Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who’s Is That Behind the Curtain?

Periodically somebody in an art licensing forum will ask for some “manufacturers” to post their opinion on some subject. Fair question, but there is never a response for a couple reasons: there’s only a handful of licensees paying any attention to the groups, and most of those that do will never expose themselves because of the flood of inquiries that will follow.  I’d say most licensees are bewildered by all the social hoopla surrounding art licensing because all they want is to source a component of their product at a fair price without a lot of hassle.

The “Artist” licensing community is very different from the “Art” licensing community. The first is an empowering peer group, unusually supportive, generally helpful and a uniquely wonderful aspect of this business. The second, well, actually the second isn’t a community at all, we just like to think that it is. The vast majority of your licensee clients will not know each other, in fact often don’t even know OF each other. A few exceptions do exist, such as people who have moved between companies or participate in trade organizations such as the GCA, but it’s a small number. Things are a tad different when you head into brand territory, not because they are exchanging information but because most brand activity is high profile and ultimately an effort to drive sales, hence they maintain an acute awareness of their competitors. But rest assured Disney is not giving licensing tips to Nickelodeon.

In the Artist community the focus tends to be on the artist’s vision and journey, but on the licensee side of the table it’s ultimately about cost, efficiency and product performance on the market, and this is where the wheels start to come off for some people. Don’t get caught up in assuming, and then expecting, that your interests match up perfectly to those of your licensees. While they may align well enough to make a saleable product (they better) many artists are dismayed to discover that ultimately the client’s focus is always on the outcome, which is to build, ship, and sell at a profit.

The “licensing out” business model can have many variations but that one constant - that licensees on the “licensing in” side will make decisions based on THEIR endgame – is always at the forefront. Opportunities will not be doled out in equal pieces like cake at a party, there’s nothing fair about how it works so don’t drink THAT Kool-Aid. No one has the “right” to be successful licensing their work, you only have the right to try - and the right to work smarter and harder to get more of that cake.

Mmmm - love me a big slice of angel food…

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