Furries, or so it seems to me, have a split in their views. When it comes to sex, we are all in favor for allowing two individuals to get up to whatever they want, so long as they both consent. However, when it comes to money, we suddenly become a lot more wary about letting others make their own decisions. Surveys done by [adjective][species] seem to agree with this; finding social liberalism much higher than economic liberalism. It would seem that attitudes are correct on the former, but these are contradicted by the latter. In this essay, I will attempt to show why capitalism, and a free-furry-market, are ultimately a huge boon for the fandom.
Before going on, I wish to address a criticism now – In this article, I will be talking about the “quality” of pieces that an artist can produce. It may be argued that the quality of art is purely subjective, and thus the quality of two pieces cannot be compared so objectively. To an extent, I would agree that taste comes into how much a person is willing to pay for artwork. When I use “quality” I am using it the sense of complexity – whether something is shaded, sketched, accurately represent what the artist wishes it to represent, etc… Whilst the artist style will obviously effect what a person is willing to pay, it is also clear that a fully coloured and shaded piece is of a higher quality than just a sketch.
A lot of furries wonder about the value of a piece of art, that is to say, how much an artist ought to be paid, and for what. One assumption I have seen is that there is a “true” value behind an artist time. Many furries will encourage artists to charge the “right amount” for their time, due to how valuable it is.
But this is missing out on what really determines the value of an artist time – how much people are willing to pay, and for what. A piece of work may take artist A hours upon hours to finish, and, at the end of the effort, that artist may have a decent quality piece. In the meantime, artist B, who is more experienced, produces two pieces, which are of equal standards to A's. Artist C can also only produce a single piece in that time, but, unlike A and B, they have given it detailed backgrounds, shading, and other such things. If those three artist then sold their work, C would likely charge the highest, say, $90. A and B may then both sell their pieces for $40 each.
A – Decent quality – 1 piece, $40
B – Decent quality – 2 pieces, each $40
C – High quality – 1 piece, $90
1. Assuming all three artist sell their work for the prices they wished, C will make the most money, followed by B, and then A. Because B was able to create two pieces within the same time as A, and the market was willing to pay $40 for a decent quality work, they were able to make double what A made. C made more than either artist, but in the same time frame. The market does not care how long it took any of these artists; what matters is the quality of the work and the amount that each charge for that piece of work. The fact that A tried their hardest, yet still only made half of what B made just goes to show that markets do not care for the actual subjective effort required. An artist time is only worth as much as what they can produce, and what the market is willing to pay for.
To further prove this, let's introduce artist D, who is still fairly new, but their work is of a marketable quality, though not nearly as good as A or B's. If they then sold their work for $40, and it took them double the time to create that work, then they would make even less. If the market did not wish to pay $40, they would make nothing; and why should the market pay for lesser quality, when the same price will afford them A or B's work? The truth of the matter is that, whilst D is a new artist, and of less skill, they may only be able to charge $5 to create a piece that would take the same time to create as A, B, or C.
Does that seem unfair? It may, since artist D tries extremely hard, but is only able to make a fraction of what C does, but consider the alternatives:
If nobody was allowed to charge for their work, then C would not be able to become rewarded for their time, and may lose what supports them financially. The inability to charge would also hurt D, as people would suddenly wonder why they should bother with them, when A, B, and C are all producing higher quality works. Before, D could gain attention by offering their work for cheaper, allowing them to earn something from their work whilst honing their skills. If they enjoy making art, then why should it matter that somebody else is making more? Is it fair to remove a small bonus to D's artistic endeavors, simply because somebody more skilled is earning more? If D is happy just to be earning something, then what C is earning should not matter. As D gets better, demand for their art will increase, and, eventually, they will be able to charge more, but until that time, they have to start somewhere. Why try and tackle inequality by making everybody worse off?
Another suggestion might be to make all artist charge a minimum amount. This would mean that C can still charge $90, but it would also mean that D cannot be undercut for their time. If the minimum began at, say, $40 per piece, then it may seem at a first glance that D would be much better off. However, let us consider this more closely: If D charged $40 for a piece of their work, then they would suddenly be competing with both A and B. When D's work is of a lesser quality than A or B's, the market would simply decide to spend that $40 on the higher quality product. D would not be able to compete with that: the reason they were able to earn $5 a piece as they grew as an artist was because they were not competing with others, but instead occupying a slot in the market. Even though D may not be able to produce pieces of the same quality as A or B's, people would still allow them to earn something purely by virtue of D being cheaper. Ultimately, if all artist were forced to charge a “minimum”, it would hurt newer artist the most. Sure, A and B would be protected from having to lower their prices to compete with another, but that problem can also be addressed.
If artist C improved in quality, and could produce three pieces of art of the same quality as A and B, but decided to sell each piece for $30, then that would seem to hurt both A and B, since the market would surely choose C instead of either of them. However, this is not necessarily so. Consider the perspective of C; they can see the market will pay $40 for their pieces, due to the success of A and B. If the market would willingly pay for this, then why would they suddenly decide to lower their prices? They could just as easily charge $40 per piece, and if A and B are successful, the market will pay that price. It would therefore not be in C's interests to undercut A or B. If the market suddenly decided not to pay $40 for work of the quality of A, B, or C, then it would make sense for C to lower their prices, but it would also make sense for A and B to lower their prices as well, whether C existed or not. The “minimum” charge for a piece is not needed to protect A and B from being undercut, as it is not in anybody's interest to undercut them for the same quality work as them.
An additional factor to consider with art commissions is that they are not mass produced. If an artist has a truly unique, or very unusual, style, then they can control almost all of the supply for the demand. Because what anyone is willing to pay for any style of art is so determinate upon the buyer, it is very difficult to place an “ought” on what the buyer should pay. It may be believed that there is an objective price for any given piece, but somebody may take a liking to a particular style, and be willing to pay more for it. If there is a particular group of people who share the same liking of that style, then the artist who produces it will have found themselves a market. When somebody commissions them, it should be trusted that both parties – the commissioner and artist – have accepted the price being placed on the artist time. The commissioner knows how much they are willing to pay, knowing they can walk away, yet freely choose to pay. Meanwhile, the artist has decided for themselves what their time is worth.
Why can't furries treat business like sex? Why is it that, during intercourse, we seem content to let others do whatever they wish with one another, so long as all parties give consent, and not with art? When it comes to financial agreements over art, I believe the same should apply. Instead of telling artist what their work is worth, why not simply allow them to decide exactly how much their time is worth? If an artist prices are too high, you do not need to tell them, simply do not buy from them, and if the market agrees, the lack of sales will be the most obvious sign of “you're charging too much” that can be given. On the other hand, that same artist may keep their prices consistent, or even raise them due to high demand. There is no reason to tell them their prices are too high; people are buying from them, and those people are willingly giving money over to that artist. When you say that an artist “charges too much”, you're not just insulting their judgment, but the judgment of that artist customers – both of whom seem perfectly happy with the transaction. There is nothing wrong with going elsewhere because you do not want to pay the asking price for something, in fact, that's good, as it's showing awareness of your role as an active consumer. But, if an artist is finding customers for what they value their work at, then there is no reason for them to drop their prices for anyone.
It is an artist's right to charge whatever they want for their work. If they charge too much, the market will reject it. Yet, if they decide to charge a low price, then it is their choice to do so. They know how much they believe their time is worth, and whether you think they should be charging more or less, a free-market will send a better message than any individual ever could.
Ultimately, a free-market is the best way for the furry market to function. As it stands, the community is almost completely laissez-faire with it's approach to commissions - with many artists able to live off their work, as new artists develop their skill whilst earning something from it - while providing a rich choice to those wishing to spend money on commissions. Not only that, but I believe that it is important to respect the artist's judgment, and the ability for others to know what they value.