Here in Orlando we have one of the oldest (and best in my opinion) Fringe Festivals. I love this time of year. For two weeks you can binge watch plays and meet artists and creators from all over the world. Over the last ten years, I've gone to see theater and to buy art at the Fringe. This year, I decided to submit three of my own pieces to the Visual Fringe and to volunteer to sit at the Visual Fringe arts table. It was one of the best decisions I've made so far.
Knowing your market is something that every business needs to know and it can also be the hardest to know when you are starting out. "Your market" is more of an educated guess. Who do I think will buy my work? What's the demographic/price point/purpose? I've received advice that the best way to find your market is to think of your perfect client and find the places where those people are (although that sounds even harder). Art is business and finding the market for a piece is how you sell.
So, when I picked pieces for my submission this year, I thought about what I bought previously at the Visual Fringe (my price point for buying), what sold, and who is going to the Fringe. I took an educated guess that most of the attendees would be locals, that they would be hip, and they may like local sentiment. My price point for buying at the Fringe is $250 and so I figured the price point of the market would be less than $250 . The three pieces I submitted were an oil painting of Kappy's (a Maitland, FL local landmark), Bakery with the women sitting in the window with her cool sunglasses (not local but I thought hip), and Coin Laundry ( sign from Winter Park, FL).Prices were $150, $225, and $85 respectively.
My educated guesses paid off. Kappy's sold immediately and I received two requests for commissions and got to meet the owner of Kappy's which made my night. I've noted to self to make prints of this piece for future local shows. Bakery took a bit longer to sell which I think was because the price was close to the top of the price point. Coin Laundry did not sell and I think this was because it was too generic and not local or hip enough. If I submitted a painting of Beefy King, it would have sold in a heartbeat.
Not all my guesses of the market paid off though. When you volunteer at the Visual Fringe, you can bring in additional small work to sell. I had made 5 x 7 inch original gouache and ink paintings of local places within Central Florida. The price was $10. While I sat at the table, I took the suggestion to create work and made a few others. Interest in work- ZERO. Sales of work- ZERO. My guess was wrong.
Here's what I think were the issues: 1. People didn't realize the work were original paintings and possibly thought they were expensive prints. 2. I didn't have a lot of selection- just 7-10 pieces. 3. I didn't display them upright so people could see them without walking up to the table. If I had possibly put a simple frame on them, I might have sold multiples at a price point of $25. Maybe I missed my market but random luck can't be discounted from the equation either. Shifts at the volunteer table are two hours long. My "market" would need to have been walking by and noticed my work within this short window. Using zero math, I figure my chances were 10% of making of sale in those two hours. Many of the artists that did sell works at the table brought in a lot of work and volunteered a couple shifts in a row.
I met some very talented and generous artists while volunteering. The opportunity to pick the brain of other artrepreneurs was priceless. Will I volunteer again next year?-hell ya. Do I know "my market"?- sort of. I know that my thought process on figuring out the market for a piece isn't flawed. The Visual Fringe is just one market and is truly one of a kind. Finding my tribe that will follow my work and buy, is going to take a lot of time, a lot of educated guesses (thought), and experimentation.