– Michael Kors on Project Runway
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.
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.
Their morning will start more like this:
And so their day goes.
One comment we heard often at both the Dallas and Atlanta markets was that the licensees had not even looked at the art they obtained from Surtex. They were still putting the 2014 product release to bed, or final touches on the new catalog, or just hadn’t had time, and so on… but they hoped to get to it sometime soon.
|Trade Mart entry (World Trade Center is poking up on the right)|
|Ellen Krans at Burton&Burton|
|Life Is Country® at Big Sky Carvers/Demdaco|
|Ronnie Walter at Carson’s|