What if Artists agreed to a Pricing Structure?


Get yourself a drink and a snack, this is gonna be a long one!

Have you ever noticed the wide variations in how artists price their work?
Have you been confused about how to price your works?
Do you believe no one in your community will pay what your art is worth?  

I believe we teach our art-buying communities how to value our work. Every time we accept less than retail value of our work, we reinforce the belief it's acceptable to pay artists less than the worth of their work.

So, after hearing two well-known artists suggest standardizing price structures, I took the topic "to the streets". I wanted to know what other artists thought.  I wondered, "what if artists in a given community agreed on a pricing structure."

The important points are

  1. a given community (i.e., a city, or town), and
  2. artists agree on a price structure.

Two artists and what they say

Sue Bryce is an internationally known photographer.  She is a profound force in education about both photography and owning/running a photography business. Bryce believes the inability to charge appropriately for one's work is a self-esteem issue - especially for women.  Beside the self-esteem issue, she believes if artists agreed on a starting price for prints that clients would soon come to expect a given price for a given service/print.

Stefan Baumann is an established, award winning oil painter.  In his YouTube video (click on his name) Baumann describes a pricing structure for beginning artists to established artists. His point is customers expect a rational, consistent pricing structure. He offers a detailed process that will grow as the artist grows in skill, time and practice.

Bryce and Baumann believe artists should be able to support themselves with more than a minimum wage.


Some Caveats

  1. Your artwork HAS to be of high quality to warrant the prices suggested. 
  2. These suggestions (from Bryce and Baumann) are probably only relevant to 2D artists such as photographers and painters.  I'm not sure a sculptor or ceramicist could effectively charge by the square inch. Maybe there is a formula within the 3D artist community; I don't know.

How it went down

I posted the (top of page) image to Facebook on my business page, personal page,  a couple Facebook groups and to Instagram. I provided a bit of background describing the ideas of Bryce and Baumann. And, I included the Baumann video link.  Finally, I conducted a few personal interviews.

Again...not doing science here...just wanting to see the "hazy horizon".

And the survey says...

We're all over the place in our thoughts!

Here is a response from Instagram. 

"One thing you can count on is that artists will never agree on anything. Best bet is to set a consistent pricing structure for you and your audience. What everyone else does is up to them. You are an economy of 1."

Food for thought, that one.  Is it true? Artists will never agree on anything?

Erin Blackwell noted the makeup artists who work with her decided to raise their prices. They agreed on a base price that allows them to refer work to each other easily.  The artists benefit because they have continual work. The clients benefit because they know the standard price. And, the prices help to elevate the industry of makeup artists in their geographic area.

Other responders questioned how the agreement would come about. Perhaps through an artists' union such as the musicians' union or actors' guild? Responders felt this path would require strong leadership and a lot of footwork.

The number one answer?  "I can't imagine what that would even look like. "Art" is such a broad term that I don't know how a structure could be set."

Big Brother for the arts

I'm going to close this post with a very interesting concern voiced in the Professional Photographer Association forums.  Photographers have been warned not to discuss pricing in the forums because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could accuse them of colluding to set prices!

Really?  The FTC worries that all 2D artists will start charging a minimum of $2.00/square inch plus costs of goods? Is there a difference between establishing a minimum living wage for other workers and a minimum living wage for artists?

How would a pricing structure such as this be any different than the suggested prices set by car manufacturers? Doctors? Dentists? Unions? Guilds? Even Medicare has a suggested price structure.

I have never seen this FTC concern/warning in any other professional artists group. Maybe, I'm missing something here...but I just don't see this as a valid concern.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts?  Take a peak at Baumann's video and share your impressions.

If painters and photographers follow a consistent pricing structure that begins at $2.00/square inch + cost of goods sold, will the community of buyers learn to value art more?  Will the community of buyers learn to expect a consistent price that sustains an artist's livelihood?

Leave your comments, thoughts, alternative ideas in the comment section below, or over on the Facebook page.

Feel free to share this post with all your artist friends and art buyers.  Let's see where this conversation can go!

Until the next time

Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure


P.S. The monthly free-print give-away starts in August.  Make sure your on the list for your chance to win the free print.