Guest blogger Ethan Appleby is the co-founder of Vango, a new company offering a selling concept that can work well for artists. He shares their research on the difficulties that pricing art can present, and how they faced that dilemma.
We already knew that pricing was a major pain point for emerging artists – where to start and the hassle of negotiation with buyers. But, we didn’t expect buyers to share so much frustration. Before we got started building a new way for people to buy and sell art, we interviewed hundreds of art buyers that crossed the spectrum from the college-beer-poster-clinger to the sophisticated collector.
We found that everybody wants to own original art, but confusion about price leads potential buyers to instead fill their walls with posters and prints that they can buy at the same place where they get their sofa and bath mat.
So, we wanted to share with you the three key themes from our last 12 months of discussions with art buyers from around the country:
1. Transparency. Why is my piece $50, yours $500, and the one a few clicks away $5,000? Galleries and art consultants may whisper about ‘who’s hot right now’, but, online original art buyers just want to feel like they have as much information as everybody, so they can be confident buying what they like.
2. Simplicity. Too many variables and price points can be overwhelming for a buyer. Many people we talked to, spoke of ‘getting comfortable’ with shopping once they were confident prices were in their budget. They hated flipping through hundreds of pieces only to find the one they liked was way out of their price range. They were instead drawn to smaller collections with round number prices and without extreme variability in pricing from one piece to the next.
3. Structure. Every artist deserves to increase prices as they hone their craft, but when do you increase and how do you justify it? Find a very clear process that is easy to stick to and even easier to explain to a customer in one sentence. For example, “When I sell X # of pieces at a particular price point, I increase the price by X amount” – that’s the kind of pricing structure that any capitalist worth their salt can understand.
The art market is in the midst of an amazing technology revolution, but the pitfalls of pricing for emerging artists and buyers will continue to linger like the smell of paint. That’s why the pricing model must be as important as any technology features on whatever online platform artists choose to use.
For us, all of our artists start by selling original art at $250, and then after they sell 5 pieces, they unlock the ability to price at $500. In the coming months, we will roll out more price tiers to keep pace with our growth.
Our buyers say that the pricing model ‘puts me in the mood’ to just ‘buy what I like’ and ‘without the sticker shock’. Our artists tell us that we ‘have alleviated pricing anxieties’ and empowered them to ‘focus on creating beautiful work’ rather than trying to balance ‘a marketing, agent, sales, and creative mind’.
We know we are just getting started on our journey, but whether artists join us for the ride or take a different path, we believe that transparency, simplicity, and structure in the pricing process will bring artists more sales and make the world a more artful place.