Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mine and mine alone...

Kind of interesting that in the last three days we have had two clients inform us (pretty much how it went, not much room to “discuss”…) as we executed contracts that they are no longer willing to print the artist’s name as part of the copyright notice on their products. Both are doing it to protect their art sources – meaning “we don’t want our competitors raiding our licensed talent”. They are both national leaders in their categories, so yes, we are going along with it. About all I can say is…really? Is designer poaching that big of a problem out there?

We have seen variations of this “protection” previously, occasionally agreements have been executed stating that the artist will not do any work for a direct competitor during the term of a license agreement (sometimes even naming the  competitor) but this is new twist.  Flag companies and some of the smaller fabric companies have long wanted exclusive artists, and in fact one of the biggest suppliers recently announced they will only work with artists who are exclusive to them from this point forward.
I can’t wrap my head around whether all this is part of something larger that’s brewing, and what that would mean, or just a few loosely connected coincidences. On the retail side it’s no news that design exclusivity is all the rage but I don’t see how that filters backwards…yet.

Any similar experiences out there?


  1. Interestingly, the big supplier of which you speak offered not one single thing to make being "exclusive" to them appealing. Not a higher royalty, not a guarantee that they'd pick up a certain amount of designs - if any ever again - per release.... So why would an artist agree to this? It felt a little like bullying to me. Like they want all the toys in their box so that nobody else can have them - whether they deiced to play with them or not. Am I wrong to feel that way or am I missing something....?

  2. Hi Beej,
    I know they have rec'd a bit of flak about it and it is a touchy subject over there, but so far I haven't heard anything different so I assume they will be staying with the policy. There is a lesson here too, one we all learned years ago on the playground - that the big kids don't always play nice...

  3. "Protecting their sources" is
    #1, unrealistic in this day and age
    #2 nothing but a power play
    #3 not good for the artist's business

    Exclusivity went out of fashion over ten years ago, right? Why? because it was not longer a financial advantage to the licensing company to commit money and collections to any particular artist. They found they could get all the great art they wanted with no strings attached.

    The flag company in question must be feeling threatened by their competitors. My guess is their venerability has more to do with their dysfunctional corporate culture which makes them (IMO) almost impossible to communicate with and which is not particularly artist friendly.

    Regardless, in the short, rather than the long run, it's another step towards that ol 'slippery slope' for artist and agents both.

    We all have to be willing to say no and walk away from the deal sometimes. This is, and has been a reason I've had to say no when confronted with this situation. My name on my client's products is what gets me more business and it's inclusion is not negotiable.

    The success of my business benefits my clients as well as myself. It's got to be a 50-50 partnership and it's got to be fun, or what's the point?
    : >)

  4. Very interesting topic here - I tend to agree with Martha but maybe in some situations it's best what you have done Jim :). In my view, it all depends ...