Thursday, July 14, 2011

POLL: How much do you spend on Art Societies?

How much do you spend on Art Societies in terms of annual membership fees and entrance fees for exhibitions?

Last month we looked at how many art societies you belonged to and this month the July Making A Mark Poll is about artists' spending on art societies - and the extent to which it feels like an affordable sum for you.

The reason I ask is two-fold:
  • Fees for membership and entrance to exhibitions seem to be on the increase
  • Comments and complaints about the cost of belonging to an art society - or entering open exhibitions - also seem to be on the increase
Art Societies and fee levels
    Art Society websites are frequently curiously silent on the topic of whether the fees they charge offer value for money and are a good deal.  Others are very quiet about their annual membership fee.  While very few talk about how those running the society strive to make the fees charged to members and those entering the open exhibition more affordable and even better value for money.

    I do sometimes wonder whether artists would strive quite so hard to become a member of some societies if they knew how much they levy as an annual membership fee.  It's easy to see this as a business marketing expense if you are a successful professional artist who sells their work on a regular basis as a result of the increased exposure offered by the societies.  Less easy maybe for those who generate rather less income from their art.

    As an ex finance professional, I know that increasing fees does not always have the desired effect.  Income is a multiple of volume x price.  If fewer people decide that the value does not equate to the price then they decline to pay the fee and then income can go down.

    The win-win scenario - value for money

    The key to generating healthy income from fees is to persuade people that the sum charged represents excellent value for money.  By which I mean it offers people the sort of benefits they want to enjoy.

    That's one of the reasons, for example, that I try and investigate and then quote the percentage chance of people getting selected for an art competitions as well as the fees charged for entry.  In contrast to art competitions, it's very much less easy to do this for art societies who are typically a lot less transparent about the size of the entry to open exhibitions and the percentage selected for exhibition.  However if you are in a competition for people's cash then transparency and value for money are both laudable aims.

    In my view, there is an inclination sometimes for art societies to regard their income base as a bit of a captive audience which will just go on doing what they've always done before.  As the recession hit, some art societies began to find out that this is not the case.

    In fact art societies are just like the rest of the economy - they are vulnerable to people making different decisions about how they spend their limited budgets.  Manifestations of artists having to make decisions about how they spend their money - and deciding that they're not getting enough value for money - can be seen in:
    • failure to renew membership
    • fewer applications for membership
    • fewer entries submitted to an annual exhibition
    One of the reasons I'm doing this poll is recent comments from people about how they're thinking very hard about how many membership fees they can justify.  While others have commented that open exhibitions are just too expensive to enter by the time you've totted up all the expenses for an artist.

    Interestingly, I have also seen some societies thinking very hard about how they can reduce costs for artists and maintain both membership and the number of entries to their open exhibitions - but this approach is far from universal.

    If you've changed your behaviour in relation to the payment of fees to art societies in recent times I'd be interested to hear your views.  You can comment at the end of this post.

    Right - now for the poll.
      Making A Mark Poll - July 2011

      The question asked is How much do you spend on Art Societies (membership/exhibitions)?

      The responses are NOT related to absolute sums of money - in whichever currency you spend your money.  Rather the answers are related to an artist's perception of whether the fees paid are affordable and by implication offer value for money.  Hence
      • Nothing
      • Not a lot
      • An affordable sum
      • More than I can really afford
      • Too much
      Please also respond to the poll even if you are not a member of an art society if your decision not to be a member or not to enter an exhibition is related to the cost of the fees.

      You can find the Poll in the right hand column.  I've located it slightly higher in the column and you can find it just underneath the "Ultimate Top 75 Art Blogs (Global)" icon.  It's also a Polldaddy poll which means that the format is slightly different and there is a restriction on how many time you can vote.

      There is less time to vote this month as the poll has started late - however you still have until midday on 31st July to vote which is just over two weeks.

      PS  I've updated 2011 Sunday Times Watercolour Competition - selected artists so that it now has all the proper names of the selected artists and, as a result, even more links to websites.  Plus one of the paintings which will be in the exhibition courtesy one of the selected artists who contacted me!

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