Are We Artists or Salesmen?

There’s never been a more interesting or a more challenging time to be an artist. So many new avenues have opened up to us and choosing the arts as a profession is no longer looked down upon (at least not as heavily as it once was). But now, with so many of us working or dabbling in the arts, it’s getting harder and harder to draw attention to our work. It’s all about the marketing, they tell us. It’s all about social media and big publicity and huge newsletter mailing lists.

But we, as artists, are asking how we balance our need to express ourselves in ways that feel authentic and meaningful and still bring us attention in a crowded marketplace. What compromises are we willing to make? Take this blog post, for example. Am I writing it for you, my reader, or for the search engines? Is it more important to create something insightful and thought-provoking or something peppered with great keywords? Should the length of this post fit my message or the “suggested word limit” on the SEO check? Should my title match the theme or should I drop in the name of some star who is trending?

The internet marketing experts respond this way: what good is your brilliant post if no one can find it and read it? A valid point. What good is your masterpiece if no one ever displays it? What good is your show if no one ever sees it? On the other hand, have you ever stumbled across a piece of unknown art at a flea market and loved it? Have you ever discovered some obscure title in a bookstore and counted it among your favorite reads? If I could choose for this blog to momentarily inspire thousands of people or profoundly change the life of just one person, what would I choose?

These are questions we each must answer for ourselves. There are compromises we all must make. There should be days when we sit down with our promotion plans and tick items off our lists and days when we erase all thoughts of the marketplace and simply create. As for me, if there’s a hot new keyword that happens to fit my blog posts, I’ll use it. If not . . .

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