There's a lot of mixed opinions about the art showcases RAW: Natural Born Artists holds.
Most of my artist friends have been approached by RAW to do a show at one point or another. I only knew one or two that had done the showcase, most others' consider it too expensive or even a scam in some cases.
I wanted to find out for myself, so I said yes.
This post is going to go through my experience. Maybe it will help you decide if a RAW showcase is right for you. Or maybe you're not an artist and this will be an interesting look behind the scenes.
WHAT IS RAW?
In case you're not familiar, RAW: Natural Born Artists is a for-profit organization that puts together multi-disciplinary art showcases in various cities across the world.
They also have a huge website dedicated to artist profiles, art industry resources, merchandise, and more.
This is RAW's mission from their website:
To serve independent artists with tools, resources, education and exposure needed to thrive and succeed in their creative careers.
WHO CAN SHOWCASE AT A RAW EVENT?
The RAW Showcases are pretty wide open. Technically, you have to submit and be approved, but what I can tell it's very unlikely that they will reject you.
I had signed up for their website prior to being invited to a how, but I know plenty of artists that did not have accounts and were invited.
The invite email I received is almost word-for-word the same email other artist friends of mine received.
I think this is one of the reasons a lot of artists think these events are a "scam."
Honestly, there are a lot of art scams out there and RAW's team doing this doesn't help their case. At the same time, it's understandable. For these events to work, they need a constant stable of new artists on a pretty large scale. The only way to do that is to reach out to anyone with moderately good work and get them to join. It's a numbers game.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BE IN A RAW SHOWCASE?
The RAW Showcases aren't for established artists. That's just not the target market.
When you're an established artist, you'll be paid to exhibit your work. However, those shows will also usually take a commission out of any work sold.
RAW showcases operate more like the craft fairs I've attended. You pay a fee to be there, but then you can make money however you'd like once you're there.
The interesting thing about RAW is that they waive the (pretty hefty) fee if you sell enough tickets to the showcase. It gives every participant an incentive to help promote the show.
As someone who organizes events, I think this is a really cool idea. It's crazy how hard it is to get an artist WHO IS IN THE SHOW to promote it. It doesn't matter how much the organizers promote a show, if the artist doesn't get some of their fans to come it's an uphill battle.
The prices change, so I won't quote exact prices here. Generally, you need to sell 20 tickets, or pay the equivalent of that fee.
IS IT HARD TO SELL TICKETS?
The prices for my first show was about $20 per pre-sale ticket.
Event tickets are hard to sell, no matter how good the event is. Most of the time, people don't decide if they are going until the day of the event.
After only selling a few tickets in the first couple weeks, I realized that I had to add some extra incentive. Also, most of my supporters aren't local to PGH. They live in Lancaster, Austin, DuBois, LA, NYC, all over the place.
So in addition to (or instead of) attending the event, anyone who purchased a ticket got a limited edition print of my most popular piece. I would normally sell these at $40+ so it was a genuine discount at $22.
I still didn't sell all the tickets I needed to and ended up paying about $100 to attend. For me, it was worth it.
If you're an artist tight on money, it's probably not UNLESS you're sure you can sell enough prints/pieces at the show.
MAKING MONEY AT THE SHOWCASE
The number one question other artists ask me about the RAW Showcase events is "Do you sell much?"
That's a tough question.
The easy answer for me was no. I didn't sell ANY paintings or prints. Pretty quickly I realized my work was priced higher than most of the other artists. Most of my original pieces range from $200-$500. My prints are $40 each.
For comparison, some of the artists close to me sold a TON of prints that were priced around $20 each. The sweet price point seemed to be the $10-25 mark. Those artists that had offerings in that range DID sell a good amount.
I did, however, make money from the showcase. Two commissions came through as a result of the event. One from someone who had been on the fence about buying a piece and another who met me at the showcase. Together, those more than double the cost of being at the event.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?
Would I do another RAW Artists Showcase?
Yes. And I am.
As part of participating, they allow you to join another show (in another city) for free. It's called the Tour Incentive. I was invited to the Downtown Los Angeles showcase and used the Tour Incentive to join that show.
I've been wanting to visit LA for quite awhile and have a lot of friends there. This showcase isn't costing me anything (other than the cost of driving there!) so it was a no-brainer for me.
Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with RAW: Natural Born Artists other than participating as an artist. Anytime I show support for a controversial organization or product, I inevitably end up being called out for having a hidden agenda. I don't make any money from RAW or have any steak in your opinion of them. These opinions and experiences are my own.