That assessment contains a flaw that is probably obvious to most of TheStreet's business-savvy readers: Nothing sells itself. To reach an audience, the artist has to put the work out there as a product; somehow, he has to generate interest in his art. As I thought about it more, though, it seems to me this assumption about art and marketing goes deeper than that. If we look at a successful company and its products -- Apple ( AAPL), for instance -- we find marketing at work not just at the final stage, but at every stage. In the community a company builds around itself of vendors, suppliers and consultants, in the design process behind any product, even in the hiring of employees -- at all these points, important aspects of the company's identity have to be communicated and cultivated. For a company's products to have value for a consumer, that company has to have the tools to create that value, has to have a brand that represents that value, has to have people that represent the company's ideals and has to have products that naturally represent the goal of that overall vision. And the company has to be able to make money.
In my response to the reader's email I drew a comparison from the visual art world to better illustrate the point: Picasso and Van Gogh. The two artists weren't that far apart historically or geographically -- Picasso was a child when Van Gogh died and both spent formative years in France. But judging from their careers they may as well have been from different planets. Pablo Picasso was a master of self-definition. As an artist, viewed as synonymous with his art by the public, self-definition was marketing. His artistic style changed radically through the years, sometimes turning on a dime to allow him to do exactly as he pleased and to take advantage of the venues and audiences available to him.