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Why Charges a Membership Fee to Join

October 4, 2009

I received an email recently that prompted me to write this important post explaining why charges a membership fee to new artists joining the site, and also takes a commission on pieces sold through the site.

The email I received asked the question: “You will be selling my work to your clients and making money on each sale. So, why would I pay you a membership fee AND give you a cut out of my sales?”

This is a great question that deserves a clear and concise response. There are several key reasons why requires an annual membership fee from artists that we have invited to join the site. These are in no particular order, but are equally weighted in terms of why we ask for a small upfront fee to join:

  • In our first year of operation, we learned something that we never expected:  90% of artists who we gave a free membership to either never loaded any of their work to, neglected their galleries after 15-30 days of being on the site, loaded one or two pieces of work; only to never return to update their gallery, their profile or anything else on the site. This is not the type of artist we want to work with.  If you expect to be successful selling your work on, then you need to keep your gallery fresh, current and be committed to’s approach to marketing and promoting you and your work.
  • On the other hand, artists who paid an upfront annual fee were inherently committed to their success on the site. These artists made a small investment in themselves and in their marketing efforts, and nearly all of them regularly uploaded new work, wrote great biographies about themselves, included terrific descriptions of their artwork, and consistently utilized every tool we made available to them on the site to help promote and sell their work. These are exactly the type of artists, photographers and sculptors we want to work with on
  • is a growing and thriving business.  It takes an enormous amount of money and resources to operate a website like ours. Our main mission is to provide marketing and promotional services to artists – with the sole purpose of increasing their exposure on the web and providing an additional channel for them to get their work seen and sold. To be perfectly frank, no one at is getting rich off the low membership fees we charge artists to join the site. In fact, 100% of the membership dollars we receive are reinvested into the website and its daily operation. We use this money to maintain the site; make necessary enhancements to improve functionality and overall user experience; purchase databases of art buyers, collectors and designers to market the site and our artists to; and in general, afford all of the external marketing and site promotion we do on a daily basis to drive quality buyers and potential buyers to the site to view and purchase the wonderful works of our artists.
  • is a curated art marketplace.  We actively seek out and personally invite artists, photographers and sculptors who we think we have the best chance of marketing and selling. Low annual membership fees allow us to keep the site exclusive and curated. If we were a free site, we would be flooded by thousands of artists whose work is not in line with the brand, identity and overall corporate mission of

Once again, is a business.  Businesses by their very nature are in operation to provide a service, and earn a profit. does not even begin to profit unless it is actively selling artwork. Only then do we begin to recoup our personal investment in this company. This is why we also charge a commission on pieces we sell on your behalf. We’ve worked hard to get your work noticed and bought. This is why we charge a very low commission for pieces sold through

If you are adverse to our business model of charging a very low annual membership fee and an industry-low commission rate, then we are not the right place for you. No hard feelings.  This is how we have decided to design and operate our business. There are plenty of free sites out there for you to choose. Please, take advantage of them.

Here is a graphic of’s three membership plans and associated commission rates for calendar years 2009 and 2010.

I am a huge “numbers guy”.  Here are some numbers for you to consider:

  1. A $59 membership with will cost you $0.16 cents per day.
  2. A $99 membership with will cost you $0.27 cents per day.
  3. A $199 membership with will cost you $0.55 cents per day.

Here’s another scenario to consider:

Suppose you have a $500 piece of work displayed in a brick-and-mortar gallery in your town. Suppose that same $500 piece is also listed with

Let’s now assume that the gallery will charge you a 50% commission when the piece sells (this is a typical gallery commission structure). Let’s also assume that you have signed up for’s $99 per year plan with an 8% commission rate.

Here are the numbers when your $500 piece sells:

Source of Sale Membership Fee Commission Deducted Net to You the Artist
Brick-and-Mortar Gallery $0 $250 $250 $99 $40 $361

Even with the $99 membership fee you paid to join, you still keep $111 more from the sale of your $500 piece of work when it sells through, as opposed to selling through the gallery.

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