The art party company formerly known as Paint Nite has rebranded as Yaymaker — the maker of “yay.” Yaymaker is meant to consolidate Paint Nite and its spinoff ventures, including Design a Sign, wherein participants design their own wooden signs, and Plant Nite, wherein attendees put some plants in bowls.
(To be honest, the name Plant Nite elicits in my mind images of potted houseplants growing to human size and terrorizing their owners. I may watch too many horror movies.)
My first column in The Spectator was about what I believed to be the self-limiting nature of businesses like Paint Nite, and the creation of Yaymaker might, at first glance, seem to contradict my prediction. I mean, they’re doing so well that they need a whole new name to represent all of their myriad offerings.
I don’t buy it. I think this recent business move illustrates the point I made nearly two years ago.
If the painting party business model were sustainable, I don’t think Yaymaker would exist. The very need to create more new party concepts demonstrates that the initial service offered lacks endurance, much like technologies invariably become obsolete as they’re replaced with newer and more desirable versions. However, unlike innovations in the tech industry, I don’t see this string of night-out class concepts going on ad infinitum.
Paint Nite instruction is not far off the concept of paint-by-numbers, and I can say this with authority because I’m a painter who once worked for a competitor. This is not meant as criticism of the experience of participating in a painting party. I had fun hosting them, and I’d venture to say that most participants have fun as well but, with the exception of a few who attend events on a regular basis, they don’t actually learn much about painting. If they did, I would imagine that far fewer people would enjoy it, since learning to paint is not all wine glasses and giggles.
Attendees often don’t end up with a finished product that they deem good enough to display, and sometimes the process is just plain disheartening because nobody can actually learn to paint in one booze-soaked sitting. While instructing, I spent time at the end of each event assisting troubled painters who occasionally asked me to fix or finish their work myself so that they could enjoy the end result a little more.
The painting party business model is not sustainable because it doesn’t offer a genuine learning experience or a valuable finished product, which leaves novelty as the key seller. While I’ve never personally instructed a sign-making or plant-bowling class, I’m confident that these offerings are much of the same.
Paint N — err, Yaymaker’s fallibility ultimately rests on the reality that nobody wants 50 crappy paintings, or 50 wooden signs, or 50 bowls with little plants and rocks in them, cluttering up their house. It’s super fun to make these things once or twice, but unless you’re a serious painter, or sign-maker, or terrarium-designer, there is a pretty hard and fast limit to how many of these items you have the space or desire for. I have garbage bags of teachable paintings in my basement. I’m a professional artist, and I don’t want them, either.
The reason why it’s fun to make these things a couple of times is that it’s a new experience. I’ve done a couple of escape rooms, and they’re really fun, but I’m never going to do the same escape room again, because once the novelty is neutralized, there’s no more excitement in the activity. Sure, there’s a variety of paintings taught by companies like Yaymaker, but there are only so many, and the same ones are taught over and over, especially the more popular ones.
Teaching the more popular paintings more often doesn’t make sense for a business looking to retain long-term patronage, but it does seem reasonable for a business looking to maximize short-term profit.
Even just renaming a business that already boasts a household name doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless that business is struggling to attract customers. My phone service is through Wind Mobile — by which I mean Freedom Mobile, but I never call them that. Wind’s rebranding, if I were to guess, was an attempt at distancing the company from the “budget” descriptor their name had become synonymous with.
A little inside bird told me, some time after my first column ran, that canvas sales were dropping. I’m not saying that painting parties will go extinct tomorrow, or in a year, or even five years, but I certainly wouldn’t invest in a franchise now and expect to be buying into a lifelong career.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the rebirth of Paint Nite and its offshoots as Yaymaker is a sign of a growing empire — I think it’s the first flare of a sinking ship.