This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 19,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
A recent FineArtViews article by Jack White inspired me to write about the dangers of going after the 'mercy purchase' during art exhibit openings. In the article I warned about the pitfall of specific forms of 'desperation marketing' concerning exhibit openings in general. That said, other forms of desperation marketing -- within the context of art marketing -- are not, in my opinion, as negative career-wise. Point-blank, my concern about the negative-side of desperation marketing stops (for the most part) at the gallery door.
Think of it this way: when the economy is rough many artists choose to 'cut' their pricing structure OR offer smaller works of art at a price that is -- based on the current economic climate -- affordable. In a sense, those artists are utilizing a form of desperation marketing without realizing it. I, for one, don't think that form of desperation marketing is 'bad'. In fact, it can help to keep the business-minded artist 'afloat' when financially strained.
Retailers utilize this form of desperation marketing often. For example, a store may reduce their suggested price for specific products if sales for those products are down. Once sales are up for those items... the store will increase the price back to the 'normal' price. That form of desperation marketing can pay off in the sense that sometimes the store can end up raising the cost beyond the 'normal' price -- IF a strong customer base was secured while the price was less expensive.
Lowering price is not always a 'bad thing': a store can secure (by lowering prices) a customer base for specific products while times are rough -- and obtain balanced, or higher, prices from those customers later. Pay attention at stores and you will notice this. For example, you may notice a $2 'energy' beverage reduced to $1 -- you start buying that specific beverage because it is a 'great buy'. Months later the store raises the price back to $2 -- and guess what... you will most likely continue to buy that specific beverage. In fact, at that point the store could probably squeeze a few more cents out of you. Again, this form of desperation marketing can pay off -- and it can work for selling art.
I can hear it now, "You can't compare art to energy drinks. Art is not a product.". My response: If you are in the business of selling art -- ART IS A PRODUCT. I'm not downplaying the importance of art by saying that... nor am I downplaying the message of the artwork itself. I'm simply pointing out that once prices are involved... you, like it or not, are providing a product with customers in mind. Art collectors are customers. You are providing a product that (hopefully) those customers want. If sales are down... you may have to consider how other producers handle slow situations -- and adapt that to your art marketing efforts. It never hurts to think outside of the box.
I know that others will say, "You are not thinking about the expense of time, art supplies, or the costs involved with maintaining an art studio". My response: You should have already thought about that when pricing your art in general. Point-blank, in the scenario I mentioned earlier the store is still making a profit by offering the 'energy' beverage for $1. Stores offer themselves 'wiggle room' when it comes to pricing -- and you, if you are business-minded, should do the same. You don't want to take a loss... so consider that when pricing your art BEFORE you have to explore this form of desperation marketing.
In other words, if it costs you $50 in art supplies to finish one painting... and you value the time spent on the painting at $300... well... you don't have much 'wiggle room' to explore desperation marketing if you price your paintings at $500 a pop. If you are in a situation like that you should probably reconsider your pricing structure (or use of supplies) in general. Again, I'm thinking in terms of business -- and YOU must do the same if you are serious about marketing your art.
With the above in mind, I realize that the art market has 'rules' concerning art pricing. For example, it is not uncommon to hear/read the following 'rule' -- "You should keep all of your original art listed at a close price range and never deviate from it other than to raise prices overall.". I'll admit that I once agreed with this 'rule'. That said, I've seen art galleries AND artists break it... and come out on top. One could suggest that these art dealers and artists know the value of the form of desperation marketing I mentioned earlier (though they most likely don't call it that).
In closing, rules are meant to be broken -- markets are ever-changing. I realize that what is accepted practice in some markets is looked down upon within the realm of art marketing. That said, I must remind you all that the art market, in general, is unregulated. Anything goes. The form of desperation marketing mentioned in this article can easily be adapted to art marketing. I know that some readers will disagree with me -- but I also know that it has worked for gallery represented artists AND 'independent' artists. If needed... it may work for you.
Take care, Stay true,