Why artists need to market themselves?

So that, you the artist, wouldn’t starve to death.

No, but seriously. Otherwise, you risk ending up like Vincent Van Gogh who (in the words of Steven Pressfield) “produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.”

A lot of artists have this notion that they’re the creative person, and marketing belongs to the business world. Some even think it’s evil or dirty to promote themselves, and they don’t want to have anything to do with this” filthy” world.

The truth is, it’s your job to market yourself. You are the artist, and you know how to spread the word about your work. After all, you created it. You can’t rest after creating your art; you need to start marketing it. As Ryan Holiday puts it: “The idea that you won’t have to work to sell your product is more than entitled.” It presupposes that everyone will flock to your work and that they care.

If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.”

Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Ryan Holiday describes how the road to creative success feels like in his book The Perennial Seller:

Art is the kind of marathon where you cross the finish line and instead of getting a medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by the shoulders and walk you over the starting line of another marathon.

By that “another marathon,” he means pushing his work. This means promoting your work is equally as important as doing your work. Books just like everything else, don’t sell themselves.

The reality is, there are too many great artists out there, many of them waiting to be discovered. It’s a notion of romanticism, as international street photographer Erik Kim puts it. You wait for some magic to happen.

The problem with this waiting is obvious: you’re waiting. Instead of taking charge and being at the cause of your life, you’re at the effect and depending on sheer luck. Sure, you might be discovered, but what if you won’t? Usually, if you don’t make things move forward, nothing happens. This is real-life experience.

Because there are so many exceptionally good artists out there, skills alone don’t make you stand out. In this world, excellent skills are assumed. You need to be more than that. To paraphrase Erik in this context: this is the reality, which you need to accept.

To market your work also means you value your work. You are essentially saying: “I have great confidence in my work being great work, so I have no shame telling you about it.”