Now What?

I just received a really cool new set of designs from one of our artists, something that I had not seen before – she took a whimsical … wait a minute, I can’t tell you because it IS new and fresh. Several client names immediately popped into my head who are candidates for this, so as I am planning to send it out I am thinking “what can she do next”…
We launched a new property called Life Is Country™ and the licenses are continuing to stack up nicely. We had just made a great deal for an apparel line and were having a celebratory glass of wine on the lanai when we caught ourselves talking about Now What… as in which of our artists has the next big thing ready to launch? Seriously, it’s what we do (some people might suggest that’s a lack of focus but what do they know).
A fine artist may spend months on a painting getting every highlight and every brushstroke just right, but in our business you will be hurrying to finish a set of (cards – ornaments – figurines – tableware – take your pick…) so you can get to work sketching on that new set of (cards – ornaments – figurines – tableware) that you were thinking about while working on the previous ones. Not you? It’s the nature of the art licensing biz, and to make a career of it you will need to be thinking several steps ahead. I know successful artists in this field that plan their year in advance with lists of categories and products they intend to work on, and then methodically work down the list in between client requests. They always have an answer for Now What (and a portfolio full of new art).
The forums are active with people asking questions about Surtex and what they should be doing, how they should be setting up this or that. Sure, it’s an exciting time getting prepared, but I can guarantee you that most of the experienced people in this business have left Surtex planning in the dust already, they might be tying up a few logistical loose ends but most are looking far past it and thinking Now What…
So what are you going to do next?

A Map in the Sand

If you do much reading about business trends and what is going on in that world today you will soon notice that there is a relentless drumbeat for people to throw off the corporate shackles and try their hand at “Entrepreneurship”. With a capitol “E”. I am, of course, all for it but in some ways it is kind of amusing – sort of reminds me of Art Licensing with all the coaches, endless articles and forums, groups and advice, even business founder match-up services….and it is all on the upswing. 
But I digress. I read an article today called “The Worst Businesses to Start This Year”, you can read it here. It is not exactly an in-depth examination but does have great examples of a few changes in the world of commerce that should get you thinking. What happened to these industries? Who saw the changes coming and managed to find a way to disrupt the status quo, or at least profit from it? What will be the next established industries to undergo upheaval?
In addition to the listed categories, I would add a few additional ones that are a bit closer to what we do. Given the changes in our world I think these also could be bad choices for a new endeavor:
Graphic design firm
Scrapbooking store
Web design company
News-stand or Bookstore
Print and copy shop
Any more to add? Where does art licensing fit in with this? What do you think?

Just DON’T Do It

There was an interesting story this morning on NPR about a lawsuit filed by Ray Teller of the Penn and Teller magic duo. He had registered the copyright for a magic trick (called Shadows) back in 1983, however another magician has misappropriated the secret and is not only using it on stage but offering to sell the secret of the trick to anyone willing to pay 3,000 dollars. Teller has filed a suit in US federal court to stop him.
Apparently even magicians can’t make copyright thieves disappear…
Counterfeiting has increased 10,000 percent in the last 20 years, roughly along the same timeline as the rise of both the internet and overseas manufacturing. Some shocking figures about counterfeit products from the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (
–  Since 1982, the global trade in illegitimate goods has increased from $5.5 billion to approximately $600 billion annually.
–  Approximately 5%-7% of the world trade is in counterfeit goods.
–  Counterfeit products cost U.S. businesses $200 billion to $250 billion annually.
–  U.S. companies suffer $9 billion in trade losses due to international copyright (IP) piracy.
–  Counterfeit merchandise is directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs.
– The Food and Drug Administration estimates that counterfeit drugs account for 10% of all drugs sold in the United States.
– The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 2% of the 26 million airline parts installed each year are counterfeit, which equals approximately 520,000 parts.
– Hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide are known to have resulted from the use of counterfeit drugs, however the actual number may be many times that.
How is it possible that the counterfeit trade is heading toward a trillion dollars? Unfortunately the answer is relatively simple – demand. Consumers want cheaper goods, suppliers are willing to cut corners and all are willing to turn a blind eye to the problems that they are responsible for creating when they deal in counterfeits. Everyone laments the rampant copyright theft in today’s world but then they knowingly buy knock off purses, fake Rolexes and download music without paying for it. Every purchase or download perpetuates the problem. 
It may seem like an insurmountable problem but every person can do their part. We decided long ago not to participate – we do not buy knock-offs or bootlegs, we do not download music that we did not pay for, we do not swap tunes with our friends and we do not understand how anyone who is in, or wants to be in, a business like licensing can justify doing it either. Our personal refusal may not stop that factory owner from stealing more designs, but someday everybody’s might…

The Good Oops

She may as well have told me I had a third head. “You have a serious case of pneumonia” is what she said. Really? Pneumonia? Who gets pneumonia? That’s what mothers use to scare their children, as in “you’ll catch pneumonia if you go out without a jacket”.  It’s the scourge of elderly people and nursing homes. I had just spent the last 4 days alternately shaking with chills or burning up with fever (8000 feet up the mountain in a walk-out ski condo…sigh…so much for my Spring skiing) and it continued when I got back home. We thought it was the flu. Oops, big Mistake.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” -Albert Einstein
That was NOT the type of new I would recommend, however things are on the mend now, thank you. It got me thinking about mistakes, however. There’s an old proverb that states if you don’t make mistakes you don’t make anything, and believe me I’ve made some doosies in my time (I think I hear my accountant hooting with laughter…). Studies have long shown that “active learning”, more commonly called trial and error, is a far more powerful tool than learning by rote, and information learned that way is retained much longer as well.  Changing your mindset about making mistakes can be of great benefit – try to look forward to what you will learn from them, and recognize that the fear of making one may be paralyzing you into inaction. Waiting until you have your collection, portfolio or story absolutely perfect before sharing it may hold you back more than you can imagine.
One of the few guarantees in art licensing is this: very often the person you send or show your portfolio to will not be interested/won’t like/has no use for/ your absolutely perfect designs. This is why in many ways it’s a numbers game. We send out hundreds of designs to targeted clients and the “hit” percentage is in single digits. We have put together large presentations of art (by request), uploaded them into our YouSendIt account and later see that they never downloaded them. It’s the nature of the biz. I am NOT suggesting you forgo doing quality work in order to shovel more onto the market, but you need to find that balance between “striving for perfect” and “good enough to send”.  Clean up your work, dump the deadwood and get it in front of someone. Think you made a mistake? Good – now convert that information to your advantage, learn from it, build on it and get it out there again.
What did you goof up today?