You’ve probably heard that Arisia’s Art Show had some big changes this year. The biggest were changing our artist application process from first come first served to a lottery, and replacing our eBay-style mixed auction and Quicksale with fixed prices only.
Anecdotally, fixed prices were popular with artists and attendees. But Arisia is a data-driven show, so we don’t have to rely on anecdotes here.
Before the show, we planned to collect three measures of how fixed prices worked for us. First, we planned to measure overall dollar sales in the show. Second, we planned to measure same-artist per-panel sales. Finally, as a bellwether, we picked one artist with a mix of open and limited edition prints and originals, a consistent pricing scheme, steady sales, and a devoted fan base. We planned to make her experience as similar as we could. We gave her the same amount of space, in the same spot in the show, and hung her work as similarly as we could to the previous year. She obliged by sending work in similar quantities, sizes, and themes, and by setting her prices equal to the previous year’s Quicksale prices for work of the same size. At our request she sent multiple copies of her limited edition prints instead of single copies as she had done in the past, the ability to sell more limited edition prints being one of the major benefits of fixed prices.
Our bellwether artist did as we expected, selling three originals for a total of $650, compared to four for $565 the previous year. She sold multiples of some of her limited edition prints instead of single copies in the auction, in all selling 13 copies for $400 compared to 10 for $297 the previous year. We were expecting her open edition print sales to be similar, since their pricing didn’t change, or possibly slightly down if a few people had been buying those because her limited edition prints had mostly sold out, in which case those buyers would step up and buy limited edition prints instead. This is precisely what happened, as she sold 91 open edition prints totaling $765 compared to 94 for $811 the previous year. In all this artist’s sales were up by about 8.5 percent.
Returning artists sold $17,565 worth of art from 76 units of space or $231.12 per unit, up from $221.06 per unit the previous year, or 4.5 percent.
But overall sales in the show were down about 2%, to $30,753. Why was that?
Second, in an effort to have a more novel show, we gave a lottery bonus to first time artists. We probably would have had a good number of first time artists without this bonus; with it we had many more than we’ve had before. That made for a very interesting show for the attendees, but it often takes new artists a year or two to learn what sells well at a particular convention, and for attendees of that convention to build up to a big ticket purchase. So, having more first time artists than usual hurt our overall sales this year. It might have been good for overall sales in the long run, but that’s not why we did it.
Finally, in 2016 (the year we’re comparing to) we gave waiting list preference to 3D artists because we had a 3D guest of honor and we wanted the show to reflect her work. We compromised a bit on aisle width (2.5x the ADA minimum instead of 3x) to make this happen. This year we had a 2D guest of honor so we removed that bias (and also that compromise). Compared to last year, we wanted a show with more panels and fewer tables, and also with wider aisles and better accessibility. Our tables are 6′ wide and our panels are only 4′ wide. Other conventions consider a table to be equivalent to 1.5 of our panels. Counting tables this way, this year’s show was physically smaller than last year’s. In other words, we let the amount of space in the show shrink a bit in order to have a show which was easier to get around, and into which the Guest of Honor’s work would fit more naturally. In hindsight, it’s clear that making all these changes in the same year made it harder to measure the impact of each. We’ll be running some numbers on how the show might have turned out with first come first served, and also with different bonuses in the lottery. But those numbers will be pretty speculative. And sales numbers aren’t everything. So, we’d also like to hear from artists and attendees about their experience of the Arisia Art Show. Please send any feedback you might have to email@example.com
Arisia 2017 Art Show Directors