Friday, March 9, 2012

Get Out of the Middle

Most people in this industry don’t know that in a previous life I was a boat dealer and yacht broker. I owned and operated a multi-location brokerage that sold both new and used vessels; we handled a number of high end lines over the years, and yes, occasionally I do miss it. In the world of boats there are literally hundreds of boat manufacturers, and it can be very confusing trying to sort out who makes a quality boat, an exceptional boat or - most important when you are 20 miles offshore - a crap boat. It is difficult because the lines are blurred between the great majority of the manufacturers when it comes to quality; there are a handful of exceptional builders, a very few crap ones, and a whole bunch of builders in the middle turning out a decent product that could be characterized as a good boat. The bar is set pretty high when it comes to “average” in the marine industry.

I tell you this because the thought struck me the other day that there is a sort of parallel situation when it comes to licensing artists and particularly the artist/agent question.

There are a large number of artists out there looking for agents, and many are having a hard time of it. We usually get several inquiries a week but the pace seems to have ramped up as of late, and now it’s not unusual to get more than one in a day. We try to answer them, and when we can would prefer to craft an answer that goes beyond a simple “no”, but that takes time that we don’t have, so unfortunately we can’t always respond.

But back to our analogy. We see a lot of submissions from a lot of artists, and this is how it plays out: there are a few exceptional ones, a surprisingly large number of crap ones, and a whole bunch that are stuck in the middle doing work that could be characterized as good. Of course the problem is that “good” doesn’t cut it in this business anymore – it may get you a few small licenses but it is not likely to get you representation. The conversation goes something like “Hey, look at this / So what would we do with them? / I don’t know, could maybe get a couple of licenses for cards-bags-other paper stuff… / Yeah, probably not much more, too bad.”

This is where the difficulty lies for so many of the artists seeking representation - even if they have decent art skills. Every successful agent already has the ability to pick off the “low hanging fruit”, all those quick and easy projects that come up every day, so we don’t need another person whose work is “good enough” to do that. We want to open that email or portfolio, see something so new and so fresh that we would say “Wow, come look at this!” and immediately start talking about what products it could work for, what clients would like it and how much fun it will be bringing it to the market. That is where you want to be, but of course the frustrating part is that no one can tell you how to get there, you will need to discover that path for yourself.

Oh, and along the way, don’t forget the next question is still “so what would we do with it?”….   


  1. As always, we love to read your insightful posts! We're guessing you were a darn good yacht broker!

  2. looking at Cathy Hecks Comment date, is anybody reading this, its enough to find an agent, well drop a note if anybody is still commenting,

    Tom Kelly