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Should Artists Pay for Publicity or Media Exposure?
Q: I'm emailing you because an art magazine has offered to write an article about me. In order to increase the chances of this happening, someone at the magazine suggested that the issue containing the article should also have a full-color display ad showing my work. This ad can either be purchased by me, someone who represents me, or a gallery where I show. Should I go ahead and do it?
A: Anytime you have to pay for any type of media exposure that's normally free, watch out. Regarding this art magazine situation, publications with editorial policies that link article content to paid advertisements are not all that highly regarded within the art community. For one thing, the artists that magazines like this tend to feature are selected in varying degrees based on their abilities to contribute to advertising revenues, and not necessarily because the quality of their art warrants coverage. Go through a couple of back issues of this magazine and you'll see that they pair articles with advertisements on a regular basis.
Most knowledgeable collectors who read these types of periodicals have little difficulty figuring out when the buy-an-ad/get-an-article arrangement is in effect, and tend to regard the features themselves as forms of paid advertising. Consequently, they don't take the artists as seriously as they otherwise might. There's an obvious difference between articles about artists who get media coverage because they deserve it, and articles about artists who get media coverage because they help finance it.
Best procedure is to go after more genuine forms of publicity for your art. Participate in juried shows, seek gallery representation, apply for commissions and grants, make sure your art is well-represented in communities where you live and work, get to know experienced artists who are advanced in their careers and who can give you tips on how to attract media attention, and do everything else in your power to consistently keep your work in the public eye. The better you get, the more shows you get, the more people will see your art on a regular basis, and the greater the chances that you'll be noticed by those in positions to write articles about you or otherwise feature your art.
Throughout your career, people will try to extract money from you in exchange for promises of fame, fortune and different types of public exposure. My advice is to walk the other way and let the fame and fortune come as you earn it. There's no quick and easy way to make a name for yourself in the art world.