Hey Homie, can I get the "hookup" on that tattoo?
So you wanna get a new tattoo? You have a "friend" that tattoos, so of course you're going to go to them first, right? Or maybe you met a world class artist at a convention, or went to their shop and chopped it up with them some, took a selfie, and now you're "friends" with them too. Regardless, you know you want to get tattooed by THAT artist! So you reach out to them, book a consultation or an appointment, and when it gets to that point where you discuss how much its gonna cost, you feel entitled to ask for that "homie hookup", because we're friends after all.
BAD FORM!!! And here's why...
First of all, artists work daily, most of the time for reduced rates anyways because people in their home towns are typically on a budget, or they're already competing with the shops down the street that are already doing $50 tattoos. So, it's already a tough struggle to make the money they are worth in some cases. That's why a lot of these artists take their craft on the road to conventions, or areas where the clientele is willing to pay more for the art they are receiving.
Secondly, preparing for a good tattoo takes a LOT of time! You want one of those hyper realism pieces that Steve Butcher or Nikko Hurtado produces? Awesome! The stencil alone for a tattoo like that can take 4+hours just to pencil and prepare for your skin! That doesn't even include the time it takes to talk to you about your design, and make any modifications required to deliver the PERFECT rendition of what your mind envisions. Most of the time (not always) artists don't even charge for this part of the process, so you're already getting this as a free service.
Third, artists that produce great tattoos don't skimp on the supplies and materials they use to ink you with. They use the best of the best, and they spend money to ensure that they can offer you the best so that you have an outstanding piece of art that stays vibrant and rich for many years. An average setup could cost as much as $50 and in some cases slightly more.
Forth, artists have overhead. If it's their shop, they have utilities to pay, insurance, and taxes all coming out of their pocket. If they work for another artist they are giving 30% - 50% of whatever they make to the shop owner in most cases. If they're tattooing you at a convention, the booth you're sitting in cost them anywhere from $700 - $1000 for 3 days.
And last but not least, let's talk about that traveling artist that you want to hook up with. Let's take Steve Butcher for example, who by the way IS an actual friend of mine, so I am speaking with some sense of knowledge here. Steve lives in New Zealand, which you may not know is a tiny island off of the southern coast of Australia. It is EXPENSIVE AS F**K to take a plane from there to ANYWHERE! So Steve might already have racked up over $1000 just in travel expenses to get to the United States just so he can tattoo you!
There are a multitude of reasons and I didn't cover them all. Each artist has unique circumstances, but they're all legitimate. And in most cases artists aren't trying to rip you off or overcharge, they're merely trying to cover their costs and still provide a good life for themselves and their families.
So the next time you want to get tattooed and you think about asking for that homie hook up, slap yourself in the face and rethink your strategy. If you cannot afford a good tattoo, then don't get tattooed. Keep asking the car salesman for those hookups, but when it comes to your body and the art you put on it, be willing to pay for it, and ALWAYS TIP YOUR ARTIST!