Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's the MAIN way you have sold art in the last 12 months? (Poll results)

For the last month, the annual Making A Mark Poll on What's the MAIN way you have sold art in the last 12 months? has been collecting responses from readers.  The results are in from the 117 people  who responded to this year's poll and I now have two charts indicating
  1. The most (and least) effective methods for selling art in the last 12 months
  2. Trends in selling art in the last 4 years

The most effective ways of selling art in the last year are:
  • being a gallery artist - nearly 20% of you sell most of your art through commercial galleries
  • 26% of you mainly sell art through face to face or familial contacts
    • either at art fairs (13%)
    • or through word of mouth / family or friends (13%)

Commissions also remain fairly resilient and are an effective method for selling art.

This suggests that professional and semi-professional artists are still selling art via traditional methods.  Also that having effective interpersonal skills in dealing with people and selling art on a face to face basis and a good database of contacts are invaluable in securing sales via personal networks and art fairs.

Those who are professional or semi-professional artists also know the value of keeping in touch with people who have bought from you before.

Some quotes from the comments
For me, I am still making mainly Gallery sales, whether it is invitationals or my regular gallery (which is great), but, the sales are more from my network than before. The support from my collectors is amazing - I am so grateful!
Michelle Basic Hendry (Artscapes / Explorations)
I've sold primarily commissioned works. Approximately 30% of my sales have gone to new clients who have found me via the internet, with another 35% going to new clients via personal referrals, and the remaining balance being mostly repeat customers.
Kimberly Santini‬ (Painting a dog a day and other blogs)
...spreading work out to galleries increased my sales. The best sales came through a joint exhibition with two other artists at the home/studio of one of them during the annual cultural event...Plus, the commission rate was much lower than an ordinary gallery - we shared the tasks in watching the studio and handling sales and made the whole thing fun by talking up each other's work.  
Shaun G. Day (Day Painting
Definitely commissions. the 50% commission fee of galleries just cannot come close to direct sales. Sophie Ploeg (Sophie Ploeg)
The least effective ways of selling art in the last year are:
  • via an art agent (0%)
  • through regular art markets or street sales (2%)
  • through a variety of online auction / print on demand sites or the B&M equivalent - the vanity gallery (3% each)
These latter results might be down to these being approaches used mainly by people who are making and selling art as a hobby rather than as a professional artist.

What are the trends over the last 4 years?

This next chart demonstrates the changes in the four years that I have been running this Annual Opinion Poll.  As before right click and open in a separate tab to see the chart properly.

The main trends are as follows:

  • the general trend is for the percentage of sales through commercial galleries and by gallery artists to increase over time - although the percentage has decreased in the last year.  There are still problems with galleries closing - so the ones that are still going may very well be the more effective galleries!  One caveat is that this result might also reflect the changing readership of this blog.
  • Art fairs made a come back this year after a general decline for the last three years
  • Sales of art via personal networks has remained very resilient and consistent over time.  This includes via word of mouth, people you have sold to before and family and friends .  It pays to nurture your personal contacts and to treat them well!
  • Commissions are holding up although they have declined over time.  This is the sort of discretionary expenditure which tends to get deferred when funds are tight or people feel the need to be careful.  However there are always going to be clients with fund who will want commissions.  This might suggest the need to (a) think about how you cater for a wealthier client and (b) consider easy payment methods for those who are less well off
  • Studio sales and sales via open studios remain reliable and consistent - but are NOT a significant source of income for most artists.  probably worth doing - but doing get your hopes up too much!
  • Etsy is the big success story of the last three years.  Sales are steadily climbing.  I'm expecting this to continue to be an important source of income for those who maintain an active store.  Simply listing is not enough.
  • The two big losers as sites which are the main source of sales income in the last 3-4 years are 
    • the artist's own website or blog.  I'd be interested to hear your comments on this pattern. My own view is that the decline in importance reflects artists making alternative choices as to their main point of sale - even if they market their art via their blog or website.   That and the fact that artists are now active in the use of other social media such as Facebook or Twitter to generate interest.  There's more acknowledgement in 2011 of the need for multiple paths for generating interest which all lead to the same point of sale.
    • eBay has very much declined in importance - the number of artists identifying sales via eBay auctions / online stores as their main source of income have halved as Etsy has become the site of choice.  That's not to say that it doesn't still work well for some.
  • Sales via juried competitions or open exhibitions is an insignificant source of income for all but a few artists.  Artists need to remember that the main reason to enter these is for marketing one's art to galleries!
  • For most artists income from sales via smaller online stores and print on demand galleries tends to be minor.
  • The "rent a space" option - whether in a vanity gallery or in a street market - continues to be of little significance
  • Art agents come nowhere!
Do let me know what you think about my interpretation of the results.  Obviously it's not the same people responding each time - however the overall pattern indicates which are the more and least effective ways of selling art.

Note: This is what artists were asked to do when answering the poll.
The Poll is limited to:
  • the MAIN way you have achieved sales as a fine artist
  • ONLY sales in the last 12 months
You have two options and I don't mind which you choose.  Take a look at your sales figures and work out whether you want to nominate the method which achieved
  • either the most sales in terms of numbers of artwork sold (ie the most pieces sold)
  • or the method which achieved the highest net value sales to you (ie the most profit after related expenses are taken into account)
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  1. Katherine, First, I must say I'm surprised there are not more comments on this survey. Really thought-provoking. I'm still digesting it's significance, but was wondering how many people participated. Also, what was the rough geographic distribution of your respondents?

    Love your blog, always tremendous value in your content. On an aside, I agreed with most of your comments regarding the BP Portrait awards this year.

    Best regards, Candace

  2. Do you mean comments on this post or the original one?

    First para tells you how many respondents this year (ie 117)

    The poll widget on Blogger does not provide an analysis of where people are located. Nor does Polldaddy which I've also used.

    However the people who read this blog are located all over the world. See the Clustr map (in the stats section - right hand column) for an indication of where people come from.


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