Tattoo artists are worried about the drop in customers

Tattoo artists are worried about the drop in customers
Tattoo artists are worried about the drop in customers

Bad times for the tattoo industry: at the end of winter – a period which usually runs slowly – spring has not kept its usual promise of bringing back traffic. Dependent on a clientele with disposable income reduced by inflation, tattoo artists are now struggling to make a living from their art.

“I have the impression that the off season is all year round,” says Vincent Daignault, who has been tattooing for two years at the Citron rose studio in Montreal.

However, it was not always like this: when Vincent started in the field, three years ago, he was still told that it was “the dream” to tattoo: flexible hours, enviable pay, what more could you ask for ?

But another message was already reaching his ears: the clientele is changing, and it is more difficult to get started.

“For me, the norm was that at least the month was “booked”. There, it’s almost a week,” notes the man who has been looking for an additional source of income since January.

“I can survive,” he said. Am I living well? Not necessarily. »

Tattoo, a luxury

During MA’s best period, two years ago, reservations were made a month, or even a month and a half, in advance, recalls the artist, who tattoos in addition to being co-manager of the Rendez-vous studio important.

“The more time progressed, the more the requests diminished,” notes the artist.

Same story for Romane Dumesnil, from Le Rest Stop studio, and tattooist since August 2021. On this date, a year ago, she tattooed at least three times a week.

Then, with the arrival of fall, meetings became rarer, dropping to one per week, sometimes none.

“I absolutely had to find myself a job who pays,” explains the woman who is now a waitress in a pizzeria thirty hours a week.

“Housing expenses, food expenses, all basic needs have increased, and so people are keeping their money and saving it,” says Skylarr Austin of the Tatouage La Cabane studio. And tattooing is a luxury. »

At the beginning of May, the artist who has been tattooing for ten years launched a call for help on Instagram.

“Friends, I normally wouldn’t post about this, but right now it’s a critical time for me. I have had a huge drop in demand, to the point where I may have to leave Montreal if there is no change,” the publication read.

The current precariousness threatens the artist: not speaking French, Skylarr fears having to return to her native province, Ontario, if her situation does not improve.

“Everyone tattoos”

Beyond the portfolio, Montreal is “saturated with artists,” says Skylarr Austin. “I think it’s important that we don’t necessarily view our community as competition, but at the end of the day there is that factor. »

Simon Ouellet, who started tattooing in April last year, feels the pressure of this competition: “It creates a market where there is a lot of competition, so it’s hard to leave. »

“It’s certain that I question myself about this,” he adds.

According to Vincent Daignault, tattooing has become more popular over the past fifteen years, which has created a glut of “supplies compared to demand”.

“Everyone tattoos,” says Eric, who has been in the business for eight years and who prefers to keep his real name quiet. […] There are so many artists that there are no customers left. »

When speaking with The duty, Eric arrived in Chicago, after tattooing for a week in New York. “When I come here, I make three times as much,” confides the tattoo artist who is trying to emigrate to Uncle Sam’s country, because legally, he is not supposed to work in the United States, not paying taxes. .

Even if practicing his art in our neighbors to the South is very profitable, Éric is categorical: “It’s not just in Montreal that things are bad, it’s everywhere. » The artist says he himself experienced winter “the most rough ” of her career.

“When you are on your way to [supplier] every week for clients, it’s not a life,” he laments, thinking of certain colleagues.

Instagram, the enemy

The change in the algorithm of Instagram, the platform they all use, has also forced tattoo artists to have to use creativity in order to succeed: publications are no longer displayed chronologically by default, it is more complicated for them to reach their subscribers.

“We are like tattoo influencers,” illustrates MA, who invests his free time promoting his practice on social networks.

“When you spend a day editing, arranging your post or to make drawings, it is not paid, deplores the artist. […] Even often, you end up paying on Instagram to advertise. »

When you are at [supplier] every week for clients is not a lifetime.

For Vincent Daignault, this platform “is not [leur] friend “. He would like an alternative, targeted digital space for tattooing to exist, like Fiverr or Etsy, where artists could sell their work.

“I don’t see why we all insist on working together on a platform that does everything to put obstacles in our way,” he emphasizes.

Not to give up

“I don’t know if it’s temporary or how long it will last,” wonders MA about this critical phase for the tattoo industry. We are all “stuck” in the mud, we wait. »

Would reducing prices be an avenue to remedy the status quo? Vincent Daignault estimates that the average price of a tattoo right now is between $300 and $600; Below that, these are small designs that didn’t take a huge amount of time to tattoo or are located in accessible locations, according to him.

“It’s not something I want to do, lower my prices to accommodate [cette réalité] », Says Romane Dumesnil, who says she tried it. “I think my job is worth more than that, so it’s a little difficult. »

“I don’t even know how effective it is to lower prices,” says Vincent Daignault, who himself tried to make flashes at a discount, without much success.

MA, for its part, believes it must accept more personalized requests from customers. “We perhaps need to be less selective in order to work more and survive this period,” says the artist.

One thing is certain: there is no question of doing anything else. “If you tell me it doesn’t work anymore, seriously, I don’t know what to do,” says Eric. Once you get a taste of that life, you don’t really want to leave. »

“It’s still something to mark people for life,” underlines Romane. At a certain point, I can’t force things, but I’m never going to give up. »

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