Friday, December 20, 2013

Lessons from the Woods

Which of these scenarios sounds more appealing to you:

A close knit but wacky family living in the woods who love nature and hunting and share their goofy hijinks with the world;


An intolerant, bigoted group of extremely wealthy people who have amassed many thousands of acres which they use as a private game farm where they can enthusiastically slaughter animals because God gave them the right to do so?

It doesn’t take long to figure out which of those images an entertainment company would prefer (and I can only hope most people would too… which is of course what worries them).

The current hoopla over the suspension of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson mostly stems from the fact that Duck Dynasty, as most people know it, doesn’t really exist. It’s a manufactured product. And the company that owns that product has taken action against an employee who acted contrary to the interests of the product owners by making public statements that they believe will tarnish the image.

The boys prior to the show

When art meets commerce the rules change. And when you are compensated for the use of your art you take on certain responsibilities in exchange for that compensation. It isn’t about what’s fair, nor is it an infringement of anyone’s rights because you can always refuse to participate (as in “no, you can’t replace my turtle with a walrus”) – but if you decide to take the money you need to acknowledge what comes along with it. 

As the saying goes "The devil always arrives carrying cash".

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TV Time

We always have pads of paper and pen sitting on the coffee table (and every counter, nightstand, desk and more) and they get a lot of use in our house. One thing I can never resist is writing down memorable lines from whatever we happen to be watching on the tube (that's the beauty of On Demand, you can rerun it a few times). Here, in no particular order, are a few that have some relationship to our creative world…

“It turns into ‘just say your lines and then get off the stage’. It’s kinda sad.” – Dustin Hoffman on the reality of art as a business

“I didn’t have what they needed today, but I’m not done by any means.” – a rejected contestant on The Voice

“If you’re looking where everybody else is looking then you’re looking in the wrong place.” – Mark Cuban on Shark Tank

“She wants to know all the secrets in the How To Be Successful handbook, but sadly that book does not exist.” – Adam Levine on The Voice

“They are not right. They are exactly as I wanted them, but they’re not… it.” – Peggy on Mad Men about some design ideas

“The old business models are irrelevant. You need to find your place in this new market.” – a record producer on the series Nashville

“It’s not OK to just assume that everybody knows the right thing to do, because they don’t.” – from a CBS Good Morning story on internet plagiarism

“She is fitting into a pair of shoes that people have seen worn before.” – Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20) on The Voice about lack of originality

“Fashion will always be about balancing art and commerce.”
– Michael Kors on Project Runway

“If ten people insist you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle.”
– Jack Rosenblum

“No deal is always better than a bad deal.” – Mark Cuban on Shark Tank

“I had no way of knowing that there was madness in what I was doing.” – Sidney Poitier on becoming an actor without any experience

“Luck is only important as far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you've got to have talent and know how to use it.” – what Frank Sinatra said about luck

“You’ve got to look at how our business is now – you need to get visibility to make it and that’s really hard to come by.”  - from The Voice

“Whenever you feel you are pushing it (the design) into a place it doesn’t want to be, then pull back.”  -Tim Gund on pushing the envelope (Project Runway)

“There are two kinds of products – those that are revolutionary, and those that are like other things out there." - Lori Greiner on Shark Tank
“I didn’t make the rules, I just know them.” – a music producer on Chasing Nashville about the importance of image

“Everybody who walks into the Shark Tank is fully committed – but that’s not enough by itself.” – Mark Cuban

“Creative is not a science. It’s about design AND telling stories.” 
– from The Pitch 

Now, who said there's never anything good on television?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hey, Remember Me?

There have been some (shocking but actually not surprising) statistics floating around the net lately, reportedly from the National Sales Executive Association, that illustrate how important follow-up skills are to sales success:

48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts
2% of sales are made on the first contact
3% of sales are made on the second contact
5% of sales are made on the third contact
10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

These statistics don’t mesh very well with the fantasy of being discovered, an overnight success, or taking the industry by storm, because that’s exactly what those are – fantasies. 

Why do we care? Because success in art licensing requires selling, and successful selling requires action – targeted, repeated action that not only delivers your designs to the right people over and over again, but also allows you the opportunity to gather information at the same time. (Think: keep asking questions…). Many artists become frozen in place trying to learn everything about the industry, and while learning as much as possible can be part of a great plan it works best when coupled with activity. We are in a learn-on-the-fly business in no small part because what you are learning will change as the business evolves - there are few hard and fast rules left anymore for those making a living as a creative.

Another way to look at this is through the lens of relationship selling, or RS. One of my favorite commandments of RS is “the product is not the product”, meaning the relationship has to build first and THAT is the product you are working on. People buy from people they like and trust, and a sale is usually the outcome of building a relationship over time – hence the many contacts and the necessity of following up. Your clients have many suppliers to choose from and many variations of a theme will often work for them – but there is only one production slot. Artists say they don’t compete with each other because the art is all unique, but that can be a mistake because you ARE competing for every opportunity to place a design. You want to be the person they think of when they need to fill that spot, and one good way to stay top of mind is to keep working your follow up.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Not Only What Will It Be, But Where Did It Come From?

There has been some recent hoopla on the net regarding an artist who went public about several of her designs being copied (and it seems like they were) by a well known gift supplier. Any number of bloggers have posted their admiration and support for her bravery, and some big retailers actually cut ties with the gift supplier because of it. But there is a fly in the ointment – an art critic matched up the designs to several photographs widely available on the net, and they do match. Perfectly. And now people are researching her past work and matching some of that up to other photos…oops…

I am both amused and dismayed that so many artists who quickly ripped into the manufacturer have gone silent now that it has been revealed that the artist’s (un) original designs were traced, apparently without permission or attribution, from other people's photographs. The infringing manufacturer's position is indefensible, no question there - but so is that of an artist tracing copyrighted work and calling it their own. Nobody should get a pass here. And what of those other licensees with legitimate licensing agreements that are now looking at their product lines as potential infringements (against various photographers) and are waiting for the other shoe to drop? If it does those costs could be catastrophic.

There is no future in maintaining a "poor artists against the mean manufacturers" attitude, it will very quickly poison your relationships and ultimately your career. Here at Two Town we truly like the vast majority of the companies and people we work with and can count many good friends among them, and it seems I find myself advocating  consideration of the licensee side of things far too often because many artists automatically jump to the “manufacturers are bad” side of things. Yes, infringements do occur but the truth is you are way more likely to be ripped off by another artist than by a potential licensee.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and it's an unpalatable one - in this biz of art and product licensing sometimes it IS all about the money, and that fact will pop up on either side of the equation. It can lead to hard knocks for sure, but you can usually duck them if you stay original, do your research, write good contracts and use your smarts.