By Jim Plaxco, 12/21/2015
Last Monday I received an email inviting me to sell my art on Artist Become (artistbe.com) and I am in the process of deciding whether or not to do so. I don't know exactly why Artist Become targeted me as a potential artist for selling on their web site. I've received many solicitations from different Internet-based artist/art-related businesses over the years but tend to ignore them (a turnabout on the classic don't call us, we'll call you). In fact I have a couple offers I didn't summarily delete in my in-box right now while I figure out how I want to respond.
My purpose in writing this article is to share the evaluation approach I am taking in order to determine whether or not to take Artist Become up on their offer. My hope is that other artists will see something in my methodology that they had not considered in their own process of evaluating the various print on demand service alternatives. Because really that's what this is: an outlet from which artists and photographers can sell prints of their work without having to personally handle payment processing or order fulfillment.
My process began with a visit to the Artist Become web site. I can say that I like the way it is laid out and I like how they have structured their site navigation. Their web site is also mobile friendly (a site upgrade made earlier in 2015), a critically important feature for today's Internet where desktop access is declining as a percentage of total traffic.
As a part of my information gathering, I decided to check out how much traffic the Artist Become web site gets. To answer this question, I turned to Alexa.com - a business that ranks web sites based on a three month moving average of how much traffic a site gets compared to all other sites on the Internet. Right now, my own web site has a global rank of 3.3 million (3,370 hundred thousand) while Facebook has a global rank of 2. Looking at a site's rank in isolation is of limited use. It is better to compare a site's traffic with that of its closest competitors, which is what I've done in the following table. The rank values in the table are given in hundreds of thousands.
|POD Art Site||Global Rank||US Rank|
The table shows that the Artist Become domain has a global traffic rank of 1,846,000 and a traffic rank of 642,000 within the United States. As you can see, based on traffic over the last three months, Artist Become has received significantly less traffic than Crated, Imagekind, or Artflakes. I'm certain you've noticed that I have not included sites like Society6, Redbubble, Fine Art America, or CafePress in this traffic comparison. I did not deem it appropriate to include these sites as they are multi-product and have embedded social communities - all features which will result in additional traffic opportunities.
Is Artist Become's poorer traffic rank a bad thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. As a rule more traffic is better than less but a larger site should naturally attract more traffic and Artist Become is a smaller site. The bottom line really is the conversion rate - how many visitors actually become buyers? It's better to have less traffic and more buyers than more traffic with fewer buyers. For me, the number that really matters is the ratio of sells to artwork listed (total sales divided by total number of artworks on the site), excluding purchases made by the artists of their own work. Unfortunately none of these web sites are sharing that sort of information.
Another consideration is how likely it is that your art will be found other than through your own personal marketing efforts. Looking at the index of artists, it looks like there are just over 800 artists selling on Artist Become (29 pages of artists times 28 artists listed per page). So the community is not outrageously large.
One thing bothers me. A press release from Overstock Art dated August 18, 2015 (http://bit.ly/1NvH6cQ) states that "The artist community web site, which is home for more than 5,000 contemporary artists..." If there are more than 5000 artists on Artist Become, then where are they? An all-artists listing of 29 pages and 28 artists per page works out to 812 artists - which is less than 1/5 the number of artists proclaimed in the press release! Perhaps for purposes of the press release they counted every account ever created on their site but anybody can create an account - all it takes is a name and email address - and that does not mean that every one of those accounts has a contemporary artist behind it. I personally have created accounts on sites simply as a way of more fully investigating the site's features. If I didn't like what I saw, I simply abandoned it. Food for thought: if more than 5,000 artists created accounts but only 800 uploaded art, what does that suggest with respect to the 4,200 who did not upload art?
Back on the subject of being found, I chose at random several artists who appeared in the top few pages of the artist listing. I then did a search on these artists using the Google search engine. For example, searching on an artist who appears on page one, I found that this person has accounts on quite a few art-centric community sites and sells art on a number of print on demand platforms. However, Google did not have a listing for this person's Artist Become portfolio on the first page of search results. This must be contrasted with the search results for a second artist whose Artist Become profile shows up as the number two result for that person - who also had hits for a few of the same POD sites as the first artist. The third artist I checked had their Artist Become profile as the number one search result - but had only one other POD hit (DeviantArt). The bottom line is that your profile can be found via organic search but how high up you appear in the search engine results is going to depend on how active or strong your presence is on this versus other platforms across the Internet.
Another consideration is whether or not a site shows up high in search engine results for generic searches - or if that site advertises for relevant search terms. To test this aspect, I went to Google and did a search on "fine art prints". Nothing on the artistbe.com domain showed up in the first page of results - though there were a number of hits for competing sites. Nor were their any advertisements for art for sale from Artist Become, though there were ads from competing sites.
Looking at the first two pages of Artist Become's artists listing, the range of artworks per artist goes from a minimum of 34 to a maximum of 334 - with one outlying artist who has 1043 works listed. Moving through the artist list, it is clear that how high up an artist appears in the listing is directly tied to the number of artworks the artist has for sell on Artist Become - which makes sense. Excluding the outlier, the average number of artworks per artist for the 48 artists listed on the first two pages of artists is 94. The range of values of artworks per artist is illustrated in the following chart.
Artwork Quantity By Artist
It stands to reason that if I am willing to upload close to 100 artworks to my Artist Become portfolio, I should wind up being listed on one of the first few pages. While I have far more than 100 works of art (and even more counting my photography) I have never made anywhere near that number of works available on any print on demand site.
The site's internal provisions for the ability to search for art using the most popular tags is nice, especially since a count of the tags is provided. This reveals that the most frequently used tags for art are abstract, landscape, blue, painting, and art. Attaching a numeric value to the tags makes it easy for artists to see how tags stack up to one another.
Another useful search option is that of artistic style, which also provides a count of tag popularity. The top style tags are Abstract, Impressionism, Realism-Representational, Expressionism, and Abstract Expressionism. And then there is the artworks subject category. With respect to this category, the most popular tags are landscapes, abstract, people, animals, and botanical.
Lastly, I find the ability to search on medium to be a most useful index into the art hosted on Artist Become. As a digital artist, I can see exactly where I stand. While painting rules as a medium, photography is the second most popular medium followed by digital as a strong third. Given that my art is digital, and that I also work in photography, Artist Become looks like a good site to do business with as far as medium is concerned.
In summary, the availability of these search terms and associated counts gives both the artist and potential buyer insight into the types of art that are hosted by the site.
In order to find art, artists need to be able to attach search terms or tags to their art. Artist Become provides the following fields for artists to use in identifying their work:
When it comes to the ability for artists to tag their artwork, Artist Become stacks up quite nicely with respect to competing platforms.
I did a check of 20+ artworks and pricing is set consistently at 17 cents per square inch. Not a surprise because artists are not allowed to establish their own royalty rate. Unlike all other competing art print sites (that I know of) where artists are allowed to set their own markup on the art being sold, Artist Become has a fixed royalty rate of 15%. As an artist, the question I must ask myself is this: if I am selling a print on Artist Become that is, for example, a size of 24" x 36" for a price of $147.00, am I happy with my share of that sale being $22.00?
In looking through the terms and conditions, I found that Artist Become is owned by Overstock Art LLC which is located in Wichita, KS. A press release reveals that Artist Become was launched in 2011. Financial reports can provide clues as to a business's well being but I could find no information on Overstock Art - not at all surprising since it is a LLC and not a publicly traded corporation. The Better Business Bureau of Wichita does give Overstock Art an A+ rating (see the BBB review of Overstock Art).
Not being a lawyer, the Terms and Conditions is that nitty-gritty part that makes my head spin. The terms and conditions specify the legal agreement that the artist is entering into with Overstock Art. Following are some excerpts from the Artist Agreement dated January 27, 2015 along with my comments. Note that I have bolded items that are particularly important to me. To be fair, I am looking at these terms and conditions in isolation and not alongside the terms and conditions that are in use by other similar print on demand sites.
The reproductions maybe created as a print on paper, print on canvas, hand painted oil painting or by any other means that ArtistBe.com sees fit to use in order to reproduce the art. The reproductions would be offered for sale via ArtistBe.com, as well as overstockArt.com, our catalogs, shared retailer sites on the Internet, Internet marketplaces and other sales channels used by ArtistBe.com.
I must say that I object to the idea that Overstock Art is going to have someone "hand painting" their own version of my art for it to then be sold. This particular product that Artist Become offers is a negative for me.
... you hereby grant to ArtistBe.com worldwide, transferable, non-exclusive, and irrevocable right and license to use such content, in all media existing now or created in the future, as ArtistBe.com deems necessary to reproduce and sell reproductions of your content. ...
This license includes (but is not limited to) the following rights that you expressly grant to ArtistBe.com: (i) the right to reproduce your content in the form of a hand-painted oil painting; and (ii) the right to reproduce and sell your content in any form and through any channel at ArtistBe.com's discretion in perpetuity.
The idea that their rights are defined as being irrevocable and that once uploaded they have the right to sell my art in perpetuity is a show-stopper for me. Those rights should end the moment I delete my account or, if blocked, the moment I notify Artist Become of my termination of the agreement.
This license includes (but is not limited to) the following rights that you expressly grant to ArtistBe.com: (i) the right to reproduce your content in the form of a hand-painted oil painting; and (ii) the right to reproduce and sell your content in any form and through any channel at ArtistBe.com’s discretion in perpetuity.
Again, I don't like the idea of their offering third person paintings of my art.
ArtistBe.com may, in its sole discretion, with or without notice to you: (i) suspend, limit your access to or terminate your use of ArtistBe.com Service,
I don't like the idea that Artist Become can, without notice to me, prevent me from accessing work to which I own the copyright.
If you or ArtistBe.com terminates your use of ArtistBe.com, ArtistBe.com may delete any gallery, content... Furthermore, in the event you terminate your account, ArtistBe.com has the express right to sell all stock prior to removing the image of the content from the Site.
I don't like the use of the term may in reference to removing my content from their web site if they or I terminate my account. May implies that it is their choice as to whether or not to remove my content. It should say will.
In addition to the Terms and Conditions for Artists document, there is also a Terms and Conditions of Use document. The key feature of this document is that it outlines procedures for contacting Overstock Art if you believe that some artist on Artist Become is violating copyright law with respect to your art.
One thing that artists are encouraged to do when making prints of their art available from print on demand sites is to sample the wares. Buy some art from the site in question and judge its quality for yourself. One question I ask is what paper (aka the substrate) is used and what printer and inks are used in the printing process. The combination of paper and printer and ink strongly affects the print's longevity and visual richness.
One thing I did was to ask in a few social media artists groups for feedback on experiences anyone may have had with Artist Become. Unfortunately I received no response to the queries. Something I could have done but didn't was to directly contact some of the artists currently selling their art on the site to get their feedback. Nor did I speak with anyone at Artist Become - something that I have done with some other print on demand sites in the past when I had questions about their service.
Will I or won't I make my art available on artistbe.com? My answer became "no" once I had read the terms and conditions. One thing I will do: as a consequence of having gone through the terms and conditions of use for Artist Becomes, I am going to revisit the terms and conditions for the other print on demand sites I am active on. I confess to not being on top of the legal agreement that I have entered into on those sites and for all I know at this moment, their terms may be less artist-friendly - in which case I have only myself to blame.
For an artist in the process of choosing between competing sites, you really need to sit down and compare the features and terms of the various sites side by side. I have conducted this review without any side-by-side, term-for-term, feature-by-feature comparison. Rather it is a summary of my own general impressions. Other artists who are struggling with similar decisions should not be focusing on my personal reactions but rather on the points that I consider to be useful in evaluating any print on demand service.
If you found this review useful, you may also be interested in these POD (print on demand) site reviews: