I had a long chat to a tattoo artist on Friday (who wishes to remain nameless) and was given food for thought on an interesting discussion point.
All over the world, there are multiple blogs and magazines which share tattoo art, and we all do it so in many different ways. One of these ways, is through Instagram. Most of the tattoo artists I know regularly use Instagram and it’s fast becoming the one place to go to explore and discover body art that’s being created every second out there in the big wide world.
In the last few weeks, my tattoo artist friend had been contacted by various Instagram accounts that had seemingly been set up to share the work of tattoo artists. You’ll have seen them, they are the likes of @mastertattoos and @tattoos_of_instagram. At first contact with him, he was asked to hand over money in return for an Instagram post, sometimes up to $200 for one picture of his work.
He shared an example message with me: “Heeeeyyyy your works really good if i feature you i use your username i ll tag u but its up to a little fee 8$ one photo $17 three photos $40 ten photos send it to [email address] send money here if interested [link to paypal] i hope we work together.”
My tattooist friend had been completely inundated with messages like this, and it was raising a lot of questions in his own mind. “These accounts say they want to work with me, by charging me to let them post my work. Do they actually care about my art and what I am putting out? Or are they purely and simply trying to make money?”
It would seem these accounts are successful in getting money from artists as they can lay claim to having millions of followers. They sell their account status on the basis that they can reach so many people, and as an artist you’ll be getting your name out there. To me, and my tattoo artist friend, we couldn’t help but think there was more to being a respectful sharer of tattoo art. “Maybe they should try and show a bit of support first before asking for money,” he says, “you’re only going to advertise with someone who gives something back to the industry.”
I point out that, not many other industries work like that though. If you’re selling advertising space, you’re selling advertising space. I have worked in marketing for five years and am contacted daily by advertisers, magazines, websites and social media accounts giving me their rates. That being said, I’ll repeat what I say in most of the articles I post here on Inkluded – the tattoo industry is like no other. Any rules we normally follow, can get chucked right out of the window.
For me, anyone who writes a message to a tattoo artist like the example shown above, clearly doesn’t understand the industry at all. My friend sets the record straight: “the tattoo world is built on respect and morals, not fast money. If some people don’t realise that, they won’t get anywhere.”
I launched this blog back in November because I am passionate about tattoo art, and want to share that passion with a wider community. Did these Instagram accounts feel the same way? It takes 1 minute to post something on a social media feed, so what exactly are the artists actually paying for?
Playing devil’s advocate, the question I fire back to my friend is that online sites need to make money too, just as magazines do. Work is featured for free in magazines regularly because they are large, established, successful companies with various sources of income (advertising, events, sponsorship, etc). If you’re like me, and you want to run your online tattoo site full-time, or even part-time, maybe they’re just trying to earn a living?
My friend had an answer: “I understand that it’s a form of advertising but it’s somehow different. Skin Deep Magazine and you, Beccy, with Inkluded… you actively speak to artists, create relationships and spread the word of their work for free to begin with. It’s different when the first thing you’re asked is to hand over your money.”
Indeed, I have spent the last 6 months trying to build organic relationships with artists and establish the identity and mission of this brand. I don’t currently sell any advertising here on Inkluded – it’s merely something I do outside of my full-time income-earning job. It doesn’t make me any money. This conversation with my friend was interestingly timed, as it was however something I had been thinking about over the last few weeks… could blogging ever generate an income for me? After having this conversation, I now wasn’t so sure.
I put my worries to my tattoo artist friend and he laughs, “I wouldn’t worry Beccy, you’re a very different, rare breed of tattoo enthusiast.”
Being paid to do what you love is every creative individual’s dream. I guess, as long as that dream is born from the beginning with a passion, interest and respect… then maybe it has the chance to be something good.
Photo by photographer Niall Patterson, part of the Beauty Is Only Ink Deep project