As I look back over the blog titles that did not see the light of day (yet), I am struck by how many of them resonate with the message that things have changed, that our biz is fundamentally different.
The End of Freelance, The Winner Loses (cattle calls), Is Art Licensing Dead?, What Now, Ten Things Your Licensing Coach Won’t Tell You…wow, enough of those, I’m even depressing myself.
So as I write this end of year blog, I am torn between A.) Happy Holidays and Have a Great New Year, and B.) This Is What We Saw and It Ain’t Pretty.
Well, you know me…
So as I sorted through the multitude of topics, game changers worthy of a year end blog – I discarded the faltering economy, because even though it has significant impact it really doesn’t matter, business is good in some places and bad in others – just like it always is. I passed on the digital revolution, because it is pretty much old news now. If you aren’t rolling with the new opportunities provided by our digital world then it’s time for you to take your ball and bat and go home…game over. The new rules of competition almost made it, but again – if you haven’t figured out how you will innovate enough to stand out from the thousands streaming into the world of art licensing, well, get on the bus to home with the ball and bat person previously mentioned. The relationship between supply and demand has fundamentally changed, and long term chronic oversupply is the new norm. So where does that leave us?
“Shut up and draw a picture already.”
It wasn’t me who said it...but I certainly could have. I came back full circle to the subject that started this blog, that subject being the art licensing coaches. Only now I can call it the Coaching Industry. Try searching “art licensing” and you will be confronted with line after line of how-to sites, fee and free both, looking to share expertise (regardless of whether they have it or not) about Art Licensing. The Google face of our little piece of the licensing world has been co-opted by merchants of opportunity who are selling the dream. I understand the people who are selling the programs, books, tools, etc. Many either don’t or can’t make any money licensing art, so they want your money and quite frankly most (not all) really don’t give a rip about whether you make any back. Trust me on this. But then there’s the no-fee crowd, where the Art of Licensing has been replaced by the Art of Talking About Licensing.
Artists who freely admit that they are new to licensing are writing books and teaching classes on how to license, how to exhibit, how to approach manufacturers or how to market yourself. Other newbies are chronicling their step by step journey into the business, posting interviews, promoting how-to articles and short-cut tricks about a business they have never worked in. Am I the only one who finds this ludicrous? (Actually, no need to answer that, I’ve heard…). Sometimes these announcements make us laugh out loud, and others are actually kind of sad because their art is just so…awful... and we can see they will never have a career in this business. I do get the camaraderie and social connection, mutual support and all the rest of it, but there is an unfortunate message being sent with regularity – that if you work hard enough at learning the business you will eventually succeed at it – and unless you have exceptional art skills that message is wrong. Among the disservices being done to new artists that may be the worst.
So here’s my best advice for your New Year resolution:
Quit planning. Stop talking, draw some pictures and get them in front of someone who may buy them. Ship, as Seth Godin says. Ready, Fire, Aim. Thumb your nose at the coaches and write the check to yourself. The best way to learn this business is to jump in and do business. You cannot steer when you are not moving. Learn and reinvent yourself as you go, just as the business of art licensing will continue to reinvent itself while you are doing it. You’re not ever going to be ready, so launch and hang on for the ride.
I was awarded this fortune after lunch today at our little local eatery – truly – and I hope it will come to pass for each and every one of you:
Happy New Year!