What 2009 will bring and how artists can lead the way.

Over the last few days I spent time scouring the web for forecasting trends related to small businesses that could then be translated to the world of artists especially those relying on art fairs as a major source of sales. What I found was a lot of hope (you read that right!) the catch is that hope will not be realized without a change in the way you do business.

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What I found might be surprising…a lot of what will be showing up in 2009 in the form of consumer behavior and trends indicated an advantage for artists. The advantage is surprisingly simple in that most have yet to take the leap into the online digital  revolution. Because of this fact, artists will have “skipped over” a lot of the chaos that caused early adaptors to chase any and all shiny objects.

Trends are indicating that this will be a year of “settling out” and because of the economic shifts taking place consumer behavior will be increasingly focused on a desire for human interaction when making buying decisions.  Artists are especially poised for this since it is a natural part of how we sell our work…we just need to know how to incorporate 21st century tools. There are three general areas that artists should pay attention to over the coming year.


  • There will be a deepening desire for engagement to include “live” conversation. This may seem logical to us but for other types of business it hasn’t been. We have been face to face with our buyers since day one however it has tended to end once we made the sale. Over 2009 we will need be more aware of and use ways to continue our engagement after the transaction.
  • Finally the coming year will be a time for deeper listening not only for trends but as a tool to reinforce our buyer relationships.  Also by listening deeper we can discover more accurately what our buyers want. Artists need to learn to set up and use what Chris Brogan calls “listening Posts” to better hear and meet the needs and desires of their markets.


  • Because of the work done by early adaptors artists will have a much lower learning curve when it comes to using  social media. It will be easier  to tie together their market profiles, and buyers in a very focused way. In doing so artists will be able to use social networks with almost laser like precision to engage their buyers regardless of geography.
  • This laser like focus will pay off by allowing artists to pay greater attention to producing work that attracts and retains buyers rather than remaining stuck in the random and unpredictable cycle they have experienced thus far.

Influence and attraction

  • Realize that our buyers look to us for guidance in making buying decisions,
    and make sure what we make, not only meets their needs, but does so obviously.
  • Because buyers will be looking for more human contact it will be important for artists to learn to use  the intimacy rule: intimacy touches emotion;emotion powers conversation. As a result tools that bring consumers more closely into an artists’ life and creative process will go a long way in earning trust, and love which can be the difference between making it and not making it in down times. Blogs, customer appreciation programs, open studios will all be necessary in the coming year.
  • Remembering that satisfied customers tell three friends while angry customers tell 3000. Building a network of evangelists coupled with efforts to put the “ME” back into customer service will go a long way towards making a show good or awful.

In short it looks like artists especially those living on the art fair circuit a very well positioned entering 2009 as long as they learn to use the tools that will bring them into the 21st century and better contact with their buyers. They can lead the way because of their long history of face to face contact with their buyers and relative connection to their markets. The 21st Century tools will only help to  modernize the foundation they have already built over decades.

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