Free artworks : Self-promotion or self-sabotage ? (1)
Sometime ago, I was in bed checking out PnB’s artworks on her Instagram account when i got a direct message. I opened it, just to see that we had received a message from a notable music producer, asking us to create an artwork for a social media campaign he was running.
At this point, I was already excited (art commissions get me excited) so, after getting the details of this proposed artwork, I named a price.
His response gave me chest pain.
It went something like this, “Ah, bro, it is not that serious…we will post your art on our page and it will give you exposure..”. Within minutes, I had handed him over to Kanmi to continue negotiations (he is the tougher one, when money is involved).
Now, this isn’t an isolated incident. People always walk up to us and ask us to do artworks for free. Very sad, isn’t it?
First off, I want to say that exposure is not a legal tender. This means that exposure cant buy you Olaiya porridge when you are hungry. It cant replace your Staedtler set when you run out of art materials neither can it pay for the special dinner you and your spouse plan to enjoy on your anniversary date. There is no currency called “Exposure” (trust me, I checked).
Now, Is Exposure a bad thing? In and of itself, No. Sometimes, doing freebies can open special doors, but only if these opportunities are properly understood and utilized. Most times though, doing freebies (especially when you do a lot of them for a lot of people at a lot of places) invariably harms your art business.
Here is why : Say you do a freebie for a certain local celebrity. He sees it and he goes “oooh, so beautiful!! Thank you (insert your name), God bless your talent!” and uses the hashtag #fanart on instagram. This gets you excited and you re-post the artwork on your instagram page, thanking him for “accepting your humble labor of love”. Then you feel you have made a friend in high places, and decide to do more artworks for other local celebrities. The cycle continues and you feel that things are going your way.
What you don’t see happening, usually until it is too late, is what is known as Brand Dilution.