Selling art online – to fee or not to fee?

When we launched in May of 2012 we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Getting artists to consider selling art online through a completely new site, an online gallery unattached to any existing auction platform or bricks and mortar art house was a big ask. So, to remove any impediment to trial, to giving the site a go, we made it completely free. Not just to browse, but to sell art and to buy art. No commission. No listing fee. No nothing. And we’re glad we did. It was a successful tactic. Within days we had artists registering on the site and before long had over 1000 pieces of art up for sale. We have no doubt that if we had included an initial fee, at listing or on sale, we would have floundered. Building a two-sided marketplace brings unique challenges, and we still believe we met most of them in the best possible way.

Selling art online - to fee or not to fee

But we knew we couldn’t be free forever. It’s just not tenable. Even if we could get through the arduous grant process and receive government or art foundation funding, it would unlikely cover the extensive costs of running an online auction site. Our server costs alone would exhaust most artistic grants.

The only other option for bringing in revenue via the website would be to sell advertising. And we are going to avoid that at all costs. True to our mission, we believe selling art online should, in many respects, resemble selling art offline. That is, the art should always come first. That there should be little to distract or clash with the art being displayed. That is why we’ve created a platform in monotones and have avoided the use of overwhelming design elements. Because art deserves better than to be surrounded by obnoxious advertisements designed to distract.

So we were left with one alternative. To roll out a fee structure. And today, we did just that. Today we introduced a sales commission of 8.5% to those selling art online via artFido. A figure well below that charged by traditional galleries, but a little higher than other non-art online sales platforms. Why 8.5%? Well, we think it’s reasonable. There’s no other way to state it. We took the advice we give to the artists selling art online via our site; charge what is reasonable given the effort you put in and don’t undervalue yourself. Will some artists have issue with this number? Probably. But we will be happy to discuss its virtues with them and maintain hope that we will bring them ’round.

Now, it will always be free to use artFido. You can “window shop” ’til your hearts content without ever having to provide credit card details. And, realizing that artFido is still in its infancy, we’re still not charging a cent for artists or galleries to list their artworks. Again, this is another strategic decision that we think will ultimately ensure the continuing success of the site.

So as of today, things will change. We know there will be some backlash. But we hope that those selling art online via artFido will realize the value in doing so, and those wanting to sell art online for the first time will appreciate not having to pay anything until a sale is finalized.

Oh, and those wanting to buy art online get off easy; they don’t have to pay a thing. Well not to artFido anyway.

Like it? Share with your friends!


Join the artFido Newsletter

artFido’s videos and content are viewed more than 2.5 billion times a month. This makes the network the seventh most viewed media company in the online sphere, behind the Walt Disney company in sixth place, and in front of US media giant Comcast in eighth place.*
* Statistics provided by research group Tubular Labs