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 The same would be true if the site is out of date and a price has not been updated after a price increase.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 xanadugallery.com– 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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44 Comments

  1. Virtually all of the galleries I work with offer “discounts”. As an artist I really dislike this idea but it’s a matter of common practice. Some galleries offer discounts to designers but most of them will discount retail if pushed. So you end up not having uniform pricing. This really muddies the water if you put prices on your website. I used to have prices on my web page but one of my galleries asked me to remove them and now I understand why.

  2. I include pricing on my website. I didn’t used to and sometimes I would get inquiries about pricing from people who were way off in their guesstimate from what my prices actually are. This was uncomfortable for both parties when they had to say ‘oh, I can’t afford that, never mind’. Now I only get inquiries from people prepared to move forward if all else lines up.

    1. Agree. As both an artist and sometimes a buyer, it is awkward when an inquiry about price is not met with the hoped for answer.

  3. I don’t have pricing on my website as a rule, because I have no idea what it’s worth in a national/world-wide market. If I priced according to where I lived, I would be starving to death. I try to go according to what others on FASO charge for similar pieces, but that ignores their training, reputation, and history of awards. SO . . . just how do you decide what price is the right price?

  4. Jason, for a number of years, I collected fine art via websites done by other artists. I bought from some very well known people. One thing that frequently caused me to just move on was not enough information, and no price. There are many good artists out there, so I often didn’t mess with galleries in particular, who didn’t put prices on things. I knew they would try to give me a sales pitch. I usually know what I want if I see it, and then I will do whatever in order to get it, so there were times a painting wasn’t priced and I did go to the extra effort to get information and buy it. But most of the time, I just continued looking and found something else. I do a lot of commission paintings, so there are not prices on my website unless there are pieces that are for sale – then I do try to remember to price them.

  5. If I don’t see a price — for anything, and whether online or in a store or at a festival — I assume I can’t afford it, and move on. So, yes, I include prices on my website. And the prices are consistent online, at festivals, and in galleries.

    1. That is exactly what I do, move on, too pricy for what I am looking for, or to much trouble. Do not trust that. But then maybe that weeds out those that cannot afford the work.? then only customers that really love the work, and have the interest to actually buy, will take an extra step to find out pricing. Perhaps the artists are attracting a higher class customer? I think this also might allow the artist to represent them selfs to the customer, perhaps this could lead to a big sale?.
      I would want to have a few levels of priced works. For me, I would definitely mention price.
      I always want to see a price first. I guess it is a trust issue. The artist could then make up any price he wanted to.

    2. Ref Emily Porter; I’m sure many if not most people think the same way….hearing in their heads the old saying ” if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” What a snobbish statement, plus a potential buyer might be surprised at an affordable real price after all.

  6. I include pricing on my website for reasons already stated. I don’t like discussing pricing as I’m not a great sales person and feel like I have to defend my prices. I am, however, guilty of not keeping my website updated. SIGH!! My current pieces are not even on there… yet!! Not enough time in the day.

  7. Everyone wants to know what the price of everything is. If I am at a retail store, thrift store, jewelry store, menu, car lot, whether is is every expensive or very cheap, I want to know what the price is. If the price is a secret, I figure it is too much and I move on. If I can SEE the price, and it’s in my range, then I may buy it.

  8. Put the price on your site. That’s what I do, and I appreciate artists who do the same on their sites. I hate the “Available on request.” What must it be a secret? Why must I work to find out?

  9. In the ABA there are the assignments on establishing pricing and the attendant research. What was off-putting for me was the pretense of acting like a buyer. I’ve always had a problem with even a minor one. Pricing would be a big help for me especially when I find the rare gallery that has similar images.
    Also- everyone knows that there is always room for negotiation so posted prices are really targets in straw, not memorials in stone.
    And- my grossly out of date website has no prices because it was pre-research. Needs to be updated and corrected. I know this.

  10. I agree with putting prices up on the website if you are selling your work. If you just want people to look, don’t put prices up. If you are selling, make it as easy as possible for people to buy.

  11. Put the prices on the website, you are not a museum. And consistent pricing across the board is a must. I recently did that after years of pricing according to gallery commissions, art fairs, etc. Then trying to price the art when clients came to the studio was madness. One inventory list for all helped me to concentrate on the important issue, creating! Thanks for all the insight. I will be updating my website this week.

  12. I have two websites- one for myself as an artist and a second for my physical studio gallery in San Diego. I am including pricing on this website but interestingly my sales are happening in person. I also keep a price list with titles, size and cost, etc. in my studio in favor of hanging title cards because of the limited space and hanging the art Salon style. I used to think listing prices was too commercial but after having to answer emails about how much so many times I came to the conclusion it was better for me to list the prices.

  13. I struggled with this issue and decided not to include pricing with the photos, but have a separate page on my website with all prices listed. This way people who do want to buy have access to pricing, but people who just want to see my work aren’t distracted by the pricing.

  14. I tried putting prices on each painting on my website, but that meant that as my prices increased (which, fortunately, they have over time) I had to go back and change every single price, as my policy is to charge the same for all paintings of a particular size.

    My compromise is this: I have a “price list” tab on my website. It lists various sizes and the price for each size. So if you like one of my 16″x20″ paintings you can easily find the price in the list.

    This saves me many hours of changing individual prices. If I raise the prices, I only have to change the list. (There is a note that these are unframed prices, frames can be provided for an extra charge, and prices are subject to change without notice.)

    While that does require one more click from the viewer to find the price, the prices are clear and the customer is not left wondering whether it’s a $500 painting or $5,000.

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      I’ve read through many of the price list or no price list comments and your suggestion to have a price list tab is brilliant! I’m going to apply it to my website. Many thanks for taking the time to offer this suggestion.

  15. I think your analysis of the reasons people leave pricing off their websites is excellent. I specialize in commissioned work and also sell prints of my work, and I include pricing. Before I included pricing, I found I was wasting a lot of time answering questions and fielding inquiries from people who weren’t ready or equipped to pay my prices. Now, when people contact me, they already know what to expect and they’re serious about buying.

    That being said, I don’t post prices for my paintings and woodblock prints on my website, because there may be mitigating factors that are fluid in terms of how old the work is, how many (prints) I have made, etc. When this work sells, it’s always at an exhibition and the price is posted there.

    One thing that really bugs me about the art world is this coy pretense that we “artistes” are above the commercial world, and that putting a price on our work cheapens it. Professional musicians, dancers and actors are unionized and have a pay scale, and nobody is calling them hacks.

  16. I am not only an artist, I am also an internet shopper! In the past, when the internet purchasing experience was young, I might request pricing. But these days, if there are no prices listed or if I cannot find them quickly, I just move along. If something is a bargain, I want to know. If it is out of my price range… I want to know!

    I suggest gettting over any aversion you may have to the commercial aspect of selling your art, if you actually want to sell any of it.

  17. Jason,

    I just heard a gallery owner and a collector today tell me, in all seriousness, that “an artist should NEVER market themselves”, sell themselves, write about their artwork or anything like that. That is the job for curators, and to publish a book would mean to break taboo. I guess that is one way to protect your assets, but I found the approach reprehensible and contrary to everything you teach and I believe in. Their “‘disdain for all things commercial” is mostly not authentic anyway, because they make big bucks out of selling art, it´s just smoke and mirrors, trying to deflect from the often horrendous scalping practices that follow the business practices of A-list galleries. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn´t see through this.

  18. I have prices on the rugs on my web site with the exception of rugs that are in private collections, in other words sold. I also state that any of my designs can be replicated and I give my pricing structure per square feet, so it is easy to see what one of the sold rugs cost. My prices at shows are the same as on my site.

  19. Jason, I am glad you post prices. I post prices at shows and on my website for a simple reason. It save both the potential buyer and myself time. Who wants a pregnant pause over the phone while the inquirer digests their sticker shock?

  20. I believe in posting prices. As an artist, figure out how you need to get paid back for your efforts, time, materials, etc., and then make your decision and post it. As someone shopping for art a few times, I would think “What are they waiting for? To find out what my yearly income is so they can change the price if they think I have more money?” Kind of a bad vibe but that did sort of automatically occur to me while I was shopping even though it’s not likely. It also made me not want to contact the artist and ask for a price.

    This has also been one of the reasons (there are others) why I post prices or use websites that have space for the price. You can always come down a little after a conversation and friendly price haggling. Information exchanged during the haggling might really increase the value of the piece to your potential customer so they would try to pay what you are asking, or it may clue you in to the fact that they really want the piece and will love it forever, but just can’t pay your full price. I like it when I know something is going to a good home and I’d come down a bit to help make that happen. That gets you good word of mouth as well.

    Don’t post your prices as the very lowest you would take, because that doesn’t give you any wiggle room. But do keep in mind the lowest amount you’d accept, price your art higher than that, and have the conversation in the interest of selling your piece at a fair amount to someone who really wants it. This has worked very well for me.

    Thanks for another great article with good advice!

  21. I prefer to post prices on my web site but am in a gallery that requires inquiries be directed to them. I’ve tried listing the gallery’s contact information in each piece’s description but doing so is time consuming and cumbersome. It also adds an annoying extra step a buyer must take. On the other hand, if I activate my site’s shopping cart and handle sales myself, I’m still obligated to report these sales to the gallery and give them their 50%. Which calls for an extra layer of record keeping. Furthermore, not everything I paint is handled through the gallery — small pieces, for example, that the gallery is not interested in. So unfortunately “Contact the artist” seems to be my only option.

  22. Yep…I post price information on my website and try to remain consistent among all the sales venues. If artwork is for sale at a gallery I list the item on my website and reference the gallery for further information or state what the list cost is at the gallery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completely averted any further due diligence on products that refuse to disclose pricing.

  23. Curious. Given your opinion on posting prices, why does your site for the wall climbers link to another page of climbers and colors, but no prices, or explanation why I have to call for prices. No, I haven’t called for prices …

  24. Thanks for an interesting debate…Yes, I like to post prices and with all other relevant information on my website. To make it as easy as possible for my customer. As to keeping all prices consistent across all galleries, online spaces and my own website, I’m still struggling with that one.

    The prices on my own website, include shipping. On other websites they include their shipping and commission, so, do I list them all the same as my website and just take the loss on other art websites and galleries. Never know how to do it.

  25. Jason,
    We just relaunched our site with an ecommerce storefront and a content strategy for generating more traffic. We get roughly 150 UV per month, but our goal is 500/mo over next four months and two online sales. I’ll try to remember to update with results around January.

  26. I also post my prices on my website. And my prices are consistent across all selling platforms… I am selling through online galleries. I also post the prices of newly finished works and newly framed works on my Instagram page (carolinedonatifinearts). I find it much more professional to post prices… after all…I’m ultimately trying to sell my paintings.

  27. I always have prices on my website and everywhere I want to sell art. Of course it is more work to keep everything updated, but do you want to sell? And any gallery that tried to tell me I couldn’t have prices on my website will immediately see the back of me. That is, unless they are selling my art as fast as I can make it! Then we can talk!

  28. I only have my prices on my website as I found out that some out of town galleries were marking up as much as 200% and I didn’t know (despite giving galleries a suggested retail price)… Now my prices are on my website for all to see so if there is an indiscretion, then it’s clear who’s marking up too much…

  29. I really appreciate everyon’s comments! I post my prices and believe it is important to be honest and up front, but am also prepared to discount.

    I especially liked the idea of not having prices under the work but having a price list on the site that is easy for the buyer to see the prices,framed and unframed, and also the prices for prints, and easy for the artist to update.

    Thanks,
    Santana

  30. Many artists lack a shopping cart feature on their website, as do I, and for that reason forget to put a price on the work.

    Many artists also find it hard to deal with the technology behind websites; being able to post photos on a website is already a big step for many and figuring out how to sell on their site is overwhelming.

    I noticed that Xanadu Gallery instagram posts of artists’ work are lacking prices. Since many people only use instagram to shop online, should we all start listing the prices on our instagram artwork posts, too?

  31. Thanks for this post, Jason! I haven’t yet approached galleries, but I was taken aback to read that some galleries sometimes offer discounts!!!! I would not want any of my work to be sold at a visibly displayed discount, but if the gallery wanted to do a deal with a client then that discount should come off the gallery’s commission, not my portion.

  32. Adding a price / value to one’s work; I believe adds value to it and separates the serious buyer / collector from those who are just looking. All art has a value and the artist needs to be both realistic yet proud of their accomplishment. I’m in my ’70s and have never been bashful about the worth of my art. I have had sold out shows in the past and no one ever complained about the price.

  33. Good post, again.

    A lot of people feel uncomfortable asking how much something is. Some people would rather not call to avoid feeling uncomfortable or awkward. Avoid scaring people off & that awkward conversation. Simply list the price proudly.

    If selling something, it’s about the product & service offered to the client. By listing the prices, it lets the client decide if it is worth it to them.

    It also frees up time from answering phones or emails to the clients who know the price & want to buy.

    Sellling something comes with a price.
    It’s logical to list the price. A waste of time & possible loss of sale, not to.

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