Call me an over-sharer, but I love the ability to tell people who I’m with and what I’m doing at the click of a button. I adore social media. However, it’s just that for me - social. I never use it to promote or advertise, as many artists do.
I follow multiple illustrators and photographers who beautify my Instagram timeline on a daily basis, and I think it’s great that social media gives them a reliable platform to self-advertise on, without the need for some middle-man ripping them off to advertise for them.
However, although it is great that Instagram allows lesser know artists and illustrators to get their work out there, advertising work on Instagram does come at a risk. Last year, there was a mass-exposure of various artists with large Instagram followings whose designs were copied and sold by international clothes chain Zara. The most well-known victim of this scandal, Tuesday Bassen (@tuesdaybessen), sent a letter to Zara addressing the issue and was met by a response in which Zara highlighted the difference in annual website news for Zara and Tuesday Bsssen. Essentially, Zara implied that her tackling them would be like an ant taking on a lion; she had no chance.
As sad as it is, it’s true that there’s not much artists can do to defend themselves in these situation, as law suits cost the kind of money independent artists usually don’t have. Hence, artists advertising their work on media platforms such as Instagram can be seen as a double-edged sword. It allows for smaller names to self-promote, but also makes blatant ugly imitations of smaller artist’s work by bigger names a very real possibility.
One positive that did come out of Bassen’s situation was the support she got from her followers. Thousands of people reposted her exposure of Zara, which lead to many other artists coming forward with similar stories. Websites were set up to expose each of these cases and direct prospective buyers to where they could buy the original work and support the original artist. This is a great example of the community-like bonds created between artists and followers of their work through social media.
Social media allows everyone to feel a part of wider-reaching communities than those of their day to day lives, with whom they can share what kinds of art their experiencing - be it galleries, music, or books. 2016 has been the first year Waterstones has made a profit since the financial crash in 2008. This success in partially seen to be down to social media. As well as Waterstones using platforms like Instagram to advertise new books, people sharing what they’re reading from Waterstones on social media motivates others to go and read the same books they see their peers with (ahh, capitalism).
I believe that ultimately, social media is a good thing. It allows artists to share their work, and people to share the art they’ve consumed. However, I feel that social media is yet to be viewed by mainstream culture as a legitimate platform for one to advertise their art on, resulting in artists like Bassen being exploited. The sooner smaller artists’ work is recognised and respected as their own, the sooner we can all enjoy the wonderful Instagram world of latte art videos, dog pics and artist’s work without any worries.