Top 12 Tips for Price Settingby Heather Young (courtesy of the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario)
Artists and arts organizations need to set prices for tangible goods (e.g. works of art, CDs, publications) and for services (e.g. admissions, registration fees). The considerations for goods vs. services are rather different – as are the circumstances of individuals and organizations.
These tips are offered from a very generic point of view. I have tried to make them applicable in a wide variety of situations. This may make them a challenge to apply specifically! I hope the examples will help to clarify how you might use these ideas to support your personal decision-making.
1. There's no recipe.
Take heart if you feel uncertain about how you are going about setting your prices. My research turned up no 'correct' method, in the art world, the not-for-profit world as a whole, or in commercial business. There are, however, some useful guidelines.
4. Know your limits!
Artistic merit is definitely a factor in pricing – and one of the hardest to confront. It's also a factor that's likely to change over the course of your career. You need to consider the significance of your work in relation to other artists, and the market overall.
Popular appeal is also important. It's easy to see that more people want to buy tickets to mega-musicals and Broadway-style shows than to a lot of other performing arts genres. You must consider the size of your market, and hence the volume of demand for your work. This could push the price up or down! A lower price might make you more attractive. On the other hand, aficionados may be less price-sensitive, and thus willing to pay more for something harder to come by.
Use price to send a message about quality and value, and where your work fits in the marketplace. Take coffee shops as an example: relative to your competitors, you need to determine if you're more of a Starbucks or a Tim Horton's!
7. Uniqueness is not a factor in setting prices in the arts
You're unique, just like everyone else. Every artwork is one-of-a-kind: the visual art collector, or the performing arts engager, is choosing amongst a number of unique offerings, each of which has its appeal.
8. Don't let the price be an emotional decision! Price your work dispassionately, without reference to your attachment to it.
Don't assume that your personal favourites will fetch a higher price. Your investment of time, effort and angst in the creative process won't necessarily speak to the buyer or audience. If an artwork is so significant for you that you can't part with it at your normal price, perhaps it's not the right time to offer it for sale.
By the same token, you may not love a certain piece, and therefore be tempted to underprice it – but don't assume that others will share your feelings for it.
9. Establish your base price according to your most typical art.
It may be useful to think about how new cars are priced. Often, there's a 'base price' plus the option to purchase 'extras' – or to get the car 'fully loaded' In the same way, a visual artist, a performer or an arts organization may be able to identify their price baseline, and what their extras might be, and establish a range of prices for different types of work. For instance:
It's a good policy to keep your prices consistent no matter who the buyer is. This can be especially important for visual artists selling multiples or working with more than one dealer – and for performers hoping to build a client base of repeat customers.
A commercial gallery may offer a standard 10% discount to arts consultants purchasing on behalf of clients, or to regular customers who purchase a lot of art.
Performing arts organizations commonly offer discounts for group purchases, as well as to students and seniors, and for less popular nights.
NOTE! Where a range of prices is in effect, you need to be clear on which is The Price. Your regular price is the Saturday night, full price amount . Everything else is a discount.
You might want to offer an incentive to a good client to buy more
You might decide to make it possible for someone to buy the work who loves it but can't afford the regular price.
If tickets are selling poorly, performing arts organizations may consider putting out two-for-one coupons, or offering discounted tickets within the arts community.
A gallery in a tourist town might wish to consider special offers in the off-season.
Performing arts patrons definitely react to price points – but not necessarily to relatively small differences. Someone might decide that the current Broadway touring show is too pricey – but if they've decided to spend the money to see a local company, they're more likely to make their choice based on the title, the artists, the reviews, etc., than on a couple of dollars' difference in price.
If all practitioners of a certain discipline charge within the same range, they can create a "going rate" which sets buyer/audience expectations, and helps everyone plan their budgets.12. Don't forget to raise your prices when it's appropriate!
This tip sheet was created by Heather Young for the workshop 'How Much Am I Worth? How Much Do I Charge? – The Secrets of Pricing and Negotiating' which was presented in March 2006 by the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario.
Heather Young has worked in the field of arts management for close to twenty years. Her company, Young Associates, provides consulting, financial management and bookkeeping services to both not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations. Heather teaches accounting and financial management to diploma and continuing education students in Humber College 's Arts Administration programs and is the author of Finance for the Arts in Canada – a reference guide, self-study resource and textbook for not-for-profit cultural organizations. For further information, see: www.financeforthearts.com.
The Cultural Careers Council of Ontario (CCCO) is a not-for-profit organization which addresses human resources and career development needs for all cultural workers. CCCO provides career-relevant programs, services, information and publications, including the very popular Work in Culture job board. For further information, please see: www.workinculture.ca.