Saturday, December 06, 2008

MaM Poll RESULTS: How much art have you sold via your blog or website?

MaM Survey results as at 30th November 2008

In August, 53% of artists responding to the question What's the MAIN way you sell your art? said they sell most of their art direct - online or via their personal networks or personal studios i.e. independent of organisations which sell art for artists.

I was intrigued by how much art is being sold in this way - and how much art was being sold online. I also thought others might also be interested - particularly those attempting to sell their art online.

Consequently the poll this last month has attempted to size the level of sales via websites or blog. It asked the question MaM Poll: How much art have you sold via your blog or website?

68 people responded to the poll - and there's no way of knowing whether these are the same people who replied to the poll back in August - but it's a reasonable assumption that there may be a fair degree of overlap.

This is what they said. In the last year, sales via websites and blogs were as follows
  • 25 items and more were sold by 12% of respondents. Only 3% sold more than 100 items
  • 20% of artists sold between 5 and 25 items
  • slightly less than 20% sold less than 5 items
  • 24% tried to sell - but had no success
  • 25% didn't try to sell
Another way of looking at this is as follows
  • nearly 50% of those responded failed to generate any income from their website or blog
    • half because they didn't try and
    • half because they didn't succeed.
  • 51% generated income through sales via their website or blog. Of these:
    • 37% sold 5 items or less
    • only 5% of those who sold were achieving regular sales via their website or blog.
What does this mean? Here are some of my conclusions based on this poll

A lot of people are not achieving any sales income from their art, either through choice or because they're not putting work which is likely to attract a sale in front of the customer in the right sort of way.

People who haven't achieved sales are safe in the knowledge that they've got a lot of company! On the other hand if you're not selling, there's probably scope for improvement - either in terms of the art your produce or the way you try and market it.

A very, very few people are very good at selling their artwork online. However, based on current practices it's unlikely that most people will be able to emulate their success.

The people who are achieving regular sales via website or blog may be very few in number but they're obviously doing something right.

The BIG question I GUESS is whether it is quality of artwork, quality of their marketing and sales process - or both? For those wanting to emulate the sales, it's probably well worthwhile to study those who sell well to work out what makes a difference.

Scope for improvement

For my part, based on my own observation, I'd say the some of key characteristics of those who sell well are as follows. Most have more than one or two of the following.
  • they were 'leaders' in the field - obvious examples for the painting a day phenomenum being Duane Keiser and Julian Merrow Smith.
  • their work is unique, recognisable in style/genre and consistent. Bottom line it doesn't look like anybody else I see online. For example, I can always tell Carol Marine or a Karin Jurick!
  • they may have a 'unique selling point' - nobody else is doing what they're doing - there may be other artists sending postcards but nobody else is doing it from Provence.
  • they take care about the way they present their work - it may be online but it's wholly professional
  • they take care over the whole transaction
  • they remain alert to the possibilities offered by changes in digital technology - with Duane leading the field on this one in my opinion.
Are you surprised by the results - or is it what you were expecting?

What do you think are the main ways in which artists can improve their chances of selling their art online.

Do you think in the current climate for retail sales, artists now need to be approaching sales of artwork online in a different way?



  1. Briefly, since I'm on pain killers, I'd say the next breakdown of data would be:
    percentage of original vs. print.

    Another aspect, which you have covered in the past, is group online presence vs. solo - again the effect on sales.

    Might country of origin be a factor? Internet use is distributed quite heavily by country.

    Thanks for the poll, Katherine. No surprises, but great to know how the whole thing works. I will say that my greatest "run" on sales have been the art fair, and next after the gallery.

    It will be interesting to see if gasoline prices are low next summer instead of sky high, will that effect my main venues?

  2. I don't find the results surprising, in fact, I am more surprised at the success level. No doubt, the successes are consistency, regularity and after looking at your examples, small works, or sketches. (An observation Linda Blondheim has also made) I think that trend will likely continue in the current climate.

  3. About sixty or so responses to the poll from a blog with such a large reading & following?

    This also confirms the general consensus that over 90 percent of internet users that return visit a site are 'lurkers' ie read but do not post or comment. Do they participate by buying?

  4. I think if rounding 68 responses I'd normally opt to call it "seventy or so"!

    I don't find the number of responses to be at all surprising. The numbers are building slowly over the months - as do subscriptions. People watch a lot before they commit to taking part. I've done research and run very many surveys in my career and have a very good understanding about response rates relative to the total population of people who might have responded. A 'normal' response rate is a very long way from 100% of all the people who might have responded.

    The very large number of people who visit this blog every day include an awful lot of people who have found my 'back catalogue' of posts over the last three years as well as those who read every day. Hardly surprising since that's well over 1,000 posts. These people are visiting in relation to a specific search - I certainly never expected they'd respond to such a poll. I'm sure the same also applies to other blogs. Not every visitor is actually looking at the work for sale.

    Then we have the subscribers. I subscribe/'follow' a very large number of blogs - but I don't read all of them every day, nor do I read every post - and again I never expected to get a response from all subscribers. Similarly having a large number of subscribers is no guarantee that all will want to buy your work.

    'Lurkers' is a term much associated with internet forums. I've always thought that it has rather a lot of negative connotations.

    Here in the blogging world we have people who listen and who watch but who don't talk. I think that's perfectly normal activity - mainly because I do a lot of it myself! :) Again, I never expected to get a big response from people who behave in this way.

    So - in overall terms, the number could have been larger - but one has to start somewhere.

    It's certainly true that you need to have a very large number of visitors before you start converting visitors to buyers. It might be rather interesting to see if it's possible to work out an indicator for that eg you need 100 (or 500 or 1,000) visitors before you get a buyer.

    BTW, I don't generally allow anonymous comments and there will be no more in this post.

  5. I don't find the results surprising. But some of your conclusions confuse me:

    "A lot of people are not achieving any sales income from their art, either through choice or because they're not putting work which is likely to attract a sale in front of the customer in the right sort of way."
    Do you mean sales generally? Or online sales? Or blog/website sales? You don't say. Are you including other online selling sites? Because the poll only asked about blogs/websites, which I interpretted as my personally run website. (I'm in the first group, by the way - the 25%). I don't think this is a valid conclusion from such a small sample, and certainly not the conclusion from a poll about website/blog selling only.

    "A very, very few people are very good at selling their artwork online."
    that needs a lot of clarifying:
    very, very few people...
    who answered your poll
    who are trying to sell online
    who consider online selling as a major task (and thus put work into it)
    who are selling on blogs/websites (again, your poll was only about 2 venues - I did not interpret it to include other online venues than my own blog and own website)
    (I think I'm in the first group of answerers by the way: don't try to sell on my blog and website)

    Perhaps your questions were too vague? Perhaps the conclusion of online sales figures can't be determined from your questions? I had a sale of 2 large paintings yesterday - an old eBay customer saw my work online, made an appointment and came to the studio. She knows me from online originally (though has since met me), she used to buy online, she found and considered the pieces online, but bought in person. I don't count that as an online sale. Would you? See, blurry boundaries.

  6. Tina - I can see where you're coming from with your points - but I think this is influenced by your perspective on the interpretation of the question,

    The critical word is "via" and the question is NOT looking at all online sales.

    In the original post I indicated that people should include works sold on other sites if they believed that their blog or website drove traffic to those sites eg an etsy shop or an ebay store.

    Speaking personally, I'd also count any links in blog sidebars (eg to etsy shops) as a route to sales. I don't think you need to have paypal buttons in blog posts to generate a sale which starts from a blog.

    What I said was "For the purposes of this poll, I've decided that sales where the blog/website redirects to ebay or similar for the purchase to be completed should be included." I did this because a lot of people know that buyers like the security that selling through those sites gives them.

    What I was looking at was the scope of blogs and websites to generate sales - in the context of 'get people started on the road to a sale'.

    What I wasn't looking at was all online sales (eg from the online gallery type sites)

    I realised that there was scope for people reading this in different ways but couldn't come up with a better question within the confines of the poll module. Can you suggest a better question which is less likely to be misinterpreted because I'm happy to have another go.

    In fact, I'd say two thirds of the people who responded did so within a couple of days of the original post and so I think most of the people read what the question was about in my blog post and the definition I gave it and then answered the poll.

    I did note that the relative proportions of the different answers have been very stable for the duration of the poll.

    Anybody else think they might have put themselves in the wrong category?

  7. I sell about half my work through my blog. I think one selling point is the story that goes with the painting, buyers like that "inside information". I've not had luck with eBay (prices are too low there), but others seem to be doing okay. I'd love to better understand how other artists have used eBay Stores to drive real income (and not just break even).

  8. I think in this case it might be useful to have anonymous comments or at least a forum somewhere where artists can post anonymously - because I believe if the lid were lifted on how much art was sold online and most importantly at what prices, we would all be quite shocked. (Like Michelle, I'm surprised at the success level.) Are artists selling at bucket shop prices in order to feed their ego and claim to be 'professional'? (And driving down buyers expectations of what to pay for art.) Are artists who sell earning more than the minimum wage? Because with the price of food, mortgages/rents, taxes, etc., the maths doesn't add up.

  9. Thank you - That's a very good point about the "anonymous" perspective Felicity - and I'll therefore allow anonymous comments if anybody wants to make them.

    Most of the artists I know who are selling don't derive income only from their art. They have a portfolio income base with income streams from different activities.

    They also have steady 'regular' jobs and/or contracts to do illustration work and/or provide workshops and derive income from teaching and/or write books and/or run frameshops and/or work in galleries and/or work as artists models and/or have a partner who also generates income.

    It seems to me that unless you are very lucky, for the most part, you need to be doing large works which are priced in the $000 and selling on a regular basis to be able to survive on income from art alone. I could be wrong - but that's the conclusion I've come to after getting to know an awful lot of artists and also getting to know something about the full range of their income-generating activities.

    You can certainly generate significant funds from selling art but it very often isn't enough to get by on. Some people are very open - but lots of people don't talk about their regular jobs or all the various ways that contribute to how they get by.

  10. Hi Katherine

    Interesting & useful poll, and as with all stats & polls the results need to be cautiously interpreted.

    Re-conclusions :

    "A lot of people are not achieving any sales income from their art, either through choice or because they're not putting work which is likely to attract a sale in front of the customer in the right sort of way."

    Or that their blog just isn't getting seen by enough potential buyers in the saturated world of painting blogs?

    You've frequently written about getting noticed & kindly presented a variety of helpful tips. Thanks.

  11. Getting your blog noticed is helped by making comments on other people's blogs! ;)

    Seriously getting noticed as a blog is not unlike getting noticed as an artist by a gallery. If you think of your blog like your work, you need to get out and do some research - find some blogs that you have a good 'fit' with but also where you can add something that is new and different - 'added value' if you like. Then introduce yourself to the blog, make contact, leave a comment - maybe make a suggestion from time to time. Gradually you get noticed by the blog owner and also by the other people who read that blog - and then they start paying you a visit because you have something to offer, something which adds value to their lives.

    That's why, speaking personally, I always tend to wait a while before adding blogs to the blogrolls on this blog. Plus even when a blog is good, I'm looking for people with a unique perspective.

    Sometimes the art makes it on its own account. Sometimes the art may not be the greatest, but the way in which that artist tells the story about their journey of developing their knowledge/skills/artwork is really great.

    The ones I have greatest difficulty with are the ones which just post a picture and that's it.

    Gosh - there's probably a blog post in the above!


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