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Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Art Licensing Resource: Tracking Licensing Contracts & Art

Keeping track of art, copyright information, and licensing contracts can be difficult at the beginning of an artist's licensing career. And nearly impossible with even moderate licensing success as the number of art collections and contracts increase. Not properly keeping track of art and contracts can result in assigning the same art identification number to multiple collections, losing track on whether copyrights have been filed and forms received, missed opportunities in negotiating new terms for renewable contracts, and not knowing if collections are available for licensing in a particular category.

Some artists try to keep track of contracts and pertinent information by manually filing them with printed pictures of the individual collections. Others use software such as Microsoft Excel (spreadsheet), simple database software such as Bento, or more complicated relational database software such as FileMaker Pro. However, the problem with any software package is that you need to learn how to use the software to build the tables and relationships (if applicable) for tracking which can take time. And some of the software is complicated and not very intuitive to learn such as FileMaker Pro.

Note: There is an online service that is dedicated to tracking licensing information. Unfortunately, most artists cannot afford it because it costs thousands of dollars. But just released is a new affordable software package called Art Licensing Management. It is turnkey (ready for immediate use) database constructed with FileMaker Pro that was designed by artist Tara Reed in collaboration with CampSoftware. See below for more information.

Spreadsheet Software (Microsoft Excel)
Spreadsheet software is okay for listing data but is cumbersome in retrieving data and updating tables after adding data.

Database Software (Bento - software)

Databases like Bento (Mac only) works well because it uses pre-designed templates and forms so that the user can organize contacts and track projects. Bento is somewhat limited for use in art licensing because it does not have a fully customizable interface (limited in constructing forms, tables etc.) and does not automatically link related data. But some artists find that Bento fit their needs and is well worth the cost of $49.

Relational Database Software (FileMaker Pro)

FileMaker Pro costs $300 and has all the bells and whistles that you can think of. The user can create any kind of customized forms/tables, graph data, and link data to multiple files. I use FileMaker Pro to track my art, copyrights and licensing contracts. But its ability to do so many things makes the learning curve very steep. The instructions are not always clear so that I was often frustrated as I spent MANY hours in building tables and trying to figure out how to link the data by setting up relationships. It was not a fun experience but at least I can now effortlessly track the information I need.

Turnkey Database Software for Tracking Art Licensing Information
Artist Tara Reed and CampSoftware's "Art Licensing Management" software costs $250 which I feel is a bargain (unsolicited and uncompensated recommendation). It is turnkey which means that all you need to do is enter data. The different tracking lists (collections, licensee, etc.) are created automatically. Because the database was created by an artist that licenses art (Tara), it tracks that right kind of data that is needed to keep artists organized. For instance, it tracks art collections with associated code numbers, copyright information, backup information, manufacturers, contact details, licensing deals including products and royalties.

The only drawback in using this software is that additional data lists cannot be created by the user and CampSoftware needs to be hired to create them. However, additional lists are probably not needed because the basic lists are included in the software. Check out Art Licensing Management info page for more information, examples of data tables, and a demo video.  Note: I have not used Art Licensing Management database but Tara always produces quality products.

Hint: Even if you do not yet have any licensing deals or very few, this software is an excellent way to track your art collections and copyrights.

Tracking art and licensing information can be one of those boring jobs that no artist likes to do. But it is very important to keep track so that the same image is not licensed to more than one manufacturer, contracts are renewed (or not) on time, copyrights are received in a timely manner, etc. So whatever way you choose to track your art and contracts (manual filing system, spreadsheets, or database) make sure that it gets done.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the comment section below.


  1. I am glad that someone is finally addressing this critical need. Great review article. Looking forward to checking out Tara's solution.

  2. Thanks for sharing these data management products for art licensing. I've recently started a series of workshops in Miami on the business of art licensing and will be including this blog post (with your name and links) as a resource for the participating artists.

  3. Joan - thanks for the shout-out about the Art Licensing Manager software. I want to hug my computer every time I use it - life is easier and more organized and we hope it can help others too.

  4. Joan, I'm so glad I found this post. I'm in the process of deciding how to update my system. I'm currently using a spreadsheet software and it's just not cuttin' it anymore. I'm trying Tara's free trial of her new software. At $250 it looks like it's well worth the price!