To Do List

No matter what your field (and this counts for EVERY genre: music, performing arts, whatever – even business!), one of the most critical things any artist (or entrepreneur) can do to advance their own success is to put themselves in the shoes of the Artistic Director (or client) that they’d like to work with. Artists very often unwittingly waste the time of the people who could be helping them by being poorly prepared.

Allow me to paint for you a simple hypothetical but very common scenario. You’re a budding artist that meets a curator at a function. You say, “I’ve got some work to show you.” “Great”, the curator says. “I’d love to see it.” You offer to bring some samples to a meeting. But the curator is pretty booked. “Here’s my email. Just send me the link to your website,” the curator offers. Doh! You don’t have a website. Wait, no need for alarm yet. The curator says, “Snail mail me your materials by the end of the week.” By the end of the week? But you need more time than that! And trust, if you’re not organized, time you’ll get. Plenty of it in limbo.

My homegirl (Maybe you know her – Oprah?), and I like to define “luck” as: Readiness meeting opportunity. What’s the use of catching a break if you’re not fit to go? Don’t be caught sleeping. Here are The Top 5 Essentials for All Emerging Artists. And they are all non-negotiable.

1. Biography

What is unique about you, compelling or noteworthy? Where did you go to school? Who have you studied with? What informs your work? What awards, grants, or scholarships have you received?  Basically, who are you and what is your amazing story? The simplified version can be about 50 words. The longer one about 100. And a yet longer, more detailed one can be an entire page, but not longer. It’s also good to have multiples to serve different purposes. For instance, the one for the website can be the full version, the one you submit for press releases may be the middle version, and the one that goes in the handbill can be the short one. As a general rule, write your biography in third-person.

2. Curriculum Vitae

This will contain similar information to your biography. However, it will be formatted like a resume and will include just the facts: Name, Contact Info, Exhibitions (titles, dates, locations), Education, and other relevant details.

3. High Resolution Photos – Work Samples, Artist Portrait, etc.

When you are booked for a gig, photos will be needed to promote the show. These may be used for magazines, newspapers, posters, fliers, and websites. The usual minimum file size for images is 300 ppi, and may be either color or black & white. Unless the work to be promoted is itself graphic design, do not incorporate any graphic design into these images – no text, no borders, no layout, no frills. The photos should be strong enough to stand on their own.

4. Artist / Mission Statement

This document shall be written in the first-person. Tell us what your work is about, what is the story or motivation for you to make this work, and give any information that may help your viewers further access your work or look at your work in a new and interesting way.

5. Website(s)

Create all of the aforementioned materials. You may send out these documents as traditional, physical artist packets or more likely, as electronic media kits (also known as an electronic press kits, or EPKs). And since you have all of this great content, now would be a good time to invest in a website to serve as the home base for all of this wonderful information. You may then include other appropriate components like video for example of any cool interviews, live work samples if you’re a performer, etc.

You will use these essentials to pitch to an Artistic Director. And the Artistic Director, when they take you on, will use these same materials to pitch you to colleagues, to the media, and to the general public. Which then leads, hopefully, to more attention and future opportunities for you. Do you see how having these texts and photos are crucial to multiplying your success?

Being a curator myself, I know that my interest in supporting any artist wanes dramatically when the artist does not honor these basic processes. In such cases, I tend to feel undervalued as a champion for that particular artist and I end up second-guessing my decision to support them to begin with. Because curators like to re-book people they’ve had good experiences with as well as advise their peers on new talent, these napping artists produce a minimizing effect for themselves rather than a multiplying effect. How could I – or anyone in the best interest of their associates – confidently recommend any artist that presented themselves as sloppy, unprofessional or difficult to work with?  No matter how amazing their art.

It is your responsibility to help out the people that are trying to help you out by having these Top 5 Essentials for All Emerging Artists in order, up-to-date, and ready to fly.  Start on these immediately.  They don’t have to be perfect – you’ll continue refining them over time as your work evolves or as you find new ways to describe your work.  Just begin.

Good “luck”!