It’s often stated in many business books that you shouldn’t be in the commodity business because your business often lives and dies by the price of whatever it is that you’re selling. We often don’t fully recognize that we have control over the context and the situation in which our artwork and our products are perceived.
One of the things that Andy Warhol was smart about was that he went to people in person and he went to the customers that he wanted to attract in person. Even today, especially today, there’s nothing stronger than a face-to-face connection. Sure, it’s old-school and grassroots, but it works.
Warhol worked the crowd at parties and networked. He could get more high paying clients, and it was, ironically, through his partying endeavors, through an atmosphere that we don’t often consider fertile ground for developing professional relationships with people.
In terms of the products that Andy Warhol was selling, he was creating deeper meaning with his products by first finding people who were in the income bracket that he wanted to target, which were very wealthy people who could afford to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of artwork to hang in their mansions, but he also reverse engineered and looked for ways that he could control his own domain and that he could present his own voice and his own perceptions and his own way of being without inviting price comparisons and commoditizing himself. This led to a multi-concerted ambush of various different projects, in different mediums, at different styles. He did film work, and then magazine work, and wrote books, and did interviews, and went to speaking engagements and book signings. It was a total ambush.
Warhol did the party scene and what was even better about his strategy was that he didn’t even have to arrange the partying, at all. He could just go to the party and he would be able to just work the crowd, socialize with people, and be able to slip in a little bit of the, “Oh, this is my project. This is what I’m doing.”
Word caught on, and fast. Slip in some alcohol and a few Quaaludes and he had it made with the clients he needed.
I don’t want to mislead and make you think that the foundation of Warhol’s business was partying and selling people when they were drugged up. Let’s be clear about one thing: Warhol worked his ass off and missed an entire decade of life just to build his career from scratch. Most people don’t want to even think of “losing a decade,” for a greater cause and yet we find ourselves losing all sorts of time without fully realizing it. We take one blink and soon enough we realize we’re in our 50s, but Warhol had Intention and a purpose and he was driven to see it come to fruition.
So, there was a real benefit to going to these parties which served almost like a conference, almost like a summit for selling Warhol’s paintings, and the parties, it may be argued, also further solidified his uniqueness while keeping him top of mind, relevant, memorable. Warhol knew that people easily forgot all kinds of things (other people, achievements, events), so he did everything in his power to keep them from forgetting. This also created a sense of more and deeper meaning for the duration of his career.
In many ways, just having Warhol at a party gave the party instant credibility and cachet. By 1977, Warhol himself became a living embodiment of wealth and status and celebrity, sophistication, and intelligence, always seen by “somebodies,” and never leave the room without an entourage.
In The Law of Success, by Napoleon Hill, Hill describes how he had found his calling in life through a series of false-starts, wrong-turns, delayed gratification—and several failures. Failure is, in fact, one of the laws of success in this mammoth text on how to achieve your dreams of success in life. His “calling,” as he describes it was the magazine, Hill’s Golden Rule which he was able to secure funding for after World War I.
In many respects, Warhol, like Napoleon Hill, was fortunate enough to have found his calling very early on in his life, which was painting but also Interview magazine.
I see many striking parallels between the lives of these two men, and it’s possibly not coincidental given the fact that most people refer to Hill when trying to seek ways of improving their lives and becoming more successful. The laws have been used by most successful people like Warhol, whether these successful people realize it or not.
Warhol did the party circuit, but he was also discerning about which parties he attended, and in the last 10 years of his life, he had garnered enough fame and fortune on his own that he could really start to afford to get the outside help that he needed to discover where all of the best parties were, where his interests were served and help him negotiate clients which was never something that he wanted to do himself, as evidenced in his diaries.
So let this be a lesson for creative types, aspiring artists and entrepreneurs: parties do have a place in your marketing arsenal! Certainly, it depends on which party you go to, but finding the right one could make success feel almost effortless!