How A 26-Year-Old Artist Makes 40% Of Sales Through Instagram

Every morning this week, Nashville-based artist Shane Miller wakes up, brushes his teeth and checks his Instagram. His feed looks like something out of a dream — softly focused impressionistic landscapes featuring dramatic skylines with a hint of attitude. They evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for something distant and intangible. But unlike most people on social media, Miller’s not checking Instagram just to get a boost by the likes — for him it is part pleasure, part business. Currently, 40% of his sales come from Instagram, a pretty significant for chunk for the 26-year-old artist.

Miller’s canvases can’t be purchased with a click — interested parties need to reach out to him to discuss pricing and shipping costs, which adds an extra layer of work for impulse shoppers. He's currently represented in California, South Carolina, and Tennessee with his work displayed in two galleries, but he views Instagram as a long-term bet for his career. “It is surprising that people are trusting enough to buy fine art online, without seeing the piece,” Miller said. “They trust artists enough to send me a couple thousand dollars and hope I ship the painting.”

This might sound crazy, but using Instagram as a tool for fine art sales — from both the artists and the buyers perspective —  is backed by hard numbers. According to a social media study by The Pew Research Center, 32% of all online adults use Instagram. Demographically that breaks down into 59% of all 18-29 year-olds, 33% of 30-49 year-olds, 18% aged 50-64 and 8% of those 65 and over, with women significantly more likely to use the service, in all age ranges.

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