Getting started

Making Money on Art

1998, Year 1, No. 1
Jul 23

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Dear Partners:

This is the first in a series to support selling art offered in Art-Quarter. Right now, things are not very clear yet, so I invite you to actively participate in the discussion. Please send your post to mma@art-quarter.com.

First, let me remind you of the concept realized so far:

Art-Quarter is meant to be a mall devoted to high quality fine art only. A mall usually comprises shops of diverse nature. In contrast, the quarter as understood here is meant to be a concentration of shops of similar kind, like a shoemakers quarter or diamond quarter in medieval cities.

Somehow this concept resembles a webring. But unlike a webring, the quarter organizes the shops, providing a starting point and survey. You get pretty lost in huge webrings, whereas a quarter can stay organized with even thousands of shops.

You could achieve this organization with a link list system, too, but once you click on a link, you're off and lost, after some more clicks you never remember where you started. You could require each member of the link list a link back to the list proper, but these systems are too loosely organized to remain usable over a long time.

With a quarter, things could improve. Different from link lists, not anybody can participate. Partner shops have to fit into the concept just as artists have to fit into the concept of a gallery. In particular, aiming at doing business, revenues will be the criterion to judge success, not visits or hits or any other kind of fame. So I invite you to join in the effort to generate sales.

To this end, we will have to define our market. There is no chance to serve just everybody. Only if we find our particular niche we will succeed. Now, as initiator, I stand for some kind of fine art and plan to enhance the site with appropriate merchandise to develop a kind of profile. Personally, I am not interested in Science Fiction Art, in Folk Art, in Digital Art, to put it more general: in illustrative art.

If you visit a genuine art fair, say Art Basel or Art Cologne, you will not find this kind of art there either. As a side effect, galleries participating in these fairs usually offer art at prices significantly higher than those demanded for the arts cited above.

It may be questionable and hard to define what constitutes the kind of art to be presented at a fair of this level, but you will certainly see the difference compared to a fair on the flea market level. Looking at art offered on the net, I see the bulk at this very low level. Viewing from the buyers perspective, it is hard to find art worth taking the pain on the net. The Art Quarter should change this. At the Quarter, the interested art buyer should find art of high quality like on one of the great  fairs happening only once a year.

Now this may happen in the future if we develop things the right way, at the moment there is only me as the owner of the quarter, the owner of the only gallery, and the only artist of this gallery. Not much, but a start. As an artist, I had my first exhibition in a museum, so this did in fact set a kind of standard and recognition. I did participate at the art fair in Basel once, too. One of the goals will be to find other artists, another to find other galleries.

This will present major difficulties. I fear that most applicants will not fit into the scheme. On the other hand, those who should participate will not be eager to join unless there is a significant success on our side. But the more successful we are, the more valuable participation will be.

So the problem is to get started the right way. What can we do about it? I studied the experiences made in the new web market for some time, did invest in books and courses, now I am ready to apply all these insights.

In my welcome message, I indicated that there is a problem tracking the customer-reseller relation. You got a number, but will we know the customer came from you when s/he is ready to buy? As far as I know, there is no clean solution to this problem. The surfer comes with an IP number, but very likely this number is of temporary nature, provided by his ISP, to be used by somebody else once s/he quits, hence s/he will come along with a totally different number the next time.

There is only one way to identify a surfer, not foolproof either, but very efficient: The email address. This could be changed at will and often, too, but is very unlikely. So how can we get the email address and tie it to your number?

Remember, rule #1 is: Give as much for free as you can. You probably have something to give already. If you give for free, you can expect to get the email address. Ok, here we are. I have 5 ezines for free. Give them away. Look at my site, I implemented the subscription process via email. Very simple. Adapt it by adding your number to the subject line, i.e. mailto:jaj@art-quarter.com?subject=subscribe#99999. Advertise these offers like I did or make it better, as you like. I published 4 ezines on Friday to a news server, for the Art Journal there are 60 subscriptions already.

This is funny, there were none to the other 3, so I suspected they did not publish them assuming I doubled it. I asked back, will hear soon about it. Even if there is no interest in the other 3, which is not to be expected, that's ok, at least we have one Journal that generates a demand. I invented another one already on that scheme that's bound to be a big success, too: Pablo - The Louvre Test (preliminary version: http://art-quarter.com/beck/joe/pablo).

If someone subscribes through your site, that will be your customer forever. Now if you push this journal, too, which I don't even mention on Art Quarter, you will generate a reseller like you. I will give you 5% commission on all sales this colleague generates. So this will be fortunate for you, too.

I don't think a simple link will do much good. I ordered a banner or more to be developed, but this will be of little effect, I dare to predict. Also, if somebody clicks on the banner, s/he is off your site and on mine. I know your number all right, but not the identity of the surfer. If I could place a cookie on his/her disk, I could eventually (if the cookie still exists, limited to some hundred as they are) read your number later when a sale is placed. Maybe s/he orders immediately, but this is unlikely, I think.

Now, I got a better idea. Free stuff is good to keep the customer interested, but we want to sell something. Prices start at $35, so impulse buys are to be expected. An original at thousands of dollars will most certainly not be an impulse buy. Now, what are you aiming at? Whatever, I recommend you look through my entire offer and try to find a piece that you personally would like to buy. I hope you find one. If not, try to find out what I have to say about art. Chances are you will like some very soon.

Copy that image to your site and promote that single work of art. Tell people why this is great, what benefit this work offers, how life would improve if this work would hang on the wall of the customer. Back this up with stories how others loved their paintings and even made a fortune with it. I know, you will be very creative appraising this work. If you wish, I can give you hints as to how I would do it. We can discuss things right here in this journal! Publish your favorite here to get things concrete!

Read the testimonial I offer, copy that, too. Make the customer curious. And don't tell him where to buy this work or where to see more. Offer this information for free by mail. So here we are. S/he stays at your site in the first place which is good for you, and you get the email address which is again good for you.

Think about it! Tell me your opinion. Let's discuss all this in this journal. Let's share our experiences. We will all grow together or not. Would you start promoting posters? At this price, signed and limited, s+h and tax included, this is a real bargain! Or replicas, having already the touch of the original, being precious at only 10 items per edition? Or would you jump at the original?

Next: Would you prefer small formats? Or the real exclusive triptychs? (BTW, I got an altar piece, too, having 4 view sides with 2, 4, 6, 5 panels each - I know of no other work of this kind. You can see it at http://art-joe.com, try the index, look for altar).

Well, let's have some fun and try things out. I'm eager to hear from you.
 
Sincerely,
Werner Stürenburg

PS: Ted just came in with some banners, for subscription, too, at: http://astrodawg.com/pickup/artquarter/aqp.html
I like them, what do you think?

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