TRANSCRIPT: Ep. 142 What Art Sells


Miriam Schulman:
Well, hello. This is your host, artist Miriam Schulman. You’re listening to episode number 142 of The Inspiration Place Podcast. I am so grateful that you’re here. Today, we’re talking all about understanding why people collect art. In this episode you’ll discover 10 of the most common reasons people collect art. This will help you unlock what kind of art sells and discover what would work for you. We’ll also discuss why pricing your art too low sets you up for failure, not success. And finally, why stepping into your own authentic values will create a clear message through your art. All right, let’s get started. Understanding why people collect art is a critical part of the sales process. There are many reasons that motivate an art collector and once you understand these reasons it will help you sell more art and at higher prices.

First of all, don’t make assumptions about what’s motivating them. What I see so many artists do is they price their art low because they think price is a motivator. And for art collectors, price is not always the deciding factor. To help you understand this better I want to talk to you about something that we all buy, and that is underwear. Now this little story I’m inserting here, this little metaphor, was inspired by a book I read recently, No BS Price Strategy by Dan Kennedy and Jason Mars. I have linked that book in the show notes and I’m going to embellish their story, take it from the mansplaining version about why women buy underwear, to kind of the real deal. And I also want to say before we get into these specific examples, this analogy that I’m going to go through here also in the category of men’s underwear, so men’s underwear also comes in a range varying from fruit of the loom all the way to designer briefs that are in the hundreds of dollars.

I may even pause this recording and look that up to verify, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some high end underwear being advertised in other podcasts. If you want a pair of underwear just to cover your bum the cheapest option is probably Hanes. Those are you beside the US I don’t know if this is an international brand, not even Hanes, whatever the store’s no name version of a cotton five-pack. Now these granny versions of underwear with full coverage, sometimes they make something a little cute about them, like they’ll come a range of patterns and colors, but they mostly sell for utility. For this research I went onto the Walmart website and I sorted underwear from low to high. So a Hanes 10-pack of underwear is currently $14.99. Now, before we dive into different kinds of underwear at different prices, there were two things I noticed that are lessons here when I was searching even on the Walmart website.

So first lesson I discovered is that when you start searching they give you different options. You can price them low to high, high to low and the default setting on Walmart is most popular, not lowest price. And guess what? These are not the same thing. So even the price-conscious Walmart shopper is not necessarily purchasing lowest priced either. The second lesson that I want to point out to you, because it’s really important, so Hanes are not offering individual underwear priced at a $1.50 each, they are offering packages. This is something that I teach inside the Artist Incubator and you may have heard me preach about it before on this podcast. Don’t sell things individually that could be sold as a package. This applies whether you are selling note cards, piano lessons, coaching packages, even prints. Can you offer them as a set of three? Offer packages. This also applies to you if you’re ceramicist, by the way. Make them buy all four, not one at a time.

Now, I don’t know about you, and I’m talking to the ladies now, I don’t know about you but the only time I have ever reached for something on the level of a Hanes in my underwear drawer is when I had my period and I didn’t want to ruin the nice ones. I kind of considered those high briefs, those granny pants throwaways. Next on the food chain in the woman’s underwear department are the ubiquitous Victoria Secret. So here’s what I found doing this research. Currently, you can get underwear from that chain from around $10.50 each. So they are offering them as individual, but listen what they do. They’ve packaged them at five for $30. I don’t think too many people take them up on the one at a time. Most people, or at least every time I’ve shopped Victoria Secret, I’ve always gone for the buy five or whatever special they were offering.

But listen, five for $30 means each underwear is $6 a pair versus what you could buy through Hanes at $1.50. And many of their designs actually kind of resemble their cheaper Hanes’ cousins. Now going from $1.50 to $6 may not sound like a lot more, in terms of math though, you’re actually paying 400% premium. In other words, the Victoria Secret underwear costs four times as much as the cheaper Hanes underwear. So what motivates women to spend four times as much on underwear? It’s how the underwear makes them feel to be associated with the Victoria Secret brand. Perhaps you like the association with the Victoria Secret’s model, like Tyra Banks or one of the other top models. And wearing that underwear allows you to step into their sexiness because of the association you have between the product that’s for sale and the model and this is also very true in art.

When art collectors choose your art much of their purchase has to do with their association with you. Now we’re deep diving into many of those reasons today but before I share the four main levers that motivate people to buy art I want to give you one more example from the world of underwear. Because Victoria Secret is really still not considered a high-end brand. So what is? Online you can find luxury retailer Nancy Meyer. Go look, see if I’m right or wrong. Go to They don’t call them underwear. Here, they are referred to as panties. They do have sales, I did find one. The lowest priced panty there was $19.25. However, even on sale, that’s nearly double what you would pay at Victoria Secret. More than double because remember, Victoria Secret, that was only if you bought one it’s $10, it’s really $6 when you buy their package. So it’s still more than three times what you pay at Victoria Secret, and that’s on sale.

What more information you can get is their highest priced panty, and there were more than one in this price range, by the way. But the highest price one that came up for me was a pink La Perla. It’s a lace cotton panty made of tulle and it is priced at $265. Oh, and if you want the full set, because you want the matching lace bra, matching lace bra is $365. Or basically, that’s $630 for the bra and matching panty, the full set. Some clues into who buys this and why can be found in their really well written copy. When you look at product details, click on that and see what they say. And I will tell you, so you don’t have to go shopping. What do they say?

Lace is reminiscent of a sweet romance and white sheer tulle adds seduction and sophistication. The Fall In Love collection is soft enough to wear on any occasion yet perfectly alluring for something more intimate. So let’s talk about these words that they use. Seduction, sophisticated, intimate. They even named the product Fall In Love. They also use the word “romance”. This underwear is being pitched for people who are in love, people who want to be in love. It is described in a way to attract those shopping for a romantic partner, as well as for the woman who wants to conjure up those feelings for the one she’s wearing it for. Or, it’s also for the woman who wants to just feel sophisticated. Another panty description had this to say about itself, or the very smart copywriters wrote this. They say, “Make every day extraordinary.” So they understand that this is a product that could be a commodity that everyone needs to wear and sure, Hanes could do the trick, but they are playing to our emotions. They are helping you see that this product, priced this way, this luxury panty, is going to make you feel differently.

People will pay more for how something makes them feel. And that is the lesson for us as artists. Let’s talk about four levers for buying. And these four levers work in any industry, by the way. I gave you the underwear example, we’re talking about the art mostly, but these are motivators for anything. So the first lever is they want a thing because it solves a problem. Now, if you’re focused only on how your thing solves a problem, like if you’re using language like, “Fill your wall”, this will be the lowest value to someone. They usually need a second motivator to invest in art, especially high end art. After all, a mirror fills a wall. A print fills a wall. Things from HomeGoods fill the wall. When you’re buying just to fill a need you will pay the lowest price. So the woman shopping for Hanes underwear who wants to cover her bum, then a $1.50 cotton underwear will do.

Let’s move to number two. They want the thing because it makes them feel good. This feeling, something that’ll make you feel good, will always drive the price higher than something that just solves a problem. That’s why when you listen to other people teaching marketing on the internet it can be confusing, because they’re always trying to tell us, “Focus on the problem.” When it comes to selling art, what you need to focus on is not how it solves a problem. You need to focus on how the art is going to give them pleasure. That’s what you need to focus on.

The third lever for buying art is they want the art for investment. And although this is true, and this drives the prices of very, very high end art in the auction, I don’t recommend that you push this angle as a self-representing artist. So I’m just going to move on quickly to the fourth lever.

The fourth lever is they want the art because they want a piece of the maker or the maker’s celebrity, and this will also fetch very high prices. Again, this is why somebody who… who maybe they’re not looking for the same luxury as the La Perla lace underwear but if you have an association with a celebrity and a brand you will get higher prices. When you focus on how your art makes people feel, and you focus on creating a micro-celebrity for yourself, that is two things I focus on with my clients inside the Artist Incubator, along with many other things, but how to build that micro-celebrity, how to help people feel when it comes around your art. And many of these things are going to be sharing with you today. When artists join the Artist Incubator they get a clear plan of exactly what they need to do to make more money as an artist. A sustainable business that they can count on year in and year out. And that’s why I want you to hear from Artist Incubator self study member, Natasha Papousek.

Before the Incubator, I didn’t really have a clue of priorities. I knew what needed to be done, but they all had equal importance and they were all big and I was totally overwhelmed. “Oh my God, I got to get a business license and a website and I got to get on Facebook and I got to do this, that, and the other.” The program helped me figure out, “Okay, this is what needs to be done first. This is what needs to be done next.” And I think having really practical advice has made all the difference, practical advice for my type of business. So I’ve taken other business classes and I don’t think I need a click funnel for what I do. This is a lot more focused on me and what I need. My family is taking me seriously now. They really didn’t believe that I could do this, but now they respect me and they know that I actually am committed and serious and a real artist and a real business person.

So now I’m going to dive in to the 10 most common reasons people collect art. We dived into the levers. The levers are: needs, feelings, investments, and celebrity. But now we’re going to get a little more specific and you’ll find that most of these reasons fit into one of those four categories. So the first is that they connect with the subject matter. So the art is a reminder of something or someone that they love, meaning the subject speaks to them. Two, they connect emotionally to the art or to the colors. So in other words, the art speaks to them. Number three, this is the fourth lever, they buy the art because they want a piece of the maker. They connect with the artist. They love the art because they love you. Never something to ignore. Don’t be afraid to offer your art and share your art with people that you love. People will most likely want your art over somebody’s art that they don’t know.

Another related reason, number four. They respect or admire the artist. So maybe it’s not a personal connection, but again, they want the art because of the artist. Or five, we talked about this, the artist is a micro-celebrity. We’ll probably have to create a whole episode in the future about what creates micro-celebrity for an artist. It’s much easier to obtain than you think. And trust me, it is not about the number of Instagram followers. All right, number six. Connect with what the art stands for. So again, this is going back to the subject. They connect with what the art stands for. Or, number seven, they connect with what the artist stands for. Slightly different because your art may not reflect your personal beliefs, but if you talk about your personal beliefs that might be a form of connection for your art collector to you, and by extension, your art.

Number eight, prestige. They want something original or valuable. And that prestige, again, that brings us back to how does it make you feel? How does it make you feel to wear $265 lace underwear? Probably different than something that kind of looks like a knockoff of it, that you can get for $12 at Target. Probably, I would think so. Number nine, they want to beautify their home or office. They want to enjoy it because it makes them feel good. Or finally, number 10, it beautifies their home or office. They want it, they want others to enjoy it because it makes their guests feel good. People buy art for the same reasons they buy gourmet food, luxury cars, beautiful clothes, and expensive homes. And yes, expensive underwear. Art is beautiful. Yes, but more importantly, people buy art because of the feelings that the art gives them either because it makes them feel a certain way or they like what collecting that art says about them.

Art delights the heart and the mind and reminds people on a daily basis of their true values. And notice, out of all 10 of those reasons none of them was because it was a low price. Low price is never a reason to buy art. If someone didn’t want your art for a hundred dollars they don’t want it for $50 either. And sometimes people will want the art more if it’s $1,000 because the higher price indicates prestige and value, which are motivators for art collectors. I’m going to say a little bit more about pricing before we wrap up because I know that this is content you really need to understand. But before I do that I wanted to talk to you about all five areas you have to nail to have a successful art business. Pricing your art is just one of them and that works hand in hand with the other four areas.

The five foundations are production, what kind of art are you creating? We talked a little bit about that today because you need to create art that connects. Or your micro-celebrity, what are you selling? Second area, pricing or profit, what are you pricing it at? Prospecting, the third area, finding those art collectors who want what you’ve got either because they connect with what you have or because they connect with you. The fourth area is promotion. What do you say in your emails, your social posts, your website, the real world conversations you have. And the fifth area is productivity. Focusing on the right things so you get more things done in less time.

If your art business is failing it’s because you’ve got a problem in one or more of these foundations, guess what my friend, more commonly than not you might also have misdiagnosed the problem. I see this all the time. Artists who think they have a promotion problem when really they have a production problem or it’s something else or vice versa. One of the first things you do inside the Artist Incubator is learn how to attract collectors and a highly powerful, highly profitable, highly replicable manner.

Obviously in business, nothing happens until a sale is made. So inside the program, I teach you predictable selling systems that sells your art and how to overcome your collector’s objections. Now the secret is that no matter what business you’re in, guess what, these five foundations I just mentioned are actually the key to any successful business but I teach them in a way that makes the material relatable to the creatives who joined my program and they start enjoying the benefits from this nuanced teaching right from the start. That’s why I want you to hear from artist Limor Dekel who recently joined the self study track of the Artist Incubator.

Limor Dekel:
I’ve done so much since I joined your group. It’s helping, because I need that micro-level coaching to make me feel that I know what I’m doing. It really is the details. I teach my students, I’ve been teaching for 19 years now, and I learned that you have to go down to the details because although I know a lot, they don’t know anything. So you need to really break it down to them. Sending email is great but what should the email be about and what’s important and how to write? That’s what I learned from you.

Miriam Schulman:
One thing I did want to let you know is if you’ve been hearing me talk about the Artist Incubator, there are two tracks. I may end up renaming it in 2022 but for now, 2021, they’re both the Artist Incubator. So there is the mastermind level, that one is by application only, and there is the self study track that is currently closed and opens up about once a month or every other month. So keep your eyes out for that.

So let me wrap up about some words on high prices and summarize. So high priced items and luxury goods, such as art, are going to reflect a person’s success and their social status. This makes people feel good. Now, don’t assume that only “rich people” want to buy expensive things to feel good. And also not all “rich people” buy all the things that other people do that makes them feel good. People have different values. I don’t buy Chanel bags, but I do spend money on travel. There are people without a lot of money buying designer things, spending money on travel, on art. Not just women, men too. Men who love good watches, for example, fine wine, fancy sports cars, things like that.

Before you mark your price on your art low just remember, low price is not a motivator and high prices and be more motivating. If you want to check out the show notes, links to all the things I mentioned, go to 142. And don’t forget if you liked this episode I’d love for you to check out the Artist Incubator Mastermind experience. It’s my private coaching program for emerging and professional artists. It is by application only. Go to That’s B-I-Z. There is only about two spots open right now as of this recording. If you qualify we’ll chat about your business and what steps you need to take to reach your goals and thrive. All right, my friend, I will see you same time, same place next week. Stay inspired.

Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart, and of course, on


Subscribe & Review in iTunes

Are you subscribed to my podcast? If you’re not, I want to encourage you to do that today. I don’t want you to miss an episode. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the mix and if you’re not subscribed there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on those. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Now if you’re feeling extra loving, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other people find my podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!