I was in Publix yesterday, my local grocery store, and found myself staring at the magazine aisle. My first thought was, “Magazines? Doesn’t everyone know they’ve been replaced by the internet?” If you know anything about a successful grocery chain like Publix, you know they would not give up valuable floor space unless it was profitable; so, I re-evaluated my first impression and really looked at the magazines, not as a reader, but in relation to what we’ve been talking about lately, “Getting to know your customers and delivering what they want”.
There was a sailing magazine, a cruising magazine, a wooden boats magazine, a power boats magazine, a Great Lakes boating magazine, a Florida Boater magazine… Get it? 5 different hot rod magazines, 8 fishing magazines, 12 football magazines, 5 cooking magazines, 6 “men’s magazines, a zillion women’s magazines. (Jeff Foxworthy asks, “Ever notice that the men’s magazines just have pictures of women, “That’s what we’re after fellers” and the women’s magazines are full of articles like “How to fix your man”, “How to get a good man” etc) The magazines are to a specific audience, a specific niche. When all of these niches are combined, there are, apparently, enough magazine sales to keep Publix happy. Magazines, like their illegitimate children, social networks, have figured out that knowing your customers, knowing your “niche” is the way to profitability.
Ok, artists, “profitability”, that’s when you take in more money than you spend, it CAN happen! On Facebook, I clicked on an ad that said something about “Get Your Facebook Portrait” and I was introduced to the working artist Matt Held, who has definitely found a GREAT niche. I called him this morning, he’s in Brooklyn and got to know him a little. It’s not often I get to speak to a genius. (Matt, blushes at the genius tag, says he was “just in the right place at the right time.” That’s the genius part Matt!)
Matt, 38, moved to New York to make it as an artist, he does portraits in oil. Like everyone else, he found selling portraits to be tough going in this economy and realized he needed a little different approach. Luckily for Matt, his bride Joelle, who works in the New York Financial Community, has a great business sense and together they hit on an idea to do your portrait from your Facebook Profile Picture.
To say their undertaking has been a success is an understatement, together they have built a collection of portraits that will debut at a gallery showing in September, he has been featured in several important magazines and blogs and has created a Viral Brand that already has a cache. “I’ll Have My Facebook Portrait painted by Matt Held” is a popular FB group and the gateway to his business. The genius, in my opinion, is that even Facebook has not figured out how to make money on Facebook yet, but Matt and Joelle have! Using FB for it’s true purpose of networking has resulted in a true success story.
The Affluent Artist lessons in here are SO powerful and Matt has a great understanding of why he is successful. He and Joelle understand that they did more than just have a really good idea: they took action, and did the dirty work! They created a business model, did the P.R. work, built the Blog, the FB group AND paint the portraits. Their hard work resulted in the creation of a wonderful collection and the notice of important people in the art world, resulting in his own upcoming show.
He understand the concept of Discipline. A stay at home Father, Matt gets up at 4:30 to paint every morning. He understands that business might not be his talent, so he enlisted the help of his bride, who is, by all evidence, an excellent business woman. Matt admitted he was suffering from “painters block” before they hit upon this concept, in his case, a good business idea helped him remove resistance.
“My goal for this project is to build a large collection of paintings that mirror individual self-portraits, sum 200.
With the development of social networking sites, I’ve developed an interest in how people take simple or complex snapshots of themselves, post them to their page as a representation of who they are and what they want people to see. It is an interesting form of control and, in a way, self-preservation. However, there is a strong likelihood that many people who don’t know you will see this photo representation and make passing judgments as to who you may or may not be, much in the same way we make passing judgments on people we see in our neighborhoods every day.
Take a collection of these portraits and put them into the context of a gallery space or like setting, and you see a community of individuals – their likeness elevated and memorialized like the original commissioners of portrait painting; the rich and powerful – displayed as a portrait’s original intent: expression of an individuals’ character and moral quality.
Exhibited, the collection is as much about the individual as it is about the community it represents.”
Watch this video to see why Matt is so smart: