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Rock your Online Art Business – Lessons From Gnarly Rock Gods

by Helen Aldous

Now anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I’m pretty much OBSESSED with a certain rock band. Far more than is probably right or seemly for a middle aged woman with kids.

The band in question is New Model Army who are based in Bradford, 10 miles from where I live, and to be honest chances are you probably won’t have heard of them. Go and Google them right now {ok, well, maybe when you have finished reading this post}. You’ll be glad you did.

NMA have been a successful band in various incarnations, lead by the majestic Justin Sullivan for nearly 30 years {!}. They don’t have Lady Gaga sized commercial recognition {thankfully} but My God do they have a passionate following of dedicated fans! They sell out gigs all over the globe and have created a world which allows them to follow their artistic vision, get paid for it and continue doing it without compromise.

This constitutes pretty much the ideal artistic & creative business success in my book…

So I started to think that I should look into these CREATIVE BUSINESS HEROES in a bit more detail to bring all this condensed rock knowledge to those who haven’t heard of them as I think they are a pretty perfect example of a great creative business in action. What the hell have they been doing right all these years to make it so far? Which of their ideas and methods can we pinch and apply to our own artistic businesses because these guys must KNOW STUFF right?

So without further ado I present…

The Rock God guide to running an extraordinary creative business.

It turns out NMA {and original manager Joolz Denby} have known the most important thing all along… the key element that any artist needs to concentrate on with their business, both online and offline.

New Model Army understood the power of TRIBES right from the start.

Long before even the BIRTH of the internet. Long long before the wonderful Seth Godin articulated the concept in his must-read book Tribes – We Need You To Lead Us they understood what the bottom line was…

You can become successful through genuinely connecting with an interested and passionate group of people who share your ideas and values.

New Model Army and bands like them have always understood the power of the Tribe. With music, art and any kind of creativity it’s all about finding YOUR TRIBE, YOUR PEOPLE, the folks who LOVE what you do and can’t get enough of it. The guys who will queue round the block late into the dark rainy night to buy tickets for your latest gig. Who will trek half way across the world to see you play. The ones who will wait poised to buy your latest painting when you release it. These are the people who strongly identify with your work and artistic vision and resonate with it down through their very soul and into their boots. If you talk to someones soul they will walk to the ends of the earth for you.

These are the people you need to ATTRACT to YOUR creative business.

So, how do you do it? Before the invention of the internet, bands created mailing lists of fans and kept them up to date, with photocopied mailshots through the post, all with the aim of growing and keeping their Tribe together. Now email makes all that so much easier and cheaper and within the reach of any artist. You can keep finding your people, keep growing your email list, keep increasing the size of your Tribe.

  • Takeaway
    Reach out and start connecting with YOUR Tribe – If you don’t currently have a mailing list you need to start one right now. You don’t even need to have a website yet to do this. You are missing all these great people you meet both online and offline and will probably never see them again. Think where it could get you and your art in just 2 or 3 years time if you start collecting their details now and keeping in touch, let alone 30 years.

And there are other pearls of creative business wisdom to be gleaned from these guys.

Steer Your Own Ship. You might end up as a mangled corpse on the rocky shore of fate but at least you are in charge of the route…

NMA saw the way the internet was changing creative business, escaped from the clutches of the corporate record companies and set up their own, ensuring that they owned the copyright on all their material, allowing them to control their work and the way it was sold, packaged and distributed. No more being controlled by large scale corporate businesses who can only ever have their own interests at heart.

  • Takeaway
    Keeping control over your own work and creativity is essential for any artist and the only way to creative freedom. Make sure you maintain copyright on all your work and always work for yourself {or aim to get there}.

Wear bloody clogs if you want to. Sod the Jimmy Choos.

Never ones to follow fashion NMA were pilloried by the music press for their anti-fashion stance and love of bluff northern working class clog footwear but they ignored it and just kept on doing their own thing and creating work that they believed in. Those bands who were the hip flavour of the month fell by the wayside many years ago as their star fell out of fashion and NMA just kept on trucking for all these years.

  • Takeaway
    Always create work that you believe in, no matter what is “hip” and “cool” now. {Yeah – by using those words I’m demonstrating just how deeply uncool I am}. Trying to chase whats hot now turns you into an also ran along with zillions of identical others. Be yourself, stand out and forget what is flavour of the month. Original is far far better than “cool”.

Don’t stop moving forward or you become a dead shark

New Model Army don’t rely on their music back catalogue unlike most bands who have been around a while. They are constantly writing and releasing great new music which attracts new fans and keeps their creativity fresh.

  • Takeaway
    This is of prime importance for artists. Don’t stagnate, keep moving forward, keep trying new things and creating new work. Only by doing so can you keep your work fresh and keep your enjoyment of your creative process alive.

And the moral of the story is…

To achieve all this, COMMUNICATION is the key factor and of course THE INTERNET rides to the rescue. NMA may have started out with paper & post mailing lists in those dim and distant pre-internet days but now the web allows them to do all these things and communicate with their Tribe much more easily & cheaply.

Their website is the hub of the Tribe where a strong forum based community go to chat and keep in touch. The site keeps their people in touch with their tour dates, collects more names on their mailing list, sells their music & DVD’s [all of which they own copyright on of course] and their online shop sells a vast range of merchandise to a global audience.

Their website holds all these elements together and is THE HUB of COMMUNICATION.

  • Takeaway
    Any artist wanting to sell their art online needs their own HUB website as a focal point of their endeavors through which they can publicize their artwork and share their artistic vision with their own Tribe.

YOUR TRIBE is out there waiting for you to share your artistic vision… How are you going to communicate with them?



If you liked this post please get updates via my feed or check out the related posts below.

10 Crucial Reasons Why Every Artist Needs Their Own Hub Website

Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

And make sure you visit newmodelarmy.org to see all these ideas in action.

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