. There are collective studios, and some collective galleries. There is a world-wide online network.
It is now much easier to find out how to do-it-yourself.
Onward and upward.
P.S. Thanks to my friend Vic Ellis for the picture of a real ‘one man band’