If one looks at art as a product, and artists as small businesspersons who want to get their product across to the end users, there are potentially two approaches that they can adopt.
One approach is to mould the product as per the requirements of the market. This is the most common approach. Most artists are either strongly influenced by the current trends, or deliberately shape their work to suit the market needs. While this approach is more convenient, it is not without its pitfalls. Having access to a larger market, also means facing tougher competition. As one becomes ever more mainstream, it becomes harder to stand out amongst the crowd.
Another approach is to continue with the product that one can create the best, and try to find the market for it. This approach is quite difficult from the onset, but pays off well, once a decent sized community is formed.
Social media, with all its evils, has come as a boon for upcoming artists, providing them with unprecedented reach. One of the myths related to social media is that immediate virality is the only way to become successful in that realm. While virality is the ultimate goal, it is preceded by a long dedicated community building process. Platforms, such as Instagram, target people through their interests, helping artists to break through the barriers of geographical location and immediate community.
Marketing on social media is a complex process, and it may be argued that artists are better off concentrating on their art and letting professionals take care of this aspect. But it may be time that artists started taking more ownership of their work, and get involved in the promotion process. Musicians, for instance, have always been at the mercy of music promoters and large record labels, but in this new age, independent artists/bands now have the means to gain a decent amount of success.
The most successful small businesses are the ones that have an understanding of the marketing aspects, and find ways to target the end users of their products. The businesses which operate in silos eventually perish. There is no reason that artists should be any different. It may sound quite unromantic to ask artists to get involved in such activities, but in the end the ability to target the right people reduces the need to compromise art to meet the requirement of the masses.
The problems artists face as compared to any other businessman is being more emotionally attached to the product they create. This may lead to an imbalance in investment of resources. For example, a lot of money, resources and time are invested in creating the art, but, proportionally, a lot less in promoting it or finding ways to promote it. Treating it as a business would, on the other hand, mean ensuring proper allocation of resources towards different headers, such as product creation, marketing and business promotion.