Should fine artists pay for press?

Should fine artists pay for press?


Artist Rebecca Gaines
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Ann Rea: (00:01)
This is Ann Rea coming to you live from San Francisco, California. And I have one of my new students going to be joining me in a second. Her name is Rebecca Gaines. And stay tuned so you can hear another perspective about making art and making money. Hey Rebecca!

Rebecca Gaines: (00:17)

Ann Rea: (00:18)
Nice to chat with you. So, I would love to know– you’re new, you’re brand new, like the biggest top two challenges before you even joined the program even though you do own your own business, you do know how to run a business.

Rebecca Gaines: (00:34)
The challenges with art?

Ann Rea: (00:37)
Selling art. yes.

Rebecca Gaines: (00:40)
Definitely knowing who my audience is and not like feeling like I needed to discount it and like knowing how to put it in front of people.

Ann Rea: (00:55)

Rebecca Gaines: (00:56)
Without like, doing a show. And even then if you sell some pieces, what do you do with the pieces that you don’t, that you didn’t sell? So just a lot of uncertainties and not knowing where, where to go.

Ann Rea: (01:09)
Right. Okay. So it sounds like you didn’t have a roadmap to follow. And so, what do you know about discounting now?

Rebecca Gaines: (01:23)
Not to do it because–

Ann Rea: (01:25)

Rebecca Gaines: (01:26)
It undervalues you and you see it all the time, especially right now with like Black Friday happening in two days. Like I feel like it’s popping up everywhere. Or even like a lot of the local artists are doing, you know, discount, clearing the clear the studio sale or stuff.

Ann Rea: (01:44)
Right. Yeah. Like can you imagine Tiffany’s or other luxury brands just having a bargain bin where they dump out their stuff they don’t have room for? How would, how would that be perceived? Would that be perceived as luxury or?

Rebecca Gaines: (01:58)

Ann Rea: (01:59)
Kind of crap huh?

Rebecca Gaines: (02:00)

Ann Rea: (02:01)
So I can tell everyone who’s listening, one of the most effective things you can do to make a sustainable part-time or full-time living as an artist is to stop freaking discounting. If you’re discounting means you’re not confident in the price of your art. If you’re not confident in the price of your art, how are you going to get someone else to be confident in the price of your art? Because they’re already confused as heck about why something costs what it costs. So don’t do it because you immediately devalue it. You’re unfair to the collectors. You’ve insisted that they pay you full price. And it damages your reputation as an artist and that’s hard to recover from. So that’s a really simple thing you can just stop doing. And I can tell you, you will sell more art. When I was represented a long time ago by a gallery in Los Angeles, they asked, “Hey, will you be open to discounting your art?” And I said, “Hell to the no.” And the representative told me, “Well, okay, that’s good because actually the artists who will not discount their art over her years of experience, she found they always sold more. So, there you go. But anyway, now I’m blanking, Rebecca. I asked you to come on ’cause I wanted you to talk about something and now I’m forgetting what the heck it was. 

Rebecca Gaines: (03:20)
It was the vanity press. 

Ann Rea: (03:23)
Yes. Yes. So break it down. Tell us what happened, Rebecca. What happened?

Rebecca Gaines: (03:31)
I– so I’ve been doing our in the professional field for about a year and I got an email to my art email address. It was a lady. It honestly, it’s the kind of email that you get that your heart starts pounding. Cause you’re like, “Oh my gosh!” 

Ann Rea: (03:51)
“Ooh did they pick me? Did they pick me?”

Rebecca Gaines: (03:54)
But it was a lady, and she said, “I am doing– I’m with a media company and I’m doing, we’re doing a piece partnered with L Decor and we would like to feature you as the exclusive artist in our feature.” It just sounded, you know, very dreamy. And, you know, you’re like, “What?” Like, “How did you even find me?” So I hopped on the call with her and she, you know, says all the right things, you know, we found– 

Ann Rea: (04:26)
What did she say? Do you remember some of the things she said to you?  

Rebecca Gaines: (04:29)
Yes, so apparently I was in like, honestly it was such a small blurb. I didn’t even know I was in like a local, magazine for doing a collaboration with another artist but it’s such a small thing. I mean, they really would’ve had to have dug to.

Ann Rea: (04:44)
No, that’s where they find their, that’s where they find their target victims.

Rebecca Gaines: (04:49)
Yes. So, she had found me that way and like she had gone to my website. So she’s like, you know, points out like paintings specifically that you know, she likes and like why they wanted to feature me. And then it’s like kind of goes through the spiel and then at the end it’s like, and it’s going to be $4,900 and it’s only going to go to the people who are subscribed to El Decor. It’s not going to, it’s not going to be in the national magazine. And it will say, you know, spon like basically people will know that you paid to put yourself in the magazine

Ann Rea: (05:29)
Because that’s legally required.

Rebecca Gaines: (05:31)
Yes, yes. That’s so, I mean, but even so the way that they spin it is so distracting from the underlying like what it is. Like they just spin it in such a way that it is like it’s appealing and like yeah, you’re like, but I’m new. And, but I would be in front of, you know? That’s still like 12,000 people still a lot of people. Like, I don’t know, know there’s just ways that you can talk yourself into feeling like that you’re special or something. 

Ann Rea: (06:02)

Rebecca Gaines: (06:03)
And at the end of the day, you’re paying– that is a lot of money! Especially for–

Ann Rea: (06:09)
It’s a lot of money for that small of an audience first of all.

Rebecca Gaines: (06:13)

Ann Rea: (06:14)
Well, one thing that I like that you did recognize is that it made you feel special. So it’s engine– everyone, what we’re talking about right now is something called vanity press. And artists are often the victims of vanity press, which goes nowhere, which is useless. Which smells like vanity press ’cause it has to state it’s that it’s, you paid for it. So it looks like an article on you, but not so, and, but it’s actually an ad. And so that immediately creates distrust and it immediately creates a disconnect in any, in everyone’s mind. I have never paid for press. I’ve been in Fortune Magazine, I’ve been on HGTV, I’ve been in whatever. I’ve been in a lot. Okay. I never paid a dime. Don’t ever freaking pay a dime to be featured by the press ever, ever, ever. You’re being taken advantage of because they will find small local press features of you and then you become a target because they can tell that you’re just starting out. You are looking and you’re dying for validation.

Rebecca Gaines: (07:18)

Ann Rea: (07:19)
And you don’t know your niche. So you think exposure is the answer. It’s not. Your understanding of your niche, your specific niche is the answer that could just be less than a hundred people and you make a fine living. So I will say a lot of artists don’t know what their niche is. Allow me to explain. When you know your niche, you know who wants to buy your art, why they wanna buy it, and where and how to find more people just like them. It’s not everybody. So this, I’m so glad you’re willing to share this because I cannot tell you how many artists over the years have told me how much they’ve been gouged for Vanity press. $4,900 was, it’s a lot of money, but it’s not the worst I’ve heard. Not even close.  So what made you decide to say, “Hmm, not so sure about this?”

Rebecca Gaines: (08:07)
I have just, you know, things I’ve learned over the years, I’ve fallen for things before. At that anytime something feels like it might be just a little off to like, take the time, they’re like, they’re not going anywhere. They would be the ones benefiting from you paying them. So they’re not anywhere. So I did, I’ve recognized I should think about it. And so I didn’t sign anything. And then I talked to my husband, I talked to a few, like media firm people I talked to some other artists. And it turns out another local artist had literally turned down the exact, turned down the same person literally about a month prior for like the same thing. I’m like, “Oh, okay.” So I wasn’t like, I really wasn’t because literally the same person. 

Ann Rea: (08:59)

Rebecca Gaines: (09:00)
Something I know had turned it down already. So that was confirmed. That was a confirmation that I needed to just say, “No, thank you.” And she, she did push. She was like, “What made you change your mind? You sounded so, you sounded so sold on it.” And it is just, you know, at the, I basically that is it. At the end of the day, this is vanity press and I just, it’s not, it’s not in the budget anyways. And I don’t, I can’t, I don’t feel good about putting my anything out there that is going to say, I paid for this.

Ann Rea: (09:35)
Well, it’s, it’s, it shouldn’t ever be in your budget. Well, it’s, it’s, it shouldn’t ever be in your budget. Vanity press never should be in your budget because it’s completely ineffective. And so is any kind of advertising you guys, any, whether it’s vanity press or legit advertising, which vanity press is not legit. You should not be paying for any advertising, Facebook ads, likes any Instagram ads. None of it until if, if and when you know your niche and even then it’s really not necessary. So please save your money and your level of disappointment ’cause it’s going to crush your confidence if you dole out that much money and nothing comes of it. Cause it won’t, then you’re going to feel really bad and you could take that same, that same time and energy and money and invest it in something that’s actually going to help you. 

Rebecca Gaines: (10:23)
Yes. And the timing of it was actually crazy. I had that call the morning that I had the call for the application call for the program. 

Ann Rea: (10:36)
Oh, okay. Alright.

Rebecca Gaines: (10:38)
It just felt meant to be, it was like, I’m turning down that and I’m investing it in

Ann Rea: (10:45)
Well here and here’s the– here’s the major difference. They’ll take your $49 and say piss off. Like they are not going to give a damn one way or the other about how it turns out for you because they know how it’s going to turn out with making art making money. I’m going to make damn sure that Rebecca gets a 100% return on her investment at a minimum in order to graduate. And of course she has to do the work, I can’t do it for her. But we have a guarantee, we guarantee students as, again, I can’t emphasize enough, it only works if you do the work. But if you do the work and you’ve already sold your art, it stands to reason that if you had a proven roadmap and you weren’t like stabbing at the dark and you had an expert mentor, and you had a support network, you could be selling probably more, probably odds are pretty high. You could be selling more unless you’re, you know, an antisocial person or you’ve got some other flaw that you know. But I mean, it’s just kind of makes sense. So this is the thing to ask is like if someone is asking for a chunk of change like that, what is their guarantee? What do they stand behind the value they’re proposing, they’re selling you. You know.

Rebecca Gaines: (12:01)
Yes, when I went back I actually did ask like if they had like a return on investment or if they had any stats on how it’s worked out for other artists and they’re like, “Oh, we know, we don’t really like to track that. There’s no way to like to have a have a concrete idea of what has come from it.”

Ann Rea: (12:23)
No, that’s not true

Rebecca Gaines: (12:23)
And then he immediately like when, when I started asking like questions like none, like, I mean no, the answer is no. And then it became, “The answer is no.” Abundantly clear. Like, oh my gosh. Like this is like, it’s a very beautifully packaged apple on a tree that is, wants you to take a bite out of it. But at the end of the day, like it’s no,

Ann Rea: (12:48)
You know, you know damn well that if they had an artist who they could say, “Hey, you know, I got great results for paying for this icky vanity press,” they’d be shoving that down your throat right away. I mean we have over, like, we have 300 testimonials of students from all the, I’m not, I’m bragging about my students, not so much about myself, but they did the work and they got the results. So just be really careful everybody. That’s why I wanted to have a chat with Rebecca so she could, you know, I mean it’s one thing for me to say, please don’t waste your time and your money on vanity press. But if, I think if you get to hear it from an artist who just recently experienced it and all the details of how the conversation went down, it’s going to help, you know, help protect you. Don’t pay for a vanity press. There’s 50 ineffective time-sucking confidence-crushing ways to sell your art that most artists are using.If you’d like a copy of that list,  we’re happy to provide it ’cause we want to keep artists out of harm’s way. So, I guess, you know, you’re just pretty new Rebecca, but I guess I’d love to ask if someone out was listening and they were thinking about applying but they weren’t sure about applying to Making Art Making Money, what would you honestly say to them?

Rebecca Gaines: (14:08)
I would say that I think if you realistically look like if you’ve been doing art for any significant amount of time, like even like six months or more, oh I would say if you really look at that list of the 50 things, I feel like probably more than you would think will jump out at you as things that you’ve either done or contemplated doing. And it’s, some of them are things that as an artist for any amount of time you would assume are is the road, that’s the road that you have to take to be successful. And we just have been fed, especially if you’re, if you’re like, I haven’t been doing it for like professionally for that long but you would just assume that like galleries and art fairs and you know, applying to all these things and paying for application fees and doing all of these things to get validation and, and like other people’s approval for your art, which at the end of the day, art is something that we, that come, it’s a pieces of us, it’s little pieces of our soul floating. And so like who gets to tell you that nobody except yourself.

Ann Rea: (15:19)
Nobody but yourself.

Rebecca Gaines: (15:22)
I can hope to find that, that confidence within the very beginning. I’m honestly still at the very beginning of the courses and yes, it’s been like I already feel very confident in–

Ann Rea: (15:35)

Rebecca Gaines: (15:36)
my money for the program and it’s like unconventional. But it’s, I feel like it will also help people with like other parts of their lives. I mean, you know, it’s just–

Ann Rea: (15:49)
It does. Well, art’s personal, right? It’s a product. We’re not selling goods or services. Our product is emotion. 

Rebecca Gaines: (15:54)

Ann Rea: (15:55)
And how we feel and what we express. Right? And our job as artists is to actually help people connect with their own humanity so that does involve, that is not an intellectual exercise. It’s both right brain and left brain. So I’m so glad to hear though you just started and you’re already feeling confident and I’m so glad that you did not get taken by the vanity press people. Shame on you!

Rebecca Gaines: (16:26)
But I think the one thing I do want to drive home about that experience Is the fact that they really did their research. Like they really did. They knew what kind of art I did. They knew that I paint my outfits to match my paintings. They knew they had done their research to know what to say to make you feel like again, like special and like you, that you are something that other people needed to see. And honestly, I’m not saying that that doesn’t need to happen, but I don’t, I definitely do not want to pay to have that experience.

Ann Rea: (17:00)

Rebecca Gaines: (17:02)
So, you know.

Ann Rea: (17:03)
But that’s an astute observation.

Rebecca Gaines: (17:06)
I guess they know the flattery, they know how to get say the right thing.

Ann Rea: (17:10)
Yes. And I can tell you, you know, I’ve been working with other fine artists since 2005, right? And I can tell you what their top challenges are for artists and a big one is a lack of confidence. And so they have a huge need for validation. Why do they have a huge need for validation? Because they’ve been doing one or more of the 50 things that are never going to freaking work and they are subjecting themselves unwittingly to huge amounts of unnecessary rejection and literally paying for it. Like literally paying vanity press fees or literally paying to enter contests. And you don’t have to subject yourself to that level of rejection and you should never damn well pay to be rejected. I mean, I don’t have any, I would never dream of charging artists an application fee to join the program. Maybe I should, maybe another revenue stream, I don’t know. But I still don’t think it’s cool. So anyway, I think the moral too is just trust your gut. And I think what you did was you said, “I’m going to sleep on this,” even though you were kind of smitten by the idea initially. You had enough inner resources to say, “I better just take a minute and think about this and see how I feel.” So good for you. Alright, well thank you for taking time Rebecca to chat with me and to help other artists sidestep this because like I said, your case is not the worst I’ve heard. You know, I remember there’s an artist who is like a disabled veteran and he had, he spent all of his like remaining money on vanity press and he had like, he was in debt and it was a really heartbreaking story. So, so please don’t do that everybody. All right Rebecca, we’ll see you on the inside. Thank you so much. 

Rebecca Gaines: (19:00)
Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving.

Ann Rea: (19:01)
Oh yeah, Happy Thanksgiving. Alright, bye.

Ann Rea

Ann Rea, Fine Artist & Mentor

Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based fine artist. She created Making Art Making Money, the leading and most reputable business program for fine artists since 2005. Rea’s art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent was commended by her mentor, art icon Wayne Thiebaud. 

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