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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Art Licensing Editorial: Why Agencies Won't Represent an Artist

Finding an art licensing agent to represent you is NOT always easy! The competition is stiff because more and more artists are entering the licensing industry each year. It is not known the number of artists interested in licensing their work but an indication is the number of members that belong to the business social network LinkedIn's Art of Licensing group (AOLG). It has over 5400 members and growing. More than 600 new members has joined since the beginning of the year. Probably half of the AOLG members are artists and many are looking for representation.

Because of the interest in being represented, agencies are swamped with submissions from artists. Some agencies meet periodically to review submissions while others make decisions when they have the time. And lack of time seems to be the reason why many agents do not reply to requests for representation if they are NOT interested. Unfortunately, most submissions go into a "black hole" and artists do not get a response from an agency.

So why won't agencies represent artists? Below are discussions on some of the reasons.

• Art not good enough
What is considered good art is subjective depending on each persons point of view. And good art in the art licensing industry could depend on the art style, the colors, or the subjects (themes) or all three. When agents are contemplating artists work, they are looking for art that is licensable and will appeal to their list of clients (manufacturers). Each agency has their own list and the type of art the client wants depend on the retail stores they sell their products to. By looking at the art on each agency website, an artist can get an indication on the type of clients the agency is focusing on. For instance, if the art is mostly fine art the agency is probably focusing on manufacturers in the art print and home décor industries and maybe the jig-saw puzzle industry. And if the agency website shows art with a variety of styles and themes then they have a broad list of clients and are looking for art that appeals to a multitude of industries. Do not waste your time or theirs in submitting art for representation that does not meet the needs of the agency.

Not matter the style of the art, it must have a good composition and pleasing color combinations. If the art does not, it probably will not appeal to most consumers and is not licensable to the mass market. For information about art composition, read "Creating Licensable Art: Composition Tips." And read, "Editorial: Not all art is licensable" for more information about licensable art.

Because there are so many artists asking for representation, agents have the choice in selecting only the very best. Therefore, artists may not be able to hire an agent if they do not have exceptional art. Agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios states ". . . "good" doesn't cut it in this business anymore – it may get you a few small licenses but it is not likely to get you representation." Read Jim's article "Get Out of the Middle" to read more.

• Not enough art
Artists may be lucky to find an agency that is willing to represent them if they have only 25 or 30 exceptional images. But most agencies want at least 80 to 100 images that can be arranged into collections of art. A few agencies will not consider representing an artist unless she/he has over 400 images. Note: Many artists start out representing themselves until they have enough art to ask an agency for representation.

• Wrong themes
Many artists create art themes that they love but may not be what consumers seek. In the U.S. most consumers are interested in American themes such as seashells, snowmen, butterflies, birds, cats, and flowers. Artists submitting art with European or Asian motifs are not likely to get representation with a U.S. agency. Likewise, in America it is easier to license colorful art than black and white sketches and motifs. Although some product lines like tabletop have been successful with simple B&W decorative designs and also sketches. But most of these designs were created by in-house designers or purchased instead of being licensed. Artists that create B&W art and themes that are popular in Europe and Asia may have a better chance in getting representation in those countries than in the United States.

• Not enough themes
If artists create only a few themes they may not be able to find representation. Most agents are looking for artists work with a variety of themes such as floral, butterflies, coastal, inspirational, patriotic, animals, and various holidays including the most important one "Christmas" to optimize licensing opportunities.

• Doesn't know how to convert to digital files

If an artist does not know how to scan art into a computer and manipulate it in Adobe Photoshop, she/he is at a real disadvantage if they wish to license their art. Original art is no longer sent to manufacturers when the art is licensed. Instead manufacturers demand that digital files be sent. Therefore, most agents expect artists that they represent to know how to create digital files of their art or hire someone to do it.

• Style is too similar or not similar enough
Some agencies do not represent artists with similar styles. They do not want to take licensing opportunities away from each artist they represent. But some agencies only represent artists with similar styles because their target clients want a certain look. Researching the various agency websites is the only way to figure out if the agency represents various art styles or similar and if your style fits their need.

• Wants artists with equity
Some agencies will only consider representing artists that are already known to the public such as the home décor designers on HGTV. Or, the artist made a name for herself / himself in an industry such as in quilting or scrapbooking. Or, the artist has a huge success with one manufacturer and the art translates to other products. Thankfully there are many agencies that do not require artists to have equity and will represent them if they have enough licensable art.

• Not seeking additional artists
Some agencies are limiting the number of artists they represent and are not seeking new ones. But if they find one with exceptional licensable art they may decide to represent her/him.

There is no short cut in finding an art licensing agency for representation. Since every artist has a different art style(s) and representation needs, she/he is the one that should do the research in looking at agency websites. And that can take a hours but must be done to find the optimum agencies for submitting art for representation. Read "Questions Answered about Art Licensing Agencies" to find out more about agencies. To find website links to U.S. agencies read "List of Over 50 U.S. Art Licensing Agencies," and to some non U.S. agencies read "List of Non U.S. Art Licensing Agencies." Good luck!

Comments are welcomed. Enter them in the comment section below.

Make sure that you read the comments.  An interesting point was brought up about unfair contracts offered by some agents.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Questions Answered about Art Licensing Agencies

Artists often ask if they need an agent to license their art, what does an agent do, what does an agent look for in an artist's work, what questions should an artist ask before choosing an agent, and what should they look for in a contract before signing on with an agency. Whether to hire an agent or not depends upon the artist's business skills and how much time they wish to spend contacting manufacturers, doing continual followups, negotiating deals, and managing contracts.

Below are links to articles by licensing experts stating their opinions and sharing their expertise about art licensing agencies. Use the information in the articles to make an educated decision on whether to hire an agent and hiring the right one if you decide to have an agency represent your work. To locate art licensing agencies, read "List of Over 50 U.S, Art Licensing Agencies".

Does an artist need an agent?
• "FAQ: Do I need an agent to succeed in art licensing?" by artist Tara Reed

• "5 Reasons Artists Need Art Licensing Agents" by artist Tara Reed

•"Artists - Do You Need an Art Agent?" by agent Maria Brophy for artist Drew Brophy

• "Artists or Agents? Tips by Susan January" interview of Vice President of Product Management Susan January from greeting card manufacturer Leanin' Tree by artist Kate Harper.

• "Interview with an Art Licensing Agent" interview of licensing director Julie Ager from Artistic Design Group (art licensing agency) by Artsy Shark

Questions to ask before choosing an agency
• "Questions to Ask Before Choosing An Art Licensing Agent" by agent Suzanne Cruise of Suzanne Cruise of Creative Service, Inc.

• "Interviewing Art Licensing Agents" by art licensing consultant Jeanette Smith of All Art Licensing

What does an agent do?
• "Agent Appreciation Day" by artist Jane Mayday.

• "Computer Technology Helps Art Licensing Agency" by agent Laurie High of V.P. Creative Connection, Inc.

What does an agent look for?
• "How to Become a Porterfield's Artist" by agent Lance Klass of Porterfields Fine Art Licensing

• "What does an agent look for? Advice from Jim Marcotte" interview of agent Jim Marcotte from Two Town Studios by artist Kate Harper.

What to look for in an artist/agency agreement?
• "The Artist - Agent Relationship" by attorney Joshua Kaufman

Comments are welcomed. Enter them in the below comment section.