Readers of this blog know that I talk a lot about how online technology has, and continues to, change the art licensing industry. There is an interesting confluence of defining factors right now, and I try not to spend an inordinate amount of time pondering this but it does bear closer inspection.
1. The entry gate has been propped open by the net. Anyone with a computer can attempt to market their art (regardless of whether it is appropriate for licensing) to potential licensees without the traditional filters such as high overhead and/or agent representation.
2. A cottage industry selling how-to information about art licensing has popped up and is driving more competition into the field, but again w/o any filters. Some of the art is good, some very good, but unfortunately most is similar to what happens when you hand a ten year old a set of tools and ask him to fix your car – its just not going to work.
3. At the same time, the economy has tanked and the market of available outlets for all these new art licensors has contracted – the number of licensees, the amount of product produced and the time products are on market are all under pressure.
4. The “improvement cycle” has reached the speed of light (or let’s say fiber optic) as access to all this new art is instantaneous and worldwide. Chris Anderson of TED talks about how this works with video, but it applies equally to our business. New ideas, techniques, colorways, perspectives etc. are all immediately disseminated to artists everywhere and instantly improved upon – meaning that you need to continually be really good AND really creative to stay in front of the competition for more than a few minutes. It’s called “crowd accelerated innovation” and it is rocking our world.
So, when you throw all these together into the stew, what do we have? What is your reaction? A colleague of ours thinks Time magazine should run the cover story “Is Art Licensing Dead?” but I maintain that may be a bit extreme. Art licensing is still very alive and running fast, but the trick will be figuring out what direction.
Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: “The future ain’t what it used to be”.