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Effectively monetising creative work ensures that artists can continue to do what they love. Ros Gilman offers advice on pricing, marketing and legal issues.

A hat full of coins on a street

As creative professionals, we are driven by our passion for our art, sometimes to the detriment of knowing how to survive in a competitive marketplace. But business practices are important for the survival of artists of any kind. Capably monetising your art ensures you can cover your basic needs, and continue to pursue the work you love.

The four Cs of pricing

It's one thing to make art, but pricing it is an entirely different discipline. When valuing your work, consider the following variables: cost, customers, competition and collaborators (the four Cs). You must calculate the cost of making your art. Market research can then help you find out how much potential customers are willing to pay, as well as how much your competitors are charging. And don’t overlook the costs of paying your collaborators - such as distributor commissions and gallery fees.

If you want to make a living from your art, you need to know that the demand is there

With the four Cs satisfied, you should then turn your attention to your image as an artist. Price and image are very closely related, so ask yourself where you see your brand – are you high-end or low-end?

The seven Ps of marketing

Marketing is crucial to bring your message to a wider audience. After all, we want our art to have an impact.

This can be achieved by adapting the seven Ps of marketing to creative pursuits. These are: product, promotion, price, place, people, process and physical evidence. All seven areas are essential, but price, product, place and promotion are the real backbone of a successful marketing strategy.

Always research your product before you start creating. If you want to make a living from your art, you need to know that the demand is there. You'll also need an understanding of the place where your music or art will be sold once it’s created. This generally requires securing distribution and resale partners who will get your product to the customer conveniently.

Promotion is perhaps the most crucial of the seven Ps. How will potential customers find out about your work? Formulate a promotional strategy that addresses the use of traditional and online press, paid advertising, online presence across your website and social media, and email newsletters.

Essential legalities

The modern world calls for artists to have some legal knowledge. If not, then legal worries, frustrations and distractions have the potential to stifle creativity.

Core legal considerations revolve around copyright laws, trademarks and moral rights, trading structures, contracts and respecting different industry bodies. It's essential to acquaint yourself with information that will protect your art. For instance, understanding when copyright is created and how it is protected, how trademarks can be used to safeguard your work, and what moral rights are and how they can protect you as an artist.

Grasping the nature and benefits of different trading structures - sole trading, partnerships and limited companies - allows artists to make informed decisions about how they operate as a business - with important implications for legal contracts and relations with industry bodies. In most cases, creating contracts and writing arrangements down avoids potential disputes further down the line.

Valuing collaborators

An artist's success is often a team effort, born from collaborations with skilled professionals. Keep in mind that it might take some time to find a good team player who delivers quality work for reasonable prices on the right timescale. Once you have found the right people, show that you value them and their work by paying invoices on time and giving constructive feedback. You'll then have the foundations for a productive long-term collaboration.

Sources of help

In today’s landscape, there are many ways for artists to learn more about these subjects. Books on niche and speciality topics are now widely available. Online platforms such as Udemy offer online courses on specialist subjects at affordable prices. And traditional courses are also often a worthwhile investment, with various business certificates, diplomas and even degrees tailored specifically for artists.

In addition, many online publications compile informative newsletters, provide details about interesting events and courses, and feature articles on up-to-date, relevant topics. Unions also organise courses, workshops and general advice.

Ros Gilman is a film composer, songwriter, music producer, conductor and orchestrator.


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