This week I took a look at Artspan.com, a provider of contemporary artist websites, and even corresponded by email with its director and founder Eric Sparre.
Eric said that Artspan (founded in 2000) was the first company to offer full-featured artist websites, but he made it clear that from the start his goal has always been to use Artspan.com to help drive traffic to artists, not JUST create artist websites.
To that end, Artspan.com has become an art portal, bringing in traffic from search engines and then distributing it to Artspan members’ websites.
After talking with Eric and browsing through Artspan, I decided Artspan is similar in some ways to the other art-selling websites I’ve reviewed, since they all attempt to drive traffic to their artists.
The main difference, of course, is that with Artspan your name, bio, and artwork don’t exist only on a group website—you have your own website as well. More direct competitors of Artspan include Foliosnap, Big Black Bag, Foliolink and Fine Art Studio Online, all of which offer some sort of personal website to artists.
There are pros and cons to having your own, personal art website though, and as I looked at Artspan I tried to figure out whether it was worth the cost.
A basic membership on Artspan is $12.95 per month—double the price of any of the group art websites I’ve compared so far in the EE Art Market. There’s also a $29 setup fee and a yearly domain name fee of $14.95.
Here’s what you get for that price:
1. Your own website with 12 images of your artwork, stats of how many visitors your site gets, and a built in email/newsletter management system to keep in contact with previous buyers of your art and anyone else that wants to receive emails from you.
2. Inclusion in the Artspan directory of artists, which is browsable by location, artist’s name, or the category your art fits under.
3. Inclusion of 4 images into Artspan’s art database, searchable from the home page of Artspan.com.
4. No commission fee, unless you sell directly through Artspan. Then it’s 10%.
Now, if you want to upgrade you can pay $15.95 for the professional membership (18 images on your website, 6 in Artspan search) or 17.95 for the professional plus package (unlimited images on your website, 9 images in Artspan search, and occasional random placement on the homepage).
More images in Artspan search will obviously help bring more traffic to your website.
There’s also a 30-day free trial for any of the packages, although the setup fee and domain name are most likely not refundable.
For those of you that already have an art website (or blog), you can buy an Artspan associate membership for $35 per year and get 4 images included into the Artspan search without paying for the whole website.
Personally, that’s the membership plan I’d go for, because when I looked at the individual artist websites I wasn’t impressed. Artists get to choose from a few different templates, but they’re all pretty basic. Plus, unless you buy the professional package, you’re limited to 12 or 18 images.
I also would have liked to see better search engine optimization and a built in blogging feature to make it easier for potential buyers to find Artspan websites directly through the major search engines.
As it stands right now, Artspan websites seem unlikely to get much traffic from Google or Yahoo (other than for searches of the artist’s name) and that’s something I know I’d want in a website regardless of how much traffic came through Artspan itself.
At the same time I understand some artists just want their own website with easy management tools, and for that I guess Artspan’s not a bad deal.
If you don’t care about having your own website, though, there are other options that won’t cost a monthly fee—instead you pay only when your art sells. Some artists prefer that, and I’d suggest checking those out too before you make a decision.
For those of you that are already Artspan members please contact me. I’d love to get your opinion on Artspan and talk about the number of visits you receive each month.