Call me when you have something

There has been a bit of a brouhaha bubbling on Linked In over a posting by a UK-based wanna-be licensee. Seems he claimed to have a hot new product, POD (print on demand) decorated audio speakers, and that they were a featured product at the last Pulse products show. Apparently no one can verify that. He claims to have an exclusive license for the product for the UK and Europe (like to see that…) but when you look at the website it appears they import little speakers, like dozens of others do, and it has every indication of being a start-up operation.  Of course there are hundreds of these already available on Zazzle.
So why do we care? There are over 140 responses to this fishing expedition and it’s still growing, however some of them are starting to smell a rat and have begun to question the legitimacy of the request.  Unfortunately this is another example of one of the downsides of our technological revolution – that anybody can jump into art licensing, qualified or not – but remember it is now true on EITHER side of the fence. We are approached all the time at the shows and off the web by people with great plans who are interested in licensing some art, even if they don’t quite know what that means yet. Of course ya never know, so we will always talk to them, gather some information and then do the research, but 9 times out of 10 that’s where it ends. We have a long standing rule at our company – we don’t work with start ups. No website, no history – sorry, no contract. It may sound a bit arbitrary but the fact remains that with start up companies you rarely get paid.
Yes, everybody has to start somewhere, and yes, every rule is made to be broken, but consider my advice before jumping in and you will save yourself a lot of grief:
No history, no website, no product yet – no thanks.

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?

Hey – what if…

Interesting review today by Matthew May of the Derek Sivers book Anything You Want: 40 Lessons For a New Kind of Entreprenuer. You can read it here. It’s a little book with a big message, one that breaks out of the usual step by step, follow your biz plan type of advice. 
One of my favorite highlights from May:
Switch if it’s not a hit
 If everyone is shouting for more—”I need this! I’d be happy to pay you for this!”—you’re probably on to something, and you should do it. If it’s anything less, don’t pursue it. Don’t waste your time banging on locked doors and fighting uphill battles. Innovate until you get the massive response. “Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.”
Read that several times, and then highlight (it’ll wash off your screen) the sentence “Innovate until you get the massive response”.
This is pretty much what it’s all about now in art licensing. Treat your portfolio as an idea book, not your finished product. We call them the start of the conversation – we love it when a client studies a design and muses “what if…” or “how could we…”. I can’t tell you how many sketches are made in the margins as we discuss alternatives, then finished up and fired off to them afterwards. Its fun, its fast and the idea may or may not work – but that’s OK because we’ve got a million more…