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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Art Licensing: Consultant Jeff Grinspan's Perspective on Surtex 2012

The following article by licensing consultant Jeff Grinspan discusses his observations of the 2012 Surtex show and conferences, the value in exhibiting, and tips on what to do after the show. Jeff's company, Grinspan & Co. specializes in consulting with artists and manufactures on the business of art licensing. His over 20 years in the art licensing business includes 13 years at Sakura (dinnerware and tabletop division of Oneida Ltd.) as VP of Licensing and Design, licensing director for Wild Apple Graphics, and for the last six years the responsibility in producing the Surtex conferences.

SURTEX Post show Buzz…and then some
by Jeff Grinspan
Grinspan & Co.

Admittedly, the SURTEX show is a vital sales and marketing component for any and all artists interested in licensing their art. The post show Linked-In trail grows by the second, it seems. So here are a few take-away thoughts and some additional comments from the inside looking out…

1. Yes and No
With so much invested in the show (preparation of art, display materials, booth, hotel, airfare, meals, comfortable shoes, hand-outs, ipad portfolio uploads just to name a few) it's hard NOT to expect so much in return. The show is important- so YES.. you need to view it as a part of your overall marketing strategy. But, try not to get bogged down in numbers of visitors or immediate ROI (Return on Investment) This process is a 2-3 year cycle.. so NO, you can't evaluate your success on how you did at the show by head count... especially when filtered by the posts of others.. Remember, your art is unique.. so the buzz (or lack of) from others may apply to their work.. not yours..

2. Quality counts
While not the same mathematical value of dog years to human years, there are prospective licensees who are big companies, who rely heavily on licensed art, who don't exaggerate, who move lots of product and in turn generate nice royalties. So keep the quality of your leads in mind when you try and respond to everyone who walked into your booth and wanted every image emailed to them in 24 hours.

3. A creative mind is a terrible thing to waste..
The conference program speaker roster was cram packed with industry professionals who graciously shared their insights, experience and advice. Several blogs have already summarized the salient content of many of the seminars. Knowledge is valuable.. so digest and learn. There were two topics addressed that remain debatable. Should I use an agent or not? Should I try to establish myself as a brand or not? We've covered them in years past but they remain issues that each individual artist has to resolve. But there is one overriding conclusion regardless of which side of the fence you come down on- GREAT art sells… so concentrate on fine tuning your art so it ends up GREAT. And your brand will follow, and whether you go it alone of want to find an agent, your GREAT art will lead the way..

4. New directions:
My opinion- the art displayed at the show this year was the most exciting, refreshing and dynamic in the last 6 years! Some have suggested this is a result of the economy picking up and retailers now willing to take some chances. Others claim that there is a 7 year cycle of art and we've just ended one cycle and ready for the next. Doesn't really matter, does it? See paragraph #3! The great news is that there's excitement back on the floor! It also means we're energized to come up with some new ideas for next year's seminars.. so stay tuned.

5. Leads..
Long after the discussion about traffic, window shopping, booth location, serious buyers fade into the night.. the names and titles and addresses and phone numbers you collected at the show need to be nurtured.. You can't just assume you'll get a contract just because someone came into your both or even raved about how fantastic your art was. You need to continue to develop market intelligence by developing a relationship with your leads ...

and not give up until you actually hear "Please do not call/email/send me anything else because ____________" If you don't get some kind of response in a reasonable amount of time, then move on. If your art is worthwhile, believe me, you will hear from them.

Trade shows - despite the relatively high cost of participation, remain the single most effective way to reach loads of interested prospects in one place, at one time.

The value of SURTEX (or any appropriate trade show) goes beyond head count.

Want to hear more on what Jeff Grinspan has to say about art licensing? He is giving a free "Ask About Art Licensing" teleconference with Tara Reed on 7/18/12. Signup at and ask him a question if you wish. Also get a free replay of Jeff's 9/21/11 teleconference from Ask about Art Licensing.

I welcome any comments. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. Thank you for your comments Jeff - I agree with you on several points, especially the ones regarding the quality of the art and the exciting, refreshing and dynamic artwork displayed at the show, an amazing amount of talent! It was so electric in my view and made Surtex even more likable :) And your point # 1 is so well said! ~ Alex

  2. Thanks Jeff. Your efforts in the conferences at Surtex are always the best. Paul

  3. Jeff, you bring a refreshing amount of logic and good business sense to the industry. Your thoughts here represent some of my own gut instincts and also give me new perspective. I hope to meet you in person at SURTEX next year.

  4. You are so on the dot Jeff! Thank you for all the fabulous insight on this show. I too hope to meet you next year, best regards! and also many thanks to you Joan for having this space :-)

  5. Words of wisdom! Thank you Jeff for all you do in this industry. For artists seeking consultation, Jeff is thorough, realistic, and encouraging - one of my best moves in licensing.