Debate: Should Artists Include Pricing on Their Websites?

As I am discussing the internet and marketing online with artists, the question of whether or not an artist should include pricing information on their site often arises. I spend quite a bit of time looking at artists’ websites, and, from my observations, most artists do not include pricing on their websites. I’ve also found that a good number of galleries don’t include pricing information either. The lack of pricing information is always a little surprising to me, but perhaps it shouldn’t be as there is a warm debate over the issue.

I’ve heard both sides of this debate. While I suspect that a large number of artists (and galleries) don’t include pricing information because they see that very few others are including it – those that do put thought into the issue seem to have pretty strong opinions one way or the other.

Briefly, to frame both sides of the issue, those who don’t include pricing seem to omit it for one or more of the following reasons:

  • To encourage contact from the potential buyer. If there’s no pricing information, the reasoning seems to suggest, the client will have to call the gallery or artist and ask for the pricing and now the salesperson has an opportunity to actively engage the customer and push toward the sale.
  • Including pricing can lead to complications or confusion. As I understand this concern, if there is inconsistency in pricing between the artist’s website and the gallery website it can lead to obvious customer service problems. The same would be true if the site is out of date and a price has not been updated after a price increase.
  • Including pricing makes an artist’s website site seem too commercial

There are probably other arguments, but these seem to be the primary positions I run into.

I come down firmly on the other side of the argument and am in favor of including art prices on artist and gallery websites. My arguments against the points above, respectively are:

  • If you are waiting for someone to call you or email you for pricing you are missing the point of the internet. Visitors to your site aren’t going to contact you, they are just going to move on. In the internet age, people want to find information easily and instantly. We have always included pricing on– instead of getting calls asking “how much is it” we get calls saying “I want to buy it, here’s my credit card” or, even better, we get the order right from the site. Pricing is the single most important thing people are looking for on the site, you’re only frustrating them if you don’t give them this information. 
  • Running into problems due to inconsistent pricing is not an internet problem, it’s a pricing problem (or a laziness problem). An artist’s pricing should be 100% consistent across all venues. Eliminate inconsistencies in pricing and you won’t have any website pricing problems.
  • As far as the “too commercial” issue, I am truly dumbfounded by this one. Aren’t we trying to sell the art? If not, if you are just trying to create a web museum of your work – then pricing probably isn’t necessary. If, however, your aim is to sell, then you need to overcome your fear of commercializing your site. Collector’s will buy only if given the opportunity.

Of course there are other considerations for an artist. Some galleries prohibit their artists from sharing pricing information on their sites. I think this is counter-productive for all involved – especially if the gallery isn’t generating strong online sales, but it is wise for an artist to accede to the wishes of their galleries if the gallery is generating sales for them. It wouldn’t hurt though to have a discussion with your gallery and talk about the pros and cons of including pricing on their site and your site.

Of course, this debate is close to moot if you aren’t getting strong traffic to your site. If you’re not getting 200+ unique visitors to your site weekly, you should start there before you worry too much about pricing (more on this in a forthcoming post).

What do You Think?

Do you include pricing on your site? Do you have arguments one way or another that I’m overlooking? Share your thoughts, comments and questions in the comments section below. Your feedback improves the dialogue and I appreciate your participation.

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