The internet and social media have really changed the game for artists and fans alike. As a fan, it’s great to be able to follow your favorite artist and get a peek into their behind-the-scenes action or see new pieces. As an artist, it’s a fantastic way to create more visibility and reach a wider audience. Sometimes the two don’t always mesh; lately, there’s been a trend of fans requesting favorite artists to create something via social media or email but not offering compensation for said request. This leaves the artist in an awkward position--fan requests are flattering and give them a reason to show off their talent, but those creations take time and materials and are often done at a loss rather than a meaningful gain.
Let’s say you walk into a bar, ask the bartender to make a really pretty cocktail, take a pic with your phone and post it on Instagram or other socials and then you leave without paying for it or even leaving a tip. This is obviously not fair to the bartender, who has taken their time and attention away from other paying customers to make your drink, only to receive no monetary compensation for their work or for the ingredients they just used, for which they must certainly account. Now they are not only at a loss, but they’ve potentially missed out on other business.
It’s a fine line to walk--without fans, artists don’t gain a following and therefore add value to their work. It’s important to offer followers a positive experience regardless of platform. But it’s equally important to be able to support yourself as an artist in a sustainable way and be business-minded enough to do this. So how can artists and fans both get what they want?
Be proactive: artists need to be proactive and make it clear from the start on their socials that they don’t take requests for free, and be clear with friends and family that they don’t do “favors” in exchange for “free marketing.” However, there is an opportunity: creating a rapport with a client based on personal interaction, so there is some incentive to address and create special requests beyond financial compensation. What are some ways an artist can be proactive?
- Friends and Family Discounts--offer a discount for those friends and family who want to support you but also want freebies or “favors.” Everyone wins.
- Patreon--offer special requests for a fee via your Patreon account.
- Special requests through DMs--offer to take special requests for donations via Venmo/Cashapp/other payment apps available.
- Not Currently Taking Commissions--if you simply don’t want to deal with requests, specify that on your social media and avoid them altogether.
Be aware: fans need to be aware of the fact that their requests come at a price for the artist. Offer to donate to the artist’s Venmo or other payment apps, support them via their Patreon, or ask directly how the artist might prefer to be compensated for their time and materials. What exactly are you paying for that has brought value to you as a fan?
- Being able to personally interact with the artist--you get an experience or interaction with the artist that not everyone can access, kind of like a VIP or backstage pass.
- Bragging rights--how cool is it to tell your friends that your favorite artist created a piece just for you?
- Reposting the art on socials--this lends “street cred” and your followers will think you’re amazing.
- Supporting an artist--if you want to continue to see the artist succeed and work for years to come, be one of their supporters and feel good about being part of someone achieving their dream.
You wouldn’t expect to go to a baseball game without buying a ticket. You wouldn’t expect to watch a game on tv or stream it live without seeing any sort of advertising. You wouldn’t expect to be in control of what samples Costco is offering today. So why would you expect artists to create something for you without offering them either a donation or compensation? Artists and fans, please share your thoughts in the comments.