We’ve been over the basics of working with artists and working with artists through the editing process. Now, a few final points.

The Marketer’s Guide to Working With Artists 103

Always remember, they probably don't like you.


by Dave Robson

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Artists have had an long relationship with business patrons for centuries. (Salvador Dali, for example, was not above using his talent to help sell Alka-Seltzer and Chupa Chups.) But the relationship can be difficult for both parties to navigate.

We’ve been over the basics of working with artists and working with artists through the editing process. Now, a few final points.

They Know More About Their Craft Than You Do

When you hire an artist you’re hiring an expert, so take advantage of their expertise. When you’re coming up with your plan, the artist you hire can comment intelligently on everything from how to best communicate your idea to what kind of timeframe is reasonable. It makes sense to involve them in everything we’ve discussed in this section, especially if this is the first time you’re creating content.

At some point in your collaboration, the artist you hire might point out that an idea isn’t working, an element of plan isn’t realistic, or a ‘correction’ the business team has insisted on doesn’t make sense. We aren’t saying that you always need to defer to the artist, but listening to and understanding their concerns is a good idea.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a technical side to every art, and when you’re asking an artist for changes, the smart way to do so is to describe the outcome you want, not how to make the change. They know how.

Be Clear About Content Ownership

Here’s another thing to include in your contract: content ownership. Artists are used to owning their own content. In fact, some artists, like freelance writers, usually only sell first North American publishing rights to their content and retain the right to re-publish their content. That’s very normal. In fact, in the absence of a contract, that’s assumed to be the case.

Obviously, you’re probably going to want to own content you commission an artist to create. If that’s the case, you need to be clear about who owns the content (along with stuff like prior drafts, cut material, and so on) in the contract you write.

Be Clear About Promotion

If you hire an artist partly because that particular artist has a bit of cachet attached to them or a big social media following, you want to take advantage of that. But the artist you hire needs to know; absence a conversation, the artist might thing that they’re working without actually attaching their name to the project. If you want the artist you hire to promote the content marketing they produce on their Facebook page, through their Twitter account, or in their portfolio, it’s best to be clear about that right away.

They Probably Aren’t Fans of Marketing

Artists have a bit of a thing about selling-out. If you’ve listened to any amount of punk rock, you already know that. Although if you work in the music business, you know that punk rockers make a tonne of money from those sweet, sweet Hot Topic t-shirt sales.

We (and probably you) of course, made peace with selling-out a long time ago. Step one was rebranding ‘selling-out’ to ‘buying-in’. Marketing is a creative challenge with psychological, data, and commercial components. Lots of artists don’t see it that way, though. They hear ‘marketing’ and thing ‘shilling for some big faceless company to trick people into buying stuff they don’t need’. Marketers and artists are probably just going to have to agree to disagree here.

But what does this difference of opinion mean to a marketer looking to hire an artist? One: you’re going to hear the word ‘no’ a lot and sometimes more money won’t turn it into a ‘yes’. Some artists just don’t want to work for marketers. Strike ‘em off your list and move onto the next one. Two: both parties will have some work to do in terms of understanding each other’s perspective. The artist you hire will be best at the creative side of the content marketing challenge. You’ll be best at the commercial side. Three: they may not want their name attached to the work they do for you. That’s perfectly okay. If you’re hiring your artist based on their work and not their personal brand, it probably isn’t essential to put their name the content marketing you both create. Pseudonyms are a common and accepted practice in the artistic world.