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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why we price the way we do! Pricing Art


I want to talk to you today about a touchy subject for a lot of customers and artists which is what should the price be for a particular art piece. I think it will benefit many to learn why an item is priced the way it is. To better explain the concept of pricing I am going to tell you about a time when my eyes were first opened to this subject. It was when I was working as a carpenter remodeling a home for an old resort. During one of our breaks from work the man who hired us showed us this woodworking jig that he bought that allows you to drill pilot holes at an angle so that you can join two pieces of wood together with screws keeping them hidden. Not long ago I bought a jig similar in construction that was for making dovetails. It was such a simple thing yet it cost me about a hundred dollars. The same could be said for the jig that he had. It was made of plastic and some metal which was mainly bolts and nuts, still it cost him a lot of money. To me it seemed highly overpriced, how could something that seemed so easy to make cost so much. He related to me that when you buy a product you aren't just paying for the material that it takes to make it plus some extra for profit. Besides costs of materials you have to worry about royalties for the inventor (creator), hourly wage for laborers (manufacturing) and costs for people or material involved in selling the product (marketing); all these need to be considered in the price so that they are paid for their services. I'm probably missing many more, but you get the gist of it, there is much more involved in the making of this product being sold to you than just what you see that raise its price. Then you also have to take into account how much of the product is being made and whether they sell. Jigs are popular among carpenters, but not everyone buys them since you can get by without them and that makes them more expensive. The more of a product you make and sell the lower you can set the prices to cover all of the expenses involved in making the product while still allowing you to make a profit. That day I learned a lot that opened my eyes, still why did I relate that to you and what does it have to do with art?

As artists we are specialists yet we do the jobs of many: we are the inventor, manufacturer, marketer and sales man. Some artist may hire others to handle these jobs when they get well known, but generally most artist do them all themselves. We also provide products that are usually one of a kind or very few which makes it hard for us to sell our work for a low price. Not to mention, unlike other products where demand can allow them to lower prices because they make and sell so many; artists have to raise prices when demand is high because there is only one worker and very few products. It is important for artist to not undersell their work or for customers to ask for lower prices. Sure you can look at art and say, it is just a drawing or painting and the materials only cost $20 to $50 dollars so it really shouldn't cost much more than that. Let me remind you of the story of the jig. Would you sell or pay someone for just the cost of materials and a little extra for profit? No or at least I hope you wouldn't because there are still many more people needing to get paid, all of which is the artist being the sole employee doing multiple jobs. The artist would be out of business, doing art for free, maybe even going in debt. Often times I find that many artists, especially young artists undersell their craft which hurts the rest of us as well as themselves. Thus giving customers the impression that art should be cheap and that we do it as a side job or a hobby (does the term starving artist ring a bell). Artists are professionals in a specialized field who run all aspects of a business and should be paid accordingly. All of these factors make the price quite reasonable when you think about it. Being an artist is far more than just seeing the art in the end. It may seem effortless to an outside observer but there is far more involved in the creation of art. I hope artist and customers understand that if an artist wants to make a living off of what they love to do then the prices that they set have to reflect the work put into it. Many may already understand this and that is wonderful, but for those who do art for free or expect to receive it for nothing I hope you now have a better understanding of why art is priced the way it is. Thank you for reading, take care and God Bless!!!~ Jon


  1. Hi Jonathon. This is so very true for us, the artists! Nice work you have! Peace, Rebecca

  2. Well said...art is creation..its a passion...its priceless