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Monday, October 17, 2016

Art Licensing Editorial - Should Artists Sign Exclusive Agreements?

In the art licensing industry it is often heard that artists should NEVER sign an exclusive agreement because it will restrict them in being able to get licensing deals and earn revenue. However, that may not always be true. Just like so many other things in this industry it depends upon the artist and what she/he hope to achieve in licensing her/his art. The following discusses exclusive and non-exclusive agreements that apply to 1. art licensing agencies that represent artists, and 2. manufacturers that license art for their products.

• Exclusive agreement with an agency
The majority of art licensing agencies in the United States require that their artists agree to an exclusive representation. That means the artists use only one agency to get them licensing deals in ALL product industries worldwide. Although, if the agency does not license art to foreign manufacturers, the artist may hire another agent to only represent her/him in foreign countries. Note: The reason agents want to do exclusive representation is to avoid the confusion if several agents submit an artist art to manufacturers. Not only do the manufacturers think it is a waste of their time to view the same art shown by several agents but if they are interested in licensing any of the art they would not know which agent to contact.

Some agencies do non-exclusive representation because they concentrate only on particular products such as fabric or wall art. Thus, some artists do have several agents. However, it can get sticky if one of the agents decides to license the art for products that they were not hired to.

• Exclusive agreement with a manufacturer for a specific product industry
Some industries are very competitive and want to use artist brands to sell their products. For instance, many fabric companies that sell their products to the quilt industry require their artists to be exclusive to them since they are showcasing and promoting the artists. That means those artists are not allowed to license their designs to other fabric companies. As artist Tara Reed points out in "5 Things to Consider Before Signing an Exclusive Art Licensing Agreement", an artist may decide to enter an exclusive agreement if they will ". . . guarantee a certain amount of sales per year (hard to come by at the moment), guarantee that they will bring out a certain number of products, promote you and your brand in specific ways… you want something in return for cutting off other opportunities for a few years." Also read art licensing agent Maria Brophy's article "Should you Sign an Exclusive Agreement - What to Consider". It has excellent examples on when Maria DOES NOT and when she DOES sign exclusive agreements.

• Exclusive agreement with a manufacturer for a specific image(s)
The most common exclusive agreement in the art licensing industry is when manufacturers license an image for their products. In fact, most product licensing contracts have this stipulation in it. The agreement requires that the artist NOT license the SAME image to other manufacturers in the SAME industry until after the contract expiration. The purpose of this exclusivity is so that the manufacturer is not competing with other manufacturers that are selling to the same consumer base. An exception is in the wall décor industry where non-exclusive agreements are offered. That is why the same image for posters and prints may be in many print-on-demand wall décor Internet stores.

However, the same image may be licensed to different manufacturers at the same time and for the same product if their customer bases are different. For example if the image was licensed to a manufacturer that sells only to general retailers it may be okay to license the same image to a manufacturer that sells to the mass channel (chain stores) and to non-profit companies. Of course, you should inform the companies that are involved to make sure they have no objections in licensing the art to another manufacturer. If you do not inform them, you may be infringing on contracts since you may not be aware that besides selling to general retailers the manufacturer also sells to chain stores.

Note: A difficult situation could occur if an artist license VERY similar looking images to different manufacturers that produce the same products. Manufacturers want to sell art that is different from their competition. They would be unhappy if the images are so similar that customers would mistake them for the same art. It is always wise to inform the companies involved to make sure there is no conflict.

• Contracts/Agreements
Read all contracts and agreements closely and make sure you understand all the terms and clauses in it including "exclusive". If you are unsure, I recommend that you hire an attorney experienced in art licensing legislation to look it over before you sign it. It is less expensive to pay an attorney to make sure the contract is fair to you than to find out later that you signed a contract with clauses unfair to you.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Art Licensing: POD E-Stores - The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

E-Stores (online/electronic stores) are becoming more and more popular on the Internet. Consumers have found that it an efficient way to search for products with the best prices, find products that local retailers no longer stock, and search for unique and personalized products for gifts. Depending on the type of product(s) sold, owners of e-stores can take advantage of printing on demand (POD) to keep a low inventory, and sell personalized products. Personalized products appeal to a smaller number of consumers (niche) and usually are not available in retail stores.

The e-store Blow Birthday Cards is a wonderful example on why Internet POD stores are created. As founder and CEO, Jerry McLaughlin explains, “Somewhere around my 50th birthday I realized that I wasn’t doing a good job of sending real birthday cards to my good friends. I always meant to, but I often missed the opportunity. Too busy with work, too busy with kids, not enough time to get to the store, etc. I wanted to be the person that always remembers to send a card, because my friends are very special. I knew I needed a system if I was going to be able to change my ways. I created Blow Birthday Cards so I could always get a birthday card on time to each of my special friends – and now I do :) “

Below is an article by Jerry about why he thinks an POD e-store with unique greeting cards is fulfilling consumer wishes that is lacking in retail stores.

The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

By Jerry McLaughlin
Founder & CEO of Blow Birthday Cards

Birthdays are a gift – a once a year chance to tell our friends and loved ones that they are special to us without either of us having to feel weird about bringing it up.

But even on a day dedicated to celebrating a special person in our lives, saying what we want to say can be hard. So, for the same reason that the President has speechwriters, we rely on birthday card designers to awaken shared memories, make us laugh or blush, and give voice to our deepest feelings.

But is that what birthday card designers are doing for us today?

Not so much. Yes it’s true that Americans bought 1.7 million birthday cards today, just like they do every day. But most of those shoppers say they would have liked to find a more special card.

What makes a birthday card special?
A special birthday card recalls for both the giver and the recipient a specific shared memory, revels in a shared sense of humor, or reveals a sincere feeling.

To evoke a shared memory we need a specific trigger. For example, let’s say you and your wife shared your first kiss on a camping trip with friends; you know she’ll appreciate a card that captures a couple kissing outside of a tent or a whimsical camping scene.

Why aren’t we making specialized cards that customers crave?
The historical root of the problem is in the high cost of running a retail store. Every successful retailer knows space in the store is precious. So before they dedicate some of that precious space to a birthday card design, they’ve got to expect to sell a lot of that same design. Therefore they have to offer designs that will appeal to almost everyone that comes in looking for a birthday card. The result is a lot of cards on the shelf that are suitable for anyone, meaning they are special for no one.

Designing for online is different
In my view, too often independent designers are trying to out-Hallmark Hallmark. They are designing cards that will have the broadest possible appeal. But rather than fight the big card companies head on, designers can make cards that reference very specific interests, objects, activities, experiences, or sentiments. These specialized cards don’t appeal to everyone, but they appeal very strongly to enough buyers to make the designer very successful, and appreciated. The watchwords of the successful independent birthday card designer are “specialized” and “insightful”.

At Blow Birthday Cards, we also focus more on finding great designers than on finding great cards. We look for designers whose birthday cards have visual or verbal elements that relate to some narrow interest or specific aspect of life. For example, we prefer a yoga card to an exercise card. The more specialized the card, the more perfectly it will fit someone.

Writers (more than) welcome
While visual artists have created some great birthday cards, people that think of themselves more as storytellers have designed many of the best birthday cards. The great birthday card is an effective communication, like a great advertisement.

So-- what’s the best-kept secret?
In a country with 330 million birthdays this year, a card that is so specialized that it is perfect for someone you know will be perfect for 100,000 other people too. Those are the birthday cards customers cannot find in stores. Those are the birthday cards that sell online. Those are the birthday cards customers really want.

Note: Blow Birthday Cards is a member of Art Licensing Show (ALSC) and artist members can connect with Jerry McLaughlin. Artist "profile members" can also show him their art on the ALSC website.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Art Licensing Editorial: Do artists need to create collections?

In the art licensing industry, the most heard answer to questions asked is "it depends". And that is also the answer to the question on whether artists need to create art collections. A collection has many meanings and the following discusses the reason why some types of collections should be created while others may not be needed.

• What is a collection?
A collection can be images that are organized in various ways, or complimentary images created for a specific product, or complementary images and associated designs created for use on multiple products. All these type of collections are useful when submitting to manufacturer art directors (ADs) for licensing consideration and for placing on websites so that ADs can easily find the art they are interested it.

#A - images organized by themes etc.
The advantage in organizing art into collections of themes, seasons, holidays, or occasions is that it is easier for ADs to find art they are interested in licensing and thus the more often they will visit the artist/agent website. Also ADs request art for particular seasons, holidays, and themes. So if the art is already organized into those collections it is easier for the artist to find and submit the art.

The following are possible ways to organize art into collections.
1. Themes - coastal, beaches, nautical; patriotic; birds, birdhouses; butterflies and insects; flowers and gardens; food and wine; inspirational sayings; Lodge
2. Seasons - fall, winter, spring, summer
3. Holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July
4. Occasions - anniversary, baby birth/shower, back to school, birthday, graduation, wedding

#B - images organized by product type
Some artists organize their art on their website into collections by the type of product that it was created for. For example, the product collections could be greeting cards, gift bags and wrap, decorative flags, fabrics, and tableware.

#C - images formatted various ways
A collection can be one main image that is formatted various ways such as vertical, horizontal, square, and round. Formatting an image different ways takes time but it could increase the likelihood in being licensed. For instance, the greeting card industry produces cards that are vertical, horizontal and sometimes square and round although vertical images significantly out number horizontal images. And, many decorative flag companies sell doormats and mailbox wraps besides vertical flags so they need both vertical and horizontal images. By submitting various formatted art to card companies may mean getting a deal or not. For instance, if the image was submitted only as a vertical format and the AD decided that the image would look better as horizontal then it may not be licensed. And, by submitting images in both formats to flag companies, additional products (mat, mailbox wrap) have a better chance in being licensed instead of only a flag.

Artists typically create art that is vertical since it is the most used format for products. It is true that companies sometimes ask for changes when they are considering licensing an image. But not all companies have the time to wait for images to be reformatted and instead they license art that has already been formatted numerous ways. Also, if the art is already formatted it is ready to go when artists wish to submit art for coasters, plates, etc. (square and round), OR placemats, serving trays, cutting mats, rugs, etc. (horizontal). Thus, having art formatted several ways can be a time saver in the long run and also increase the possibility in licensing the art.

#D - series of complimentary images for a product
This type of collection is two or more images that compliment each other. It is created for one or more specific type of products such as boxed greeting cards, calendars, fabric for the quilting industry, dinnerware, coaster sets, paper party ware, wall décor, gift bags, etc. Creating this type of collection is time consuming and since it is created for a specific type of product(s) it may not be usable to be licensed for other products.

#E - series of images with complimentary images for use on multiple products
When art collections are discussed in the art licensing industry, this is the type of collection that is often implied. It is a series of images including patterns, icons and borders that compliment the images for use on multiple products. Some successful licensed artists recommend that the collection consist of 1. at least four central images; 2. one rectangular, circular, oval, and square frame; 3. at least three borders with different widths; 4. at least several repeating patterns; 5. several backgrounds; 6. at least six or more supplemental icons, 7. text if it is appropriate. The intention on creating this type of collection is that most of the art is already finished before submitting to ADs so the art is ready for multiple products with minor editing needed. And, the art has a better chance in being licensed because the AD can choose from a selection of looks instead of only one.

The drawback in creating this type of art collection is that it is VERY time consuming resulting in artists not being able to create as many different images and have less art to submit for licensing consideration. Also, not all of the recommended components in the collection as listed above can be used on all products. It is a waste of time in creating them if they will not be used. Thus, I recommend that if you want to do this type of collection you create a modified version of it depending on the kind of products the collection are intended for.

• Are collections necessary?
As discussed in #A and #B, it is very useful to organize art into collections. Thus, I recommend that art be organized into at least #A collection.

To increase the opportunity in licensing art for more products, it is probably a good idea to create collections as discussed in #C unless there is no need to format art in various ways. For instance, surface designs are created as repeating patterns for fabrics, scrapbooking and other paper products. There are few opportunities to license repeating pattern designs for products that require formats other than square and maybe vertical so it is not necessary to format the designs as round or horizontal.

Many artists think that all the art they create will be suitable to be licensed for ANY kind of product. Unfortunately that may not be true. Art that is licensable depends on whether it incorporates the current trends, themes and art styles wanted by consumers. Not every product or even each manufacturer in the same product industry uses the same specifications so the art may be only licensable for one, a few, or many types of products. For instance, intricate and collage styled art that was created for jigsaw puzzles (i.e. a bunch of children playing in the snow) would not be licensable for many other products such as decorative flags, tableware, shower curtains and bathroom accessories. Therefore, there is no reason to create a collection of art as described in #E if the art is not licensable for a wide range of products.

However, collections are necessary if the artist wishes to license their art to manufactures that sell products as collections that are listed in collection #D.

• Conclusion
As mentioned in this article, it depends on whether artists should create collections of their art. Some should be created such as #A while others like #E may not be needed; at leased for all art. Creating collections, especially for #E, is very time consuming and if the art is not suitable for a wide variety of products it is a waste of time creating them.

Some artists intentionally begin their licensing career by creating art for only one product industry such as greeting cards, or fabrics. Others may discover by accident that their art tends to be more licensable for one industry than others. So there is no need to create collections #D or #E. However, once they are successful in licensing their art for the one product and decide to branch out into other industries, it may be time to create collections for art that is suitable for a variety of products.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Art Licensing: Exceptional Marketing Outside-The-Box = National Coloring Book Day

Marketing is imperative in selling products to consumers. And, Dover Publications absolutely thought outside-the-box in promoting coloring books in the United States by getting permission last year from the U.S. Registrar to observe August 2 each year as National Coloring Book Day (NCBD). Companies, organizations and individuals besides Dover are endorsing National Coloring Book Day on August 2 by having parties, book signings, coloring contests, and other activities throughout the United States.

Coloring Parties
By searching the Internet, you can read a large number of articles mentioning upcoming events celebrating National Coloring Book Day this August 2. Adult coloring parties sponsored by various organizations, companies, and individuals will take place in libraries, community centers, bookstores, cafes, private homes, and other locations. Persons are invited to attend most of the events at no cost. For instance, on August 2, Thunder Bay Press is sponsoring and providing coloring books and colored pencils for the coloring day event at 12 bookstores across the country. To find other locations for NCBD parties throughout the U.S., view Dover's National Coloring Book Day website.

Artist Signings
Dover Publications is sponsoring meet-and-greet artists across the country where several artists will sign copies of their coloring books. Note: Other coloring book publishers are also probably having artist-signing events but I did not have the time to search the Internet.

Contests and Giveaways
Coloring contests and giveaways are also found on the Internet. For instance, publisher Leisure Arts is having a "National Coloring Book Giveaway" contest. Note: There are many other coloring contests and giveaways on the Internet.

Continuous marketing by hundreds of companies, organizations and individuals like the NCBD events help to keep the adult coloring book industry alive. And, offering free parties brings in more consumers wishing to purchase books as they discover the therapeutic value coloring has including the fun and sharing of their colored creations with others.

Related Articles:
• "Art Licensing: What's With the Adult Coloring Book Craze?"

• "Art Licensing: Update on Adult Coloring Craze"

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Art Licensing: Update on Adult Coloring Craze

Last year adult coloring books went viral because press releases in magazines, television, and the Internet promoted that it is very therapeutic to reduce stress by coloring pictures. Also, Dover Publications, who has been publishing adult coloring books since 1970, sponsored a National Coloring Book Day, that is officially observed now on August 2 each year. All the hype resulted in thousands of adult coloring books being published by numerous companies and the formation of coloring book clubs and parties. Read "What's With the Adult Coloring Book Craze?' for more information about the adult coloring book hype.

Coloring books are so popular that some companies include a coloring book with their products as an incentive to purchase the products. Many Internet sites offer coloring pages that can be downloaded at no cost. And, a pdf file of a 92 page coloring book “Enjoy the Simple things: A Holiday Coloring Book for kids 1 to 92” with art created by 70 artist members of the art licensing community, Art Licensing, can be downloaded at no cost.

 In 2015 when the adult coloring books suddenly became so popular, many people wondered if it was only a fad and would soon disappear. But, so far it is still going strong. Helping it to prosper is the evolution of adult coloring becoming more than just a therapeutic way of releasing stress. It is also becoming an integral part of creativity and the ability to customize and personalize products for gifts that is very popular with consumers. All sorts of paper products for gifts are available to color besides coloring books such as calendars, greeting cards, postcards, bookmarks, etc. Also are drawings on non-paper products made to be colored such as on tote bags, sweatshirts, t-shirts, caps, tumblers, jig-saw puzzles, signs, Christmas ornaments, boxes, pillows, stickers, etc

Maybe Adult Coloring will not only be a fad but also become a trend as more products become available!

Below is a resource list of manufacturers that license drawings suitable for coloring. Read "What's With the Adult Coloring Book Craze?' for an additional list of companies that license drawings for adult coloring books.

Darice (coloring books)

Evergreen Enterprises (ceramic travel cups)

Harvest House (coloring books)

Lang (coloring books, jig-saw puzzles,note cards, greeting cards, calendars, infuser tumblers)
Note: View the on-line catalog.

Leisure Arts (coloring books)

Peter Pauper Press (coloring books)

Primitives by Kathy (signs and pillows)

Sellers Publishing / RSVP (coloring books, cards, calendars)
Note: Thanks artist Peggy Jo Ackley for sharing this company :)

The Peel People (stickers to color for placement on all kinds of surfaces)

Wellspring (coloring books and paper products)

White Mountain Puzzles (jig-saw puzzles)

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Art Licensing Editorial: Should You Use Color Trends in Art?

Where do color trends come from? Color trends come from all over but the major color trendsetter is Pantone. The Pantone name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer-to-manufacturer-to-retailer-to- customer. They are a provider of color systems for a variety of industries and annually introduce the color of the year they think is trending. [1]

Note: The number in the bracket [ ] indicates the article the quote is from. See the article title in the Reference section at the bottom of this article.

“When Pantone releases their color of the year they are setting the tone for upcoming trends. They pull influences from fashion, automotive design, interior design, technology and trade shows. They analyze how color impacts mood and how it relates to current events.” [2] And, “The annual announcement ultimately influences product development, purchasing decisions, product packaging and graphic design.” [3] Many manufacturers but not all use Pantone color trends for their products although it may be several years before they appear on the products because of the time needed to produce them.

In the past, The Pantone Color of the Year has been one color that was bright and bold. So persons in the design community were shocked when in 2016 Pantone introduced the Pantone Colors of the Year as two colors; pastel pink (Rose Quartz) and pastel blue (Serenity). [4] Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, had this to say about the decision, “Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”[5]

2016 Pantone Colors of the Year
There were a lot of comments when Pantone announced 2016 Colors of the Year last December. But, surprisingly they were more constructive than negative. Mentioned in the many articles I read, pale pink and baby blue are already seen on clothing in fashion runways, on kitchen appliances, tabletop, household linens, cosmetics, iPhones, shoes, home décor, and in advertising.

Comments about 2016 Pantone Colors of the Year
“I don’t know about this color of the year. Yes, I guess it is tranquil. But could also be bland and a bit boring. I guess it would depend in what it is being used on.” [2]

“While these shades, Rose Quartz and Serenity, can represent feelings such as compassion, affection, caring, soothing and relaxation — pastels are often described as ‘soft’ or ‘weak.’ However, Pantone’s research led them to choose these colors, suggesting a change in consumer sentiment, stating, ‘We wanted compassion, which today a lot of people are looking for.’ They say the selections are born from consumers searching for balance in a chaotic world. . . . Senior living and the senior health care industry have been creating a sense of caring, compassion and relaxation in their branded materials and physical spaces for some time, and know there’s strength in these sentiments. Knowing what these colors represent, it won’t be surprising to see them smartly featured in materials being marketed to seniors, or incorporated into interior design elements of communities.” [3]

“Once people get over the baby nursery comments, I think we'll see a wealth of possibility for design and interiors. We've seen pastels emerge in a powerful and modern way in recent years. On its own, pink has almost become a new neutral that, when paired with other colors, has a range of moods and associations.” [6]

Using color trends in art
Should artists use color trends in the art they create for licensing consideration and more specifically Pantone 2016 Colors of the Year? The answer is the same that is often heard in the art licensing industry; it depends!

Some manufacturers are willing to take a chance on using new color trends in the hope to sell more products while other manufacturers use only colors that have been proven to sell their products. Previous Pantone Color of the Year was more applicable on a large variety of products especially in the gift industry because the color hues were bold. The pastel colors of the Pantone 2016 Colors of year does not necessarily work for as many products. Some art themes are very color specific such as most holiday themes. Easter uses mostly pastel colors so using Pantone’s Rose Quartz and Serenity (R&S) will fit well for Easter products. Those colors may also work well for Christmas decorations even though the traditional colors are red and green. Some manufactures that produce Christmas decorations seem to be willing to try new colors even though they tend to be a fad and sell well for only a couple of years. So, I will not be surprised to soon see R&S decorated Christmas trees at the Atlanta Gift shows. R&S colors on other holiday themes would not work. But, R&S colors for non-holiday themes such as for birthday and inspirational may work.

And just like themes, some colors work for certain products and not for others. For instance, the decorative flag industry uses bright colors so that images standout and can be seen 40 feet away. The R&S pastel hues will not work for flags but may work if they are more saturated in color or are paired with other colors. Check out Pantone’s website for suggested colors to pair with Rose Quartz and Serenity colors.

Should artists use color trends?
Sure they should use color trends but only IF the art they are creating for products will sell the products for manufacturers! And, the only way to know what colors work for the manufacturers is by studying their websites and websites of retailers that sell their products. For information about the different product industries and some links to manufacturers that licensing art, click HERE.

Researching manufactures and the product industries that sell their products is a lot of work! But, it is worth the effort to have a better chance in licensing your art.

[1] “About PANTONE” - Pantone®

[2] “The Pantone Color of the Year for 2016” - Garrett Specialties Blog

[3] “What Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year Selections Could Mean for Senior Living” - Glynn Devins

[4] “Surprise: Pantone’s Color of the Year is actually two colors” -Washington Post

[5] “Introducing Rose Quartz & Serenity” Pantone®

[6] “Pantone's Color(s) of the Year for 2016!” - Apartment Therapy

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: