I have not faced this myself, but I have heard it a lot from many artists. The post by the artisan at DragonsAndBeasties on Deviantart.com made me think about it and want to say something.
There are people who seem to think that artwork should be cheap or even free. They see or hear something cool, they should be able to have it. Period. How dare an artist charge MONEY for what THEY want?! Who cares if the artist is trying to make a living doing something they love? Who cares if it costs significant time and money for supplies to create something. It’s “just art.” They’re doing it because they enjoy it. If they wanted to make money at it, it’d be their job, and they’d hate doing it.
Now, I will agree that it feels like prices are outrageous. Especially so when you are poor and cannot get everything. The prices feel especially outrageous when you hear that the person who did all the work creating the song or book or whatever sees a very small fraction of what you pay. But somehow, the idea that because the corporation selling the artist’s work for $20 and the artist sees $2 of that $20 (maybe, I am probably being generous,) that means that the independent artist should also be selling their work for only $2.
Here’s the thing. That $20 is not purely profit for the corporation. Some of that goes into production costs. The graphic artist who makes the artwork for a cover. The crew who helped with the creation of the artwork. The utilities and building upkeep where it was created. The packaging, the shipping, even the marketing to sell the artwork. And then there is the profit that allows the corporation to grow in value, whether to stockholders or business expansion.
The independent artist also has to figure in these costs. But where a corporation can create and produce in volume and sell globally with ease, the independent has to work hard at it, which takes time away from creating more artwork, or they have to make enough money to pay someone else to cover those tasks on their behalf. If it is not something easily duplicated, that single, hand-created item has to cover a lot.
If art were an hourly-wage sort of thing, and $10 per hour would be considered a fair wage, that one masterpiece that took 50 hours to create should cost $500 JUST FOR THE LABOR. Then there are the tools of the trade, the materials, the marketing. And upkeep and maintenance for the artist. No one should starve, especially not artists. Starvation distracts from inspiration. Believe me. I’ve been there. 😛
The artist who I linked above creates sculptures. Having attempted to do that once, it’s not easy. I don’t sculpt well. I write. I write novels because that’s what inspires me and what brings me joy. I would absolutely LOVE to be able to quit my day job and just write. But I can’t. Where I am great at writing, I am abysmal at marketing. I’m trying, but since I cannot afford to pay for someone else to market me, I have to stumble through this myself. To live off my writing, I would have to sell around 1,700 books PER MONTH. I don’t sell enough right now to by pizza once for my family over six months. Which is all right, because I do have a day job that pays the bills. Usually. I write because I love it and I publish because I want to share it.
This is not a post begging for anyone to buy my books. (I won’t lie, I would be so very appreciative if you did!) This is a post to ask for thought and understanding for the artists’ plight. To think about the cost and effort that went into that masterpiece they created and you want. It is a toddler’s selfish sense of entitlement that some people never seemed to have outgrown.
This is a post to also tell you how you can help an artist. Do you like their work? Would you like to see more of their work? Then become part of their marketing team! Talk about them. Tell your friends about them. Tell your friends to tell their friends about them. Defend them from internet trolls. If you can afford to, buy from them. However you can support them, do it.
Be a part of your independent artists’ greatness. There are no words that can express how much it will be appreciated.