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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Art Licensing Editorial: Why some artists are EXTREMELY successful in licensing their art.

Many artists are successful in licensing some of their art but most do not make a living doing it no matter how outstanding the art.  The lower revenue that artists now earn than what was earned ten years ago is due to various reasons such as,
1.The increase of competition among artists in getting deals from manufacturers as more artists join the art licensing industry makes it harder to license art. There are now thousands of artists licensing their work while ten years ago there were only hundreds. To compete with other artists in getting deals, artists now need to create loads of art to submit to manufacturers for possible licensing consideration.  And, most likely only a small fraction of the art will be licensed.

2. The increase of manufacturers that license art in some product industries such as decorative flags has increased the number of images that is available for consumers to purchase.  Thus, the number of each image sold is less, which results in less revenue earned.

3. Even though there are now many Internet retail stores, the number of Mom-and-Pop retail stores has decreased. Mom-and-Pop stores sell a lot of gift products, which is the mainstay in the art licensing industry.  Thus, there are now not as many stores that sell products with licensed art on them.

4. In the last eight or so years there has been a change in consumer buying. Consumers constantly ask for new products resulting in shorter product shelf life in retail stores. Because the products are not available as long, less is sold which causes lower revenue earned.

Even though it is more difficult to license art there are still artists that do make a living licensing their art. And, there are some artists that not only make a living licensing their art but also earn an EXTREMELY large amount of revenue.  WHY???  What do these artists do that makes their art sell more products and earn them more revenue than the majority of artists in the art licensing industry?  Below is a discussion on some of the reasons.

Note: Only a few artists that are extremely successful in licensing their art are mentioned in this article. There are many more!  At the bottom of this post are links to articles about a few of the artists mentioned in this post.

Extremely Successful Artists
Artists including illustrators, carvers, and sculptors that are extremely successful have been licensing their art for many years and are affiliated with many manufacturers that license their art year-after-year.  Manufacturers find that their products sell extremely well with these artists art on them.  Most but not all of these very successful artists have distinctive art that is very unique and emit an emotional response* that a person can relate to. Jody Bergsma, Mary Engelbreit, Susan Lordi’s "Willow Tree®” brand, Jim Shore’s “Heartwood Creek®”brand, and Suzy Spafford’s "Suzy’s Zoo®, Little Suzy’s Zoo®, Wags And Whiskers®” brands are examples of these artists.   Since the art is very recognizable and loved by consumers, it is not surprising that these artists have large followings and their art sells a huge amount of products.

* Emotional response when viewing art is when a person thinks that the art is cute, beautiful, clever, humorous, etc.

Most of these artist's are so busy creating art that they have hired help to take over the [1] book work, [2] make sure contracts are fair, are signed and returned, [3] track the art that has been submitted for licensing consideration and has been licensed, [4] make sure that quarterly reports and revenue are received, etc.

Some artists (example: Susan Winget) partner with topnotch art licensing agencies that have connections with a large number of manufacturers and are very successful in getting deals for their artists work.  Other artists represent themselves or have in-house agents to license their art. And some artists (example: Jody Bergsma) not only represent themselves or have in-house agents but also purchase and sell their art on products made to their specifications.

- Manufacturers
Artists that license their art to manufacturers that have a large distribution earn more than manufacturers that have less because more products are sold.  Examples of artists that license their art to these manufacturers are Susan Lordi and Jim Shore. Susan’s spiritual and family sculptures are licensed with Demdaco who manufacture a large variety of products for gifts, home décor, entertaining, fashion, baby, holiday, and outdoors.  Jim’s decorative carvings are licensed with Enesco who manufactures a large variety of products for giftware, home and garden décor industries.  Through Enesco, Jim also has partnered with Disney, Peanuts, Coca-Cola, Dr. Suess, and The Grinch to create collections of decorative carvings to their specifications. Partnering with these profoundly popular character and corporate brands is VERY lucrative.

Another way for artists to increase revenue in licensing art is to partner with retail chain stores like Susan Winget has done.  Susan has a Studio Shop with a huge variety of her art on all kinds of products in every one of Jo-Ann Fabric 850+ stores.  View the video “Susan Winget Studio Shop in Jo-Anne Fabric & Craft Stores”.  Note:  Retail chain stores have their own preferred vendors that manufacture products with artist’s art.

In 2017, the Walt Disney Company earned $53 billion in global retail sales of licensed products. This includes products and games across Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI), Studio Entertainment, ABC Television and ESPN. Read an inspiring article "How to be a Disney Artist” by artist Rob Kaz.

 - Marketing and Branding Art
Extremely successful artists market their art and themselves [1] to gain recognition and build their brand to keep consumers interested in purchasing products with their art on them.  There are many ways to gain recognition such as licensing art for products, have a website and blog, advertise in art trade magazines, write press releases, exhibit at trade shows, show art on social media sites (blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and videos [2]), and participate in demonstrations and artist signings at trade shows and at retail stores [3].

Besides using the staid-and-true methods of marketing art to gain visibility some artists’ market outside-the-box.  In other words, they gain visibility by doing something totally unexpected as illustrator Johanna Basford did when she decided that she wanted to license her illustrations for United Kingdom Starbuck cups.  Johanna bombarded Starbucks with her art on their cups.  Read "Art Licensing: Marketing Art Outside-the-box” about Johanna's amazing journey on how she succeeded in becoming a Starbuck illustrator not for cups but for wallpaper.

[1] In the past, it was believed that only art needs to be marketed but now branding experts believe that the best way to optimize brand recognition is to not only market the art but also market the artist.  The reason is because consumers feel a connection with a person (artist) and that enhances the wish to purchase products with the artist's art on it.  Read marketing expert Linda Mariano’s article “Brand Building with Marketing That Really Counts” to find out how to market yourself.  Also read, "Art Licensing: Achieving Brand Recognition - both art & artist”.

[2] As an example of using youtube .com to gain recognition, view the video "How to Paint a Hummingbird by Jody Bergsma”.

[3] Artist signings are when the manufacturer supply the product with the artist's art on it and the artist signs their name on the product.

• Summary
Extremely successful artists usually have a very unique art style that is easily recognizable. But, not all these artists create art that is so unique that it is “easily” recognizable.  For instance, Susan Winget is extremely successful but her art even though recognizable by consumers that follow her is not unique enough to stand out from other artist’s work that has a similar art style.  However, that does not prevent these artists from being extremely successful. Artists that are prolific and creates an emotional response with their art like Susan’s has an enormous appeal to consumers.

Extremely successful artists license their art to manufacturers that have large distribution of products and thus they earn large revenue. These artists are good at marketing their art and entice consumers to purchase products with their art on them.

It takes years to build brands and generate relationships with manufacturers.  So artists who wish to become successful in licensing their art needs to work hard and not give up. Examples of artists that have worked very hard and are on their way to becoming extremely successful are Patti Gay and her son Noah’s “Two Can Art” brand, Suzy Toronto “Wacky Women” brand, and watercolor artist Lisa Audit.  Patti and Noah’s art is licensed with various manufacturers including Paperproducts Design who is a leading supplier of tabletop paper goods and other home décor products to thousands of upscale retail stores. Suzy has an e-store and licenses her art with various manufacturers including Enesco who sell coffee mugs, photo frames and wall décor with her art on them.  Lisa’s art is licensed with various manufacturers including Kay Dee Designs, Counter Art, Certified International, Cala Home, and Legacy.  At the 2018 January Atlanta Gift Show, Lisa did signings at all five of these major manufacturers.  Note: There are a lot of artist signings at the Atlanta shows but it is unusual for one artist to do that many signings at a show.

For more information about licensing art, read “Art Licensing Editorial: Is There a Formula to Successfully License Art?

• Resources
Below are inspirational articles about a few very successful artists.

Illustrator Johanna Basford - "Art Licensing: Illustrator Johanna Basford's Success in Marketing Art Outside-the-box"

Artist Mary Engelbreit - "Art Licensing: Mary Engelbreit's Amazing and Continued Licensing Success!"

Sculptor Susan Lordi - "Art Licensing Editorial: What Makes the Willow Tree® Brand Such a Success?

Artist Susan Winget - "Editorial: An Art Licensing Winning Team: Susan Winget Art Studio"

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