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The Intersection of Art and Commerce – From the Artist’s Perspective

Last week I heard two panel discussions sponsored by Absolut that focused on brand integration and content distribution.

The Artist Panel:

  • Danny Clinch, Photographer
  • Sebastian Errazuriz, Artist and Designer
  • Paul Pope, Graphic Artist and Designer
  • Evanly Schindler, Founder of Blackbook and Tar, President of Interview
  • Andrew Stockdale, Lead Singer of Wolfmother

A little background
Absolut is currently sponsoring Wolfmother to promote their new Anthem campaign. Danny Clinch was hired by Absolut to follow the band and document “the moments no one gets to see.” (The pics are awesome.)

Paul Pope is known as “The Jim Morrison of Comics” and has collaborated with DKNY and Diesel.

Evanly Schindler is a mastermind of niche magazines and daring to be different in the very traditional world of publishing.

From The Artist’s Mouth*
“This is not the day of selling millions of records. I think it’s fine if you’re involved with a good brand…you go to an art gallery and see brands and banks on the invitation.” — Andrew Stockdale

“It’s a good means of promotion…to get people to hear the music.” — Danny Clinch

“Benneton was the first to say we don’t have to sell sweaters, we want to sell the concept or idea.” — Sebastian Errazuriz

“Originally is becoming hard to decipher…what is natural…even kids…it’s all coming from a marketing perspective.” — Evanly Schindler

“So like a loss of innocence?” - moderator Kurt Anderson

Andrew Stockdale did not agree and said “it’s a return to the artist, to creativity.”

“DKNY isn’t hiring me, I’m hiring them …there is an ethics to it. You do things honestly, and you have to be aware of the shadow you leave.” — Paul Pope responding to whether or not he would turn down working with a brand

“Ideally what you want is for the commerce side to support the artist side without hindering the art.” — ES

“They want your freedom…Hopefully they should not want you to compromise because that’s why they want you.” —SE

“It’s always ok as long as you’re honest.” — SE

“Absolut paid for our band photos. They’re wicked. We would have had to pay for them anyway.”
— AS

“It takes a mutual respect. For you to respect the brand and they have to respect what you do.” — PP

My Takeaway

Artists have always struggled with the “business” of selling art because money isn’t their motivation. But today, they are playing a new game in a time when money is tight. Corporate brands are looking to be unique in saturated markets. If you can marry a brand with an artist who projects the same tenets, it’s a win-win for everyone.

In terms of their “Anthem” campaign that says doing things differently leads to something exceptional in an Absolut world,” the integration with Wolfmother is the perfect synergy. As you’ll see in this new commercial and the documentary-style photo above, they are focusing on the organic nature of the product and music. Andrew Stockdale’s music is genuine, inspired, and not over-produced as most is today.

Paul Pope was really the only one who understood how to find a seamless integration between his art and sponsoring brands. He has worked within every possible medium - print, digital, retail, design, etc - to distribute his work without compromising his vision.

However, none of them truly seemed to grasp the implications of art and feedback in the digital space. Feedback interests them less than money. I feel like artists were the first “take it or leave it” profession. And you know what, good for them. But in today’s world, the web is their best means of distribution, and that comes at a price sometimes.

Andrew Stockdale has no concept of the web. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he might not know how to turn on a computer. Part of me loves that about him. His focus is his passion as it exists organically. Let the suits decide the rest. But how much ignorance really is bliss? Shouldn’t you want to control the fate of your life’s work?

As for Schindler who has made a fortune creating a hip niche in the publishing world, he might survive offline as well. I don’t believe people are ready to give up the paper pages with edgy editorials and articles that don’t tirelessly write in punch lines and alliterations (that would be me).

Well, at the end of the day the digital prominence isn’t the bottom line for these artists. The dollar didn’t use to be either. But when no one is buying tickets, paintings, sculpture—will brands be their new savior? The artists seem to agree they will. You know my vote is yes. And despite the integration, as long as it’s authentic, then there should be no shame in getting paid for your work.

* I typed out the quotes on my iPhone as accurately as possible. My fingers are pretty quick, but not perfect.