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Lowering Prices And Perception Of Value.

Posted by: JC Findley on 01/28/2013 - 9:01 AM

Interesting story about Joshua Bell playing in the DC Subway and the perception of value.

Since I wondered if the story was even true, I went straight to Snopes. If you are thinking of having a "fire sale" on your art, it is well worth the read.

Oh, the jist of the story is this world famous violinist made 32 bucks and was barely noticed in the DC Subway but he sold out at a concert hall where an average seat sold for $100 bucks the next day.


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Andrew Pacheco on 01/28/2013 - 9:06 AM

I'm planning on raising all of my prices this spring. I've noticed that a lot of artists who sell very regularly here, are always talking about higher prices being something that helps in their success. You don't need to twist my arm. :)


Posted by: Conor Murphy on 01/28/2013 - 9:09 AM

A great story JC, thanks


Posted by: Ken Krug on 01/28/2013 - 9:19 AM

I didn't click on the link, but I'm sure it's the one I saw several years ago.
As they say, I guess presentation counts. It's like a yard sale, people pass by a
great work of art, expecting to pay a pittance. It's great in a gallery, but has little value
in a garage sale. The greatness goes unnoticed, except for maybe something like a Rembrandt,
that you could stare at for hours. Good framing helps.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 01/28/2013 - 10:51 AM

Problem is, the article of perception does not equate to selling art.

First, is reputation. Joshua commanded $100 per seat because he was already accomplished as an artist, and had a reputation. Most selling on FAA don't. And if they had a reputation within the art community that equated to Joshua's in his sector, they would not be on FAA in the first place. Does Peter Lik or Art Wolfe sell here?

Second is competition. If someone is decorating and they like your 16x20 but you have priced it at $300 whereas there are other works on FAA they also like that are priced at $100, they will probably buy the later. Unless, of course, this in itself equates back to reputation - yours. And in that case, they will not be buying the $300 work because of the perception that if it costs more, it must be better. They will be buying it because it is yours based upon your reputation.

The article is a simplistic analysis that does not necessarily equate to dynamic markets.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/28/2013 - 10:52 AM

i saw the video of that. but the test was flawed. if you stand in a middle of a busy subway, people are going to be too busy to see anything. they just want to get to work on time. there are plenty of street performers who sound just as good as that guy.

the thing is, it's about location, if he did it near wall street, he would get a different perception. it would be far more interesting if he did it near the concert hall he performs at. or right outside before the show, and see if he gets attention, then goes on stage to show it was the same person. that would be a far more valid test then a rush hour in a subway station. it all depends on where you display your art, and that's where the perception is. but you need a valid place and test.

then the other side, how many really like the sound a violin makes? i know i don't. and the acoustics in noisy room, is not going to be the same as the one you get in a concert hall.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: JC Findley on 01/28/2013 - 11:10 AM

@ Dan, and to quote one of my favorite sports casters, Not so fast my friend.

There are actually some relatively famous artists on FAA. Not sure they are of the level referenced in the story, but nonetheless, they are here. (Dru Blair comes to mind.)

OK, the 300 v 100 thing though is in fact exactly what I am talking about. Here is a piece of interesting info, when an art consultant buys art for a project they generally get paid a percentage of the cost of the art. Say that is a 10% consulting fee. So, given equal images, which one do you think they will choose assuming the budget allows?

Further more, the perception of the $100 piece v the $300 piece is often that the one for more money is better, and yes that applies to art. My closest competitor on here has MANY of the same scenes I do. He produces a similar quality image. The biggest difference between us in our overlaps is price. My markup is about three times his. We sell about equally well in our overlaps. That can mean a couple of things; it could mean that some people buy based on price, some choosing the higher priced work and some picking the lower and in about equal numbers. It could also mean that people will choose the work they like best regardless of pricing. It is probably a mix of both. When it comes down to it though, I would have to sell four times more art to make the same paycheck if I were priced where he is. I don't think I would.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 01/28/2013 - 11:13 AM

JC - I just wish "I" had your problems in selling and pricing.


Posted by: Chuck Staley on 01/28/2013 - 11:24 AM

A totally believable story and several above have explained why it could happen that way.

The thing I have found true about art is this: Most people are not trained in the appreciation of art and they are afraid that they will appear ignorant if they buy a piece and hang it in their homes and friends will come look and call it crap. Many people care about what others think. So, rather than buy a good-sized canvas gallery wrap from an unknown artist, they will go to Target and buy a reproduction from a well-known dead artist, because: Who's going to put down a Rembrandt?

Or, if they have the money, they'll rely on a gallery to tell them what they should like, and that is what they will buy.

I have conducted tests on Craigslist, selling the same exact piece of art for different prices. The higher price is the one that usually sells.


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 01/28/2013 - 11:50 AM

A similar thing was done with Luc Tuymans making a painting on a wall in a city street. Without the context of Art+Gallery that it would be normally seen in, to most it wast just another advertising, though some people did noticed it and stood still by it, like in the Joshua Bell experiment. It's more the perception of context than one of value.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/28/2013 - 11:58 AM

the problems with these experiments is the other side of the thought process. people in a gallery assume their art is wonderful. when in fact i've seen a lot of trash there. in fact a normal garbage can covered in vomit, is gross on a city street. put it in a gallery and it's like - wow, look at that art! let me get my checkbook, i can afford that. in the case of this art thing in the video, she thinks the work is great, i personally wouldn't even look at it, if it were in a gallery.

one of the problems with art on a wall like that is - advertising. every one that advertises puts stuff up like that. they also didn't do the other side of the experiment and place that art thing on the wall in a gallery to see how many did the same thing. when you go to a gallery you expect to see art. not many can appreciate art at all, or can recognize it. you like what you like.

go to an old urban street, and look up at the buildings. what do you see? chances are in an urban place it's been there for a while to become urban, as places rarely start that way. look at the buildings, look at the detail put on them. that stuff is usually totally ignored, and i bet the artists, composers, etc trying to make a point, probably don't see them as well. it's a part of the environment now.

anyway, these tests only can be considered scientific if they place it in different areas. a city block, a park, a place where other art is, the gallery, outside the gallery, etc. then they can draw conclusions.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Sonja Quintero on 01/28/2013 - 2:05 PM

I remember that experiment. Interesting, but I agree it's flawed too.

I've always had conflicting feeling about pricing my art. Altho, I worked in interior design (very high end design) for many years and I know that something that's pricier is always perceived as better. Most clients wouldn't even buy anything that was too "cheap", even if they liked it. They wanted something of stature, something of perceived importance and most things like that cost more money, plain and simple.

Pricing art is no different. In my other online shop, I'm considering lowering my prices, simply because most of all the top photography sellers prints are a bit cheaper than mine. I'm wondering weither I should fall in line with them since that's what that market seems to demand....


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/28/2013 - 2:27 PM

as people know your name and where to get your stuff, and they start buying from you. you can afford to raise your prices. i'd leave them alone for now. i'm not sure which shop you have, but you never know what side deals they may have and that could be where they are selling it from.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Loyda Herrera on 01/28/2013 - 2:52 PM

This discussion is great! I'm new here I have 3 pieces at the moment and when I priced them I did it according to my perception of them. I didn't consider that pricing could negatively or positively alter the perception of others toward an art piece. Something to think about as I tend to be self critical. Thank you for this.


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 01/28/2013 - 3:41 PM

There was a video on YouTube of this violinist playing in the streets.

The thing is, art is not only the final result, it is about the concept it have and the artist influences. If you don't know the artist and his concept you won't see any value of a work of art. And that is what happens art are in the streets and people ignore them. They don't know much about the art bout only the final result that they are seeing.

But in galleries, people look to know about the artist and his concepts. Those who don't are only there because they wore told the art in the gallery was good and they believed, even if they don't know anything about what they are seeing. Or they are just looking for something expensive to decorate their home. For many collectors, artists as just brands. That's why many artists want to become a brand too.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/28/2013 - 4:11 PM

i wonder if graffiti artists feel the same as that girl did in the gallery. like - dude!!! they aren't even looking at my masterpiece...

if i were at that gallery i would present them with the garbage can theory. take a can, filthy, place under a nice light, surround with cording maybe a price, and see if people recognize it for what it is and call it out. or say - wow great art. i'd like to see that actually.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: MM Anderson on 01/28/2013 - 4:46 PM

Marcio, I know what you are saying about concept, but I disagree. I think that truly good art should be able to stand alone without some elaborate "concept" behind it.

I hope that I start getting regular sales someday but for now I think I'd better keep my prices reasonable.


Posted by: Janine Riley on 01/28/2013 - 5:05 PM

& I am often in a gallery trying to keep a poker face while my head is screaming " Whyyyyyy...."


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 01/28/2013 - 6:10 PM

MM Anderson,

"I think that truly good art should be able to stand alone without some elaborate "concept" behind it."

The concept doesn't have to be elaborate. It can be just the retroflexion of your taste, of your history or of your view about something. That is what made good arts masterpieces. They had a meaning. And they will only stand alone if you are aware of their meaning and give enough importance to their meaning. And some artwork you can catch the meaning at the moment you look at it. Some others not you will only catch it after knowing the artist personality, history, etc, etc.

It is like good jokes, some are fast and easy to get, some others you will get if you are aware of some facts, culture, knowlodge, etc, etc.

When I studied history of art I had to study the artists, their cultural and historical influence to understand the meaning of their masterpieces. Otherwise their art are just "nice/beautiful paintings and sculptures".


Posted by: Dianne Connolly on 01/29/2013 - 2:17 AM

I just sold this original this week within days of painting it and at first considered putting a price tag on at half of what I got for it ($1200). What made me up the price? Due to various circumstances I had been unable to even pick up a brush to paint with for the previous 6 months and I decided there will come a time when I can no longer paint permanently so that's gotta be worth something.
Photography Prints


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/29/2013 - 4:58 AM

I still don't know if I have priced my stuff adequately. Mine is all digital work, not photography, so imo a little more time went into creating it which imo means that I can bump the price up a bit more.. but are my prices driving people away, or are they actually too low for some to consider "worth" buying? It's a tricky thing..


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 01/29/2013 - 5:21 AM

The 'photography takes less work and time' doesn't hold up. With digital works or paintings you don't have to leave your house. Most photography involves going out of the door, going to and traveling from your subjects, going back sometimes for better weather, etc,...that all adds up to time and costs, which can be behind the making of a single photograph.
I've done more digitally created works lately for that reason. The advantage with those is that you can do them all behind your computer if there's not much time and resources to go out making photographs all day.


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/29/2013 - 7:02 AM

still creating digital works involves more personal creativity time to actually.. mold it into being, while photography involves more time in setting up the shot and prepping for the perfect scenario. They both have their different focus, however one can get lucky and simply snap a perfect shot.. it does happen, esp. if one has a really good camera.

My digital pieces tend to take me a day to do. Generally one doesn't spend a whole day outdoors to take a picture, although I am sure some do.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2013 - 7:40 AM

@shawn - i think your prices are a little on the high side - i mean $94 for a 6x8? then for a card which is 1" less - $5. or so. guess which one will sell over and over for a $1.00 profit? people do have limits and they are just buying a copy of something.

digital work is done all in the computer, many is just a set of numbers. when i do digital work it often takes days to do just one. you don't just click a shutter and post it, you have to edit it.

Photography Prints
something like this took about 7 hours to make - it is technically a photo.

Photography Prints
this is digital art, it took me 3 or more days.

Sell Art Online
this is digital art, it took me 3-4 days to make. each gear is separate, and they all mesh correctly.

it's not about how long it takes to take a picture, it's how long it takes to clean that image up to get it ready for show. but it's also not about the time that went into it, but the skill to present it to you.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: JC Findley on 01/29/2013 - 7:47 AM

Congrats Dianne!

Shawn, you have managed to hit a couple sore spots quite quickly.

1. Nothing irritates photographers more than, "The really nice camera" comments. It would be like me looking at your work and saying wow, you must have a really nice computer and program.

2. Creativity and time. I got up at three AM and drove to this spot to set up 29 times before I got the light I was looking for. But then, I guess it was just a farce of being in the right place at the right time when it eventually happened. So, really what takes more time now?

Photography Prints


Posted by: Andrew Pacheco on 01/29/2013 - 9:12 AM

Yeah, I don't know about the good camera and luck theory.

I spent 2.5 hours crawling around in the snow and wading in an icy brook, setting up about $2600 of camera gear in moving water to capture this. Did I mention it was about 22 degrees and dropping???

Art Prints

I like to think of myself as patient and persistent rather than lucky when I snap. No doubt I'm lucky in the fact that I can get up and get myself out there to enjoy natural beauty, but not lucky when it comes to my art.


Posted by: Dave Gordon on 01/29/2013 - 9:19 AM

Does anyone know why prices on Red Bubble and other sites are so much lower for the exact same images in the same sizes at FAA? I know Red Bubble offers a different paper "photographic prints" but still why would anyone want to pay more to buy the same thing on FAA if they can get it for half the price or less elsewhere? Just curious. Also noticed the same thing on Other sites seem to have much lower prices. Is the FAA print - made with archival inks inherently more valuable/expensive than the other types?


Posted by: JC Findley on 01/29/2013 - 9:37 AM

@ Dave.

It is more about how they price than the quality of the print. At the bubble and most other PoD's the artist's markup is based on a percentage. That is ineffective when dealing with various sizes. So, if you price your work on the bubble to produce a $30 8x10 then your larger prints are literally in the thousands range. IF you price your work so that a 40 inch print is in the market range, your 8x10s are 7 bucks.

It is why I will not sell on any site that requires a % markup.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2013 - 9:37 AM

on faa you name your price. on redbubble it defaults to 20%, and i don't know how many change it. i mark mine up to a 100% and i may go higher. but you can't globally change things there. each site has different kinds of goods and services. like in bubble, it's nearly impossible to find anything because there is no store organization there. i'm amazed i sell anything there at all. there are more paper and frame choices here, as well as acrylic and metal - bubble doesn't have that. i have stuff on zazzle too, and if you upgrade the paper it might be comparable as well. it's really up to the buyer which site is best for them. sell posters on poster stock. they sell it by the pile. the artist gets about 15%, but they do have many sales there. it's nearly impossible to get into that site now, as you need to sell a lot in artist rising - i never make sales there.

partly it's the way things are printed, i know this site does giclee, a fancier form of printing. but mostly it's up to you to price things, you can make your items pretty cheap if you want.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Loree Johnson on 01/29/2013 - 10:10 AM

I agree about time spent. I went to this spot on the lake at sunset once or twice a month for over a year. 80 miles round trip from my house. The best shot I got was this.
Photography Prints

Then, one day last November, I went again. And I got this.
Photography Prints

A lot of people might think that I just got lucky, and I happen to have a "good camera." They don't know the whole story.


Posted by: Sonja Quintero on 01/29/2013 - 11:02 AM

Yes, the idea that photography is seen as a "lesser" art form is definitely prevalent and has gotten even more so with digital photography. One time I was out shopping for art with a client and a gallery had a photograph of Chuck Close. I believe they were asking about $35,000 of this very large print. My client said she "didn't understand paying that kind of money for something that could be reproduced."

Firstly, I do understand where's she's coming from, and at the time I was too chickensh*t to argue the point with her. BUT....most prints like that are limited edition, by very well established artist/photographers and "reproducing" a print is not as easy as it sounds. And, as already been said, it's the concept, the ideas, AND the time and materials you pay for. I guess the same could be said for a lot of things....designer clothes, books, etc.

And how many artists here do work in the traditional darkroom? I haven't done it in awhile and am just now getting back to it (just started to rent a studio & darkroom, yay!!) and we know how much work goes into making a traditional print. It is both exhilarating and pain-staking, I guess you could say! :)


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 01/29/2013 - 12:29 PM

Sonja Quintero.

I photograph with film negatives, I develop my film negatives and I print them in darkroom. It means that I just need a good camera and get luck 3 times... (Just joking hehe).

Shawn Dall,

Don't generalise. With digital photography I used to spend hours to edit only one image. Sometimes days. A lot of photographers spend days to retouch and give life to their digital photographs. And depending on the subjects and techniques we have to do a lot of tests until get the right setting and only after get everything right we can start shooting. Sometimes it can take a entire day.

There are digital artists who spend less than 1h do create their digital works without have to do anything else other than just move their computer mouse. If it is not good, just delete it and start an other one without any extra cost.

Not only digital photographers can get luck, digital artists and painters can get luck as well. The difference is that digital photographer usually take more risks. And we don't see digital artists getting luck or retrying several times, neither painters, because they work behind walls most of the time.

To have a good camera doesn't make any photographer better or more luck. I know a lot of people with top cameras making really bad photographs. And there are many excellent photographers who can do a great job if you give them a hello kitty camera. The camera is just a tool.

I spent months to create this image. Finding the model, finding the right spot, to be there in a good weather (which is difficult in Ireland where the weather changes very fast):
Art Prints

Hours spent testing different lighting setting to find the one I wanted for this shot. And then test again this setting on the shoot day to check everything is right. One stop more os less on the light or one feet near the light is it mess the whole shoot and you have to do everything again:
Art Prints

Doesn't meter how good your camera is, if you don't have experience there is no way you can get a shot like this just by luck. And I took this photo with a digital camera that has more than 10 years old. And there is no photoshop at all.
Sell Art Online


Posted by: Robert Kernodle on 01/29/2013 - 12:36 PM


Effectively immediately, I hereby declare myself to be one of the greatest visual artists of the modern era [off to craft my Wikipedia bio now], and the starting price of any visual work I create (painting or photography), shall be no less than ten grand ... solid.

My grass-roots marketing campaign shall commence in my hometown's busiest intersection, on a traffic isle where I attempt to flag down people during the most personal-attention-demanding moments of their lives. After my Wikipedia bio sufficiently substantiates my legitimacy in the minds of the masses, I will retire from the traffic median, at which point people can say, "Hey, that's the famous artist who used to be a bum in the streets, and I simply MUST own one of his works, ... price is no object.?


Posted by: Dave Gordon on 01/29/2013 - 4:03 PM

@JC and @Mike Savad,

Thanks for the feedback. I guess I could try to guess which size I am most likely to sell my stuff on RB and then pick a percentage that will match that size to the desired price.


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/29/2013 - 4:21 PM

thanks for the input guys.. however I did say "can get lucky" - perhaps I should have said "at rare times they see a shot, take it, and it's perfect" - the curse of misinterpretations of words of what we wish to see in them and not necessarily what was the intent of the person saying them.

It's great to see you all so proud of your work - just remember though that just because something is done behind a wall does not mean that it didn't take just as much effort - after all in the end it's all about your own eye for design that manifests the desired result, whether it takes a couple of hours or a couple of months, it's the end result that is the important thing :)

as for the sizes.. perhaps you are right.. I am new to this selling thing after all.. I just don't wanna sell myself short. It's kinda tricky... I could sell 20 for 5 dollars each or sell 1 for 100 dollars.. I guess it amounts to the same in the end..


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/29/2013 - 5:01 PM

but it doesn't. first off no one will spend that much for a small print. second, the search is based on how much you sell, while i don't know if it's based on the amount you sell or how much you sell it for. i do know you'll show up 5 times on the front page if you sell 5 prints, and more exposure is better.

in photography you don't get lucky, and there really are no perfect shots. you seem to think that clicking buttons is some how more difficult than photography or any art for that matter, and it's a matter of insult more than pride.

i would suggest a better avatar though, looks ok in facebook, doesn't do much for you as an artist here.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 10:01 AM

is this avatar better Mike?


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/30/2013 - 10:05 AM

better than before, though i keep thinking of the 3 musketeers.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 10:46 AM

well I can't help the thousands of comparable people I look like hahaha.. and I really do get compared to someone wherever I go.

But hey.. 3 musketeers are cool.. I kinda like that :P

I mean you have your steampunk circus ringleader curly mustache.. why can't I have my 3 musketeers look :P


Posted by: Mike Savad on 01/30/2013 - 10:53 AM

but it's a good thing, because people will remember it. there are many bland faces that don't look like anything, it's one of the reasons i put a mustache on my face and gave myself the old time look (the valentine look is temporary). i've been changing it through the seasons.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 10:55 AM

haha nice.. I also have many different looks and each new one gets me compared to someone new hehehe..

lets see.. ive been compared to russel brand, eagle eye cherry, the guy from queen, johnny depp, captain morgan, chris cornell, thin lizzy, crabman, etc etc..


Posted by: JC Findley on 01/30/2013 - 12:03 PM

Yupp, that Avatar stands out well, and does have a swashbuckling feel to it. well done.


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/30/2013 - 3:31 PM

haha thank you :)

however I also make a convincing real pirate - a captain morgan pirate that is ;)


Posted by: Megan Dirsa-DuBois on 01/30/2013 - 10:56 PM

Cute Pirate (very brightly colored pirate).... :)


Posted by: J L Meadows on 01/30/2013 - 11:57 PM

Great story, JC, thanks.


Posted by: Shawn Dall on 01/31/2013 - 9:42 AM

Megan., look at the bottle of captain morgans spiced run.. you'll see all the same colours - the piece is not only an exact replica, but entirely period specific too,with all period specific materials - right up to the blunderbuss :)


This discussion is closed.