Risks of Raising Art Prices
Too High Too Fast
Artists and galleries like nothing more than a robust healthy art market, especially in combination with a strong economy where things sell well like they've been doing recent years. Raising prices can be awfully tempting during these bull market times, but as any experienced artist or gallery owner will tell you, raising them too high too fast can be very risky business, and sometimes even disastrous. No matter how great things are going, upping prices without good reasons or justifications may generate increased income in the short term, but over the long haul they can just as easily compromise the market for the art. In other words, you have to think twice before any kind of price hikes. Here are some facts about buying, selling, and pricing art that will hopefully help you to make the right decisions:
** Galleries that have shown your work in the past may be less likely to show your art if they think they'll have trouble explaining the increases or that the work's getting too expensive for their clienteles.
** Fewer people will be able to afford your art. Keep in mind that if you're starting out, the more people who can afford your art, the better. You want to maximize the chances of selling the most art to the broadest audience, so even if you're selling well, don't get too ambitious too fast.
** New buyers tend to spend less rather than more on work by artists whose art they've never bought before. The more reasonable your prices, the more comfortable they feel about making that all-important first purchase. The first sale is often the most difficult. Later sales are generally easier to make, and they're often for larger higher priced work.
** All else being equal, given the choice between a more expensive work of art by one artist and a less expensive one by another artist, a buyer will usually choose the less expensive one. Make sure your prices are comparable to artists whose art, experience, accomplishments and resumes are similar to yours. Better yet, price somewhat less than your immediate "competition." Just because you see other artists in your circle or area raising their prices, that's no reason for you to do it too.
** If you're not making many sales, you may get the impression people don't like your art when it's really more about your prices. Talented artists who price too high too soon can get discouraged or even quit due to lack of sales. Instead of giving up, try lowering your prices and making your art more affordable first. That could be all you need to jumpstart the selling process.
** Some artists price high because they think people will take their art more seriously. The truth is that it's the same exact art no matter how high or low you price it, and you're fooling no one. Experienced discriminating art buyers, collectors and gallery owners know to look at the art first and everything else later, especially prices. They make decisions based entirely on the merits of the art. If it's good art and they want to either buy, show or otherwise act on it, then they look at the price. Then they do the research including studying the resume, checking the sales history, and seeing whether the prices make sense. If they do, and the prices are something they can work with and afford, good things start happening. If not, or if they have difficulty justifying the purchase based on the artist's history, they continue their quest for "good art" elsewhere.
** The higher your prices, the more questions people will ask before they buy, and the more they'll want to know how and why your art is priced the way it is. This is especially true for those who follow your career including how you've been pricing your art. If you can't justify price increases with good solid reasons based on facts related to your own personal accomplishments, maybe the best strategy is to hold off on raising them at least for the time being.
** Raise your prices too high too fast and you can outstrip the market for your art. Rather than continue buying, people who already own your work might decide they're happy with what they have and say stuff like, "I'm sure glad I bought mine when prices were more affordable." Those who didn't buy early on might not buy at all and say stuff like, "I should have bought when prices were low." If everybody starts saying stuff like that, you're in trouble.
** Raise your prices too high to fast in good economic times or just because "everybody else is doing it" or if you've gotten a lot of publicity in a short period of time, and you risk having to lower them when the spotlight stops shining or the economy turns soft. If that happens, collectors who already own your work might lose faith, galleries may back off from showing your art at all, re-establishing the market for your work can take years, and in worst case scenarios, your market can evaporate for good.
** Raise your prices too high too fast and you risk losing your most dedicated long-term supporters and collectors. You have to keep your longstanding fans in the game. They're the ones who got you where you are today. Never forget them.
** The higher you price your art, the slower it tends to sell. And art that doesn't sell tends to stack up on you, sometimes in such quantities that you'll get discouraged and either slow down your production or at worst, stop making art altogether. Your art can literally crowd you right out of your studio, and there's nothing worse than being continually surrounded by the same old unsold work day after day after day. Every time you sell a work of art, you create a vacuum in your studio. And how do you fill that vacuum? By making new art and better art than you've ever made before, of course!
Being a successful artist is not about pricing your work as high as possible. It's not about the money. It never has been about dollars and cents and it never will be. It's about making quality art every single time you head into the studio to create. Don't worry if you're not yet generating enough income to survive; even established experienced artists often take day jobs to supplement their incomes. If it's only about making money for you, then perhaps you should get into investments or annuities and leave the responsibilities of being an artist to others. You're in this to make the best art you possibly can regardless of challenges or adversity. That's the lifestyle you sign up for and that's what following your creative impulse is all about.
(art by Scott Greene)
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