The strength of any artistic endeavor is related directly to the strength and clarity of its vision. Art is an act of communication and the success of that communication depends almost entirely on the clarity and purpose of the message.
For many, there is no purpose. They simply like to paint or sing or act and that becomes the message. You can't expect the world to care if you like doing something. The message has to be something they care about too.
If your message is about something other people care about, and you can express it clearly enough, then you will find your audience and you will be successful, otherwise, be grateful for the friends and family who come to see your work because that's all you'll ever have.
The best example I can think of to illustrate this principal is Ballet Magnificat, right here in Jackson Mississippi. Most people would never think to try and send an evangelical christian message using classical dance. There's almost nothing in the cannon of ballet that carries a christian message, yet that was the goal when Keith and Kathy Thibodeaux started their company in 1986.
Thibodeaux found her success, not among the community of dance lovers, but from the evangelical movement. "Traditional" ballets tended to look down their nose at Ballet Magnificat, but their companies dwindled and died while Thibodeaux's company thrived.
Andrew Wyeth, who died recently was one of America's most successful painters. His message was not cultural or religious, but entirely aesthetic. He had something to say about texture, emotion and color and his work conveyed that message clearly enough and strongly enough to drown out his many critics in the art world.
Wyeth found his greatest success in a time when his work had the least in common with the prevailing trends in painting. He succeeded because successful art has nothing to do with trends or movements in the field. It has to do with how it impacts those outside of the art world, and that's where he found his audience.
If you're an artist hoping for success beyond pleasing yourself, then you have to ask, "what is my message?" and "who wants to hear it?" Once you've discovered these answers, then put your energy in making your message as strong and as clear as you can and more than likely, you will find your audience and find success.
"Late Fall" by Andrew Wyeth; source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wyeth
"Deliver Us" Source: http://www.balletmagnificat.com