On monetizing: the conflict within.

A friend recently posted an article from The Guardian entitled,

“If it’s for the money, you’re not doing art.”

I had a visceral reaction to this. Being a musician, it’s always been difficult to monetize the value I bring to a situation. For years I kept my wedding rate the same for fear of missing out on some much-needed gigs. The other day, someone came in inquiring about my availability for a wedding this season At the end of the conversation, she asked my rate. I told her. She asked if this was more expensive than other ensembles. Finally, after OVER 30 YEARS of playing weddings, I said cheerfully:

"I don’t know if other musicians are cheaper or not, but I am a professional, I’ve been doing this my whole life, and I deliver.”

It felt really good to say this! Because it’s true. People pay four times the amount for a photographer, but are sometimes taken aback paying for the one thing that actually makes people feel something at a wedding ceremony: the music.

Many visual artists are also troubled by valuing their work. I have witnessed the struggle when some artists have no idea how to put a price tag on a piece of art. It’s uncomfortable. It’s like putting a price tag on a piece of your soul.

This is how I felt for many years, even guilty for asking for money for my music, because I read a quote by John Lennon when I was 16 and it stuck with me:

"Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only the publishers who think they own it.”

Here’s the thing: I’m through being shamed for putting a fee on my work, that I have been honing my entire life, that I have been working on so long that I forget even learning how to play the violin. It’s just always been with me. To have me play at your wedding, there is a fee, and that’s that. I can play a wedding in my sleep, but I don’t. I put every bit of passion and soul into a wedding as I do a chamber or symphony performance. I’m all in, and you’re getting the best of me. (I also wear a kickass black outfit while doing it, so there.)

Many artists have asked me what I think their work of art is worth. So I’ve come up with some criteria to help you out, because I would truly rather you, the artist, come with that already figured out, and to not feel shame or guilt about it. The following simplified criteria should be considered when you are pricing your art:

  1. How long you have been creating? Are you an emerging artist, or are you an established artist, or somewhere in between? Your years of creating are a factor.

  2. What is your Arts education? Many artists are self-taught, and this is valuable as well, however a solid education will increase the value of your art.

  3. Do you have a following? Have you sold your art before, have you exhibited, do people know your work or are they starting to know it?

  4. Is your work unique? Do you see similar work often, is your work the same technique as many other artists? Your originality is a factor.

  5. Is your work presented properly? Simple things like what kind of canvas you are using, whether the sides are finished, are important. People will often notice “mistakes” or “unfinished” work before they will take in the actual work. Invest in the proper tools to make your work shine before you present it.

  6. What are the dimensions of your work? Size is a factor. ;) (simply because supply and time costs go up).

  7. How much time have you spent on your work? Your time is valuable and needs to be considered.

    Factor in all of these points when you are considering how to price your art: supply cost, years of experience and education, the size of the work, the originality of the work, and then you can either come up with a “per square inch” price which you can apply to all of your work, or you can price them individually.

The most important thing I want to leave you with is:

Do not feel shameful or guilty for monetizing your art. Everyone deserves to have the feeling of accomplishment when someone else values what you do. Life is tough enough without people shaming you for making money on what you most love to do!

Have a succesful day,

xxx C