Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Say What?

One of the nice things about being in this business is that art licensing, for the most part, is not a cutthroat business. If you have ever spent much time in other commercial disciplines you know exactly what I am talking about, and also know how rare this is. Yes, you have competition and it is silly to give away all of your hard earned knowledge to your competitors, but most people in this biz are quick to share enough advice to at least keep someone from stepping into quicksand. This “refined attitude” also extends into our relationships with our clients, making our interaction truly cooperative rather than adversarial – unfortunately not a universal situation in other types of business either. This has allowed us to make many good friends in the industry, to the point where we look forward to the shows not only to do great business but also as a chance to hang out with our pals.

 So where am I going with this? Well, we spend a lot of time with our clients both at the shows and after the shows, and there is nothing like good spirited cocktail conversation to find out what is really happening out there. We were chatting one recent evening at dinner and one of our art directors made this surprising comment:

“All of us manufacturers read the questions and comments in the art licensing groups, follow the tweets and listen to what is being said out there. It’s part of our job. None of us will ever openly comment because of the flood of artist inquiries that would follow, but these artists need to realize that what they say and do could determine whether or not I will be interested in working with them.“ She went on to say that someone who rants and raves or makes snotty comments on a thread (about manufacturers…?) gets their attention, and that there are people they will never work with because, based on what they have seen, they already know it would be difficult.

It is difficult in this business to separate the personal from the professional in our lives, and that is particularly true for artists. The move to a 24-hour social media driven world has only exacerbated that problem, so one must be doubly aware that you are going to be accountable for everything you say – just look at the Olympic athletes that are being bounced out of the games for inappropriate comments. You can get bounced too, the only difference is you will never know it.

Remember what Mom said…”If you have nothing nice to say…”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tidbits 2012

We’re just back from 5 days in Atlanta, a good trip even if the market traffic was a little down. The summer markets are never as well attended as the January show, but our clients were telling us that traffic was off a little more than normal, although most seemed happy about the business they were writing.

Lots of great tidbits were being tossed about during the Surtex/Licensing/Atlanta show trifecta, and of course I miss most of them when we are busy but managed to snag these:

“We post submission guidelines on the website for a reason – and you’re not special. Use them.”
- a manufacturer complaining about artists who contact the art director directly to submit.

“I think this is all the arty stuff, there’s nothing for us here” 
– overheard in our section at the Licensing Expo.

“We used to get six or seven years out of a design, now we’re lucky if it lasts two.”
- a needlework manufacturer.

“It’s an awesome way to make a life. Every morning you wake up and the possibilities are endless.”
- in conversation with Billy the Artist.

“If I can take 12 pages out of my magazine advertising I save 50 grand – and a job.”
- a giftware manufacturer discussing their cutbacks over the last few years.

“You have to have the attitude of ‘Hey, let’s run this up the flagpole – and if it doesn’t work, well, here’s another one for you’…”
- agent discussing exhibiting at shows

“I have been in this business for 40 years and absolutely nothing is the same as it used to be.”
- paper goods manufacturer

“You have to have something relevant to say or you are wasting everybody’s time.” – in a discussion about artists and social media.

“How about you just do something original instead?” – a comment about all the Kelly Rae imitators.

“At the end of the day your responsibility is to make a product that sells.” - an agent re: art licenisng.

“You can have the most fabulous art style in the world, but you’re dead in the water if it doesn’t speak to people.” – an agent in the same discussion.

“I’m starting to think collage is the choice for people that don’t know how to draw.” – an agent commenting on all the copycat products at the market.

These two (phone conversations) were also overheard at our booth at the Licensing Expo:

“I’m in Vegas at a show and my wife is worried sick about the fish, can you go over and check on them for us?”

and… “If you’re calling to bitch I’m not having any of it today, so don’t bother!”

Amen to that.