Bruce Gray is a Los Angeles sculptor with an impressive website.
ROBERTS Do you know how art galleries have been affected by the web?
GRAY They definitely donâ€™t like it.
ROBERTS How can you tell?
GRAY Iâ€™ve heard them complain about it. They have complained about it a lot. Some galleries wonâ€™t even represent you if you have a website. Â They also don’t like you to list your prices, because they will usually be asking for twice the money.
GRAY But thatâ€™s up to the individual gallery, and it depends how bad they want you. The ones that have the very tight rules on that are usually the galleries that are really hard to get into anyway. But letâ€™s face it, if itâ€™s Gagosian or someone who could triple my prices and turn me into an overnight sensation, then hey, Iâ€™ll take the freaking website down, but until that happens, I need something to keep the bills paid and the web is definitely doing it. Like Iâ€™ve told all my artist friends, every single artist in the world should have a website.
ROBERTS Yeah, and what will the world be like?
GRAY Another great thing is that itâ€™s a portfolio that you have with you wherever you go. Itâ€™s very easy to show people my work at their homes, or even through my iPhone. I keep 300 dpi images up there too on a hidden page. So say Iâ€™m out of town, and I get a call that someone needs a large image for a magazine article, I can just give them that link and I donâ€™t even have to send them anything.
ROBERTS Does this mean that people will be able to buy art at lower prices because the middle man is cut out?
GRAY It does, absolutely.
ROBERTS Are there any signs of this actually happening? Youâ€™re bringing people in to the art market because the prices are lower.
GRAY Of the artists I know, thatâ€™s basically what people have been telling me. Obviously when youâ€™re going directly to an artistâ€™s studio, itâ€™s kind of the same thing as buying through the internet. Youâ€™re cutting out any gallery or dealers in most cases, unless people have signed on for one of those deals where youâ€™re supposed to give your dealer a percentage even if you make your own direct sales, which I just donâ€™t understand why anybody would sign on for that, but I do know people who have that, and they generally get some kind of stipend or something, but I donâ€™t know. It doesnâ€™t look like a good deal to me.
ROBERTS It sounds like there should be new customers in the art world, and I wonder if there are any signs of that.
GRAY The thing about galleries that you canâ€™t escape is they are going to promote you, at least locally, better than you can yourself. And they give you a certain credibility factor. Obviously someone whoâ€™s been around as long as I have, I have enough credits on my biography where people know that Iâ€™m legitimate, so I donâ€™t really need to go out there and beg to get in a bunch of shows just to beef up on the lines on my biography. To get in a cool or interesting show, thatâ€™s still a good thing to do for anybody and I still do that when I get asked, but I just donâ€™t have to do it as much.
ROBERTS How is the traffic to your website changed over the years?
GRAY Itâ€™s pretty damned good. It varies a bit, but it gets a lot of traffic–thousands and thousands of people looking at it every day.
ROBERTSÂ Thousands of distinct visitors per day?
GRAY Yeah. It has been for a long time. Not everybody buys stuff, but a lot of times people, when they purchase art, itâ€™s a decision that can take years to make. They may see something and like it, but it actually takes them several years to commit to buying it. Iâ€™ve had that happen a whole bunch of times. People say, â€˜I really want that, and Iâ€™m getting that some day,â€™ and youâ€™re like, â€˜Oh yeah, yeah, Iâ€™ve heard that,â€™ and five years later they come back and say, â€˜Hey, Iâ€™m getting that!â€™ It does happen.
ROBERTS Have you measured a visitors per dollar or hits per dollar–have you ever computed that index? If you make $10,000 and it requires a million hits?
GRAY Iâ€™ve never really figured that out.
ROBERTS I wonder how that ratio would change over the years.
GRAYÂ Well, I take all the web statistics with a grain of salt because I donâ€™t think any of them are super accurate. If you go to the several different groups that watch that kind of stuff, theyâ€™re all going to give you a different statistic–whether itâ€™s how many sites link into your site, or anything else. If I look online for that kind of information, how many people link to my site, every different page that will give you any of that kind of reference will have a completely different number. You have to just use it like a scale, you just kind of go, â€˜Okay well itâ€™s going up at least.â€™
ROBERTS And it might be going up because of robots.
GRAY Robots just basically spider your information and go and update new stuff; that doesnâ€™t really represent hits the way that an individual coming in will.
ROBERTS How does the number of visitors to your site compare now to a year ago?
GRAY I figured itâ€™s just gradually getting better and better. Every year I have a lot more information on there, which attracts new people in, say, maybe a TV show that I had something on–that might attract in a little bit, or like I had some stuff on this Gene Simmons show a couple of years ago and I just noticed recently that theyâ€™re using one of my photos from the stills from that on this Gene Simmons site, so all of a sudden Iâ€™m getting a bunch of hits in now from that. Each little thing that you add, each little accomplishment, or book appearance or gallery show–all that stuff adds in another layer of keywords and things that people may be searching for. Thatâ€™s all kind of a weird world how that works, too, because for example–Gene Simmons again–heâ€™s obviously a very famous rock star guy and if you look up his name, Iâ€™m not going to get a gazillion hits because I have Gene Simmonsâ€™ name on my website, because when youâ€™re talking about someone who is super-famous, if their name is on your site–as a collector for whatever reason–thereâ€™s so much other material about them already, that you are so way down in the bottom of the relevancy that if you get one or two hits a week because of their name, that would be about average. Trying to kind of beef up your website by putting in a lot of names like that wouldnâ€™t really do anything.