Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The following is a list in no particular order of what an artist should know about the negative aspects in licensing art. Note: These are my opinions. Other artists, licensing agents and experts in the art licensing industry may have different opinions. It is always wise to get several viewpoints and not depend on only one.
• Licensing art is very competitive. There are thousands of artists trying to license their art. And, the number of artists increase each year. Thus, getting licensing contracts is harder each year.
• Not every artist can make a living by licensing her / his art because of the competition and less retailers selling licensed products.
• Licensing is NOT a 9AM to 5PM job. Artists need to juggle daily personal commitments with creating art and other associated licensing duties. Dedicated licensed artists work more than 12 hours a day especially when a deadline looms.
• Not all art is licensable. There are many reasons why beautiful art is not licensable. To find out why, read "Editorial: Not all Art is Licensable."
• Artists will not be able to license all the art they create. Because of the competitive industry, not all art themes are popular, and the art may be ahead or behind the trend. Also, not every image licensed will be licensed for more than one product. It may not be the right image for other products or manufacturers are not interested in licensing it for whatever reason.
• Not all art licensing agents and manufacturers are honest. Unfortunately, contracts are not always in the best interest to the artist and not every agent or manufacturer pay artists monies owed them. It is always wise to ask others in the art licensing industry if a manufacturer / agent that you are considering is reputable. And, you should have an attorney experienced in art licensing look over the contract before signing it.
• It is difficult to protect art from copyright infringers. Some artists watermark their images and use password protected websites. But, there are downsides to doing so. Many manufacturers will not take the time to request a password from the artist to view the art and dislike watermarks because they detract from the art. But in any case, artists should copyright their art with the Library of Congress so that if they need to sue for infringement and win, they will get legal fees paid beside being awarded statutory damages. To learn more about copyrights, read attorney Joshua Kaufman's article "Filing Copyrights: How and Why or Just Do It!"
• Art directors look at 100s of images for EACH image that is licensed. Thus, manufacturers showing interest in your art does not necessarily mean it will be licensed. For instance, experienced SURTEX show exhibitors know that the reality is that less than 10% (more like zero to 3%) of the art that art directors request for licensing consideration results in a deal.
• Not all licensed art have accurate colors on products. This could be due to the type of process used to print the art on the product, the manufacturer does not have or take the time to make sure the colors are accurate, or the manufacturer purposely changes the color saturation so that the colors are brighter (sometimes done for decorative flags). Note: Not having accurate colors most likely will not affect the sale of the product because consumers have not seen the original art. Although I do grimace when I see some of my licensed art on products.
• Getting a deal does not always mean that the product will be produced. It could be a print-on-demand type of deal which means the art on the product will only be produced if a retailer orders it. Or, the production of the art on the product is cancelled for some reason. Also, sometimes the manufacturer only produces one batch and if the amount sold does not meet expectations it is not produced again even though the contract will not expire for several more years.
• Royalties from a deal can be a very small amount or nothing if the product does not sell well. Sometimes an artist can make more revenue from a licensing flat fee than from a royalty deal.
• More and more manufacturers are pre-selling their products before producing them. That means they may request HiRes art (high resolution) from the artist so that they can make samples for presentations. An artist needs to really trust the manufacturer before sending them HiRes art for presentation because no contract is signed.
• Manufacturers may request that the artist hold art for them so that they can give presentations to their clients. If the artist agrees, it means that she/he cannot license the art in the same category to another manufacturer. Sometimes the manufacturer will hold the art for months and the artist loses the chance to license the art that year if it is not accepted by the client.
• Artists may be requested by a manufacturer to create art on speculation. That means there is no guarantee that it will be licensed. Although, there is always a possibility it will be licensed by another manufacturer. Some artists require that they get a designer fee before starting work on a spec project. Others work on spec under certain conditions such as only designing an art theme that appeals to a broad spectrum of consumers so the chances of it being licensed is greater. Or, the artist already has a good working relationship with a manufacturer and thinks that they will most likely create art that will be licensed.
• Artist are not always able to approved the product sample before it goes into production. Many times the production cycle is too tight and manufacturers are not willing to let the artist approve the sample. Although sometimes they will send a picture of the final product via the internet.
• Certain themes even though they are popular may be difficult to license to some industries. These manufacturers already have artists that are licensing those themes and they are not looking for another. For instance, calendar manufactures already license art from certain artists year-after-year for country, song birds, cats, roosters, wine and coastal themes. Until those artists can no longer produce enough art (normally 12 - 13 images per calendar), other artists will not be able to get a deal with them.
• "10, oops, 17, Things You Need to Learn to Make It in Art Licensing" by licensing art agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios.
• "Editorial: Art Licensing Myths" - Myth #1: License your art so you do not have to work so hard, Myth #2: License your art if you are broke and need money. Myth #3: Any art can be licensed. Myth #4: One design can be licensed for ALL products. Myth #5: An artist will get many licensing deals by signing with an agency. Myth #6: Licensing revenue is always from royalties.
• "Editorial: Art Licensing Myths continued (myth #7 to #12)" Myth #7: An artist must have an agent or manufacturer sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before showing art. Myth #8: Agents not only manage the business part of licensing but track trends, guide the artist in what art to create, and critics it. Myth #9: There is a manufacturer art size and file format standard. Myth #10: There is a standard time of the year for submitting art to manufacturers. Myth #11: Manufacturers prefer to license art from agents than from individual artists. Myth #12: Participating in manufacturers call-for-submissions (cattle-calls) is a waste of time.
• "Editorial: Art Licensing Myths continued (myth #13 to #18)" Myth #13: You are not infringing on the copyright if you change someone's art 5, 10, or 20%. Myth #14: Any free clip art and fonts found on internet websites can be used in art and not infringe on the copyright. Myth #15: Art licensing agencies always contact the artist when she/he submits art for representation. Myth #16: A good way to get a licensing deal is to send out e-mail blasts. Myth: #17 A manufacturer keeps producing product with the same art if it sells well. Myth: #18 You only need to follow-up once after contacting a manufacturer.
I have never worked harder in my life than licensing my art. It can be a frustrating business but it is so worth it when product samples arrive with my art on it, I see my art on products in stores, and the quarterly licensing revenue arrives.
Perhaps art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield's Fine Art Licensing states it best with "I came away from this article with the understanding that what Joan is essentially saying to artists is that they should enter art licensing with their eyes wide open, expecting the best but not being dismayed when things don't work out the way they should. And not giving up when one runs into the inevitable bumps in the road."
Make sure that you read the comments about this article. Readers have share some useful information!!!
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