I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.
– Harun Yahya
So here we are – one day we woke up (in Dallas, TX, fyi) and the calendar has turned over to 2015, and if you’re like me you wonder how the hell that happened. Wow.
Our Word of the Year last year was “FOCUS”. And for the most part we did, starting with a hard look at our basic business model and how can we make it better. The answer? Change it. Do more of what works and stop doing what doesn’t (anymore). Search for the best, match it up to the results and set the rest aside along with old traditional method. We didn’t stop there, nothing was off limits right down to how and where we work and live, and how that affects (and effects) a creative life. More on that someday.
And now we’re into a new year. The market for licensed art has not diminished as much as people like to say it has, there’s plenty of opportunity. The fundamentals are the same – you still need a creator who has mastered their tools to create products that tell a story. But the percentages have changed – what that story is, how it’s delivered and what will be paid for it is in constant flux.
But here’s a secret: it has always been that way. We focus in on our little microcosm of “art licensing” and compare today to how it “used to be” a decade ago and of course it’s different; some things are more difficult, some less. Easy digital submission means the bandwagon is getting crowded, to the point where clients are tuning out all the noise (along with some of the substance because when everyone has a megaphone no one gets heard). Advances are gone, shelf time is minimal and trends are vague. Just as no one can predict the future, in today’s hyper-active paranoid retail market no one can predict licensing success either. But it takes more effort now to get less, that much we DO know. Which is pretty much the same lament heard since the dawn of commerce.
So this leads us to “what now?” I think in a rapidly shifting market artists that want a licensing career need to become light on their feet. Change the statement “I do this…” to “I tried this…”, and use the phrase “well, that didn’t work” more often. The ability to take a step back, evaluate the impact of your work on the market and then allow the results to impact your work will be paramount.
This is an important facet of our Word for 2015:
It’s more than just sales numbers however. It’s all the other words we did not choose as well: interesting, exciting, intriguing, exceptional. It’s moving off the path of what used to work and how we used to do it, and heading down the road of what we LOVE to do–what’s interesting, exciting, intriguing, exceptional… because when you do those things the story shines through. And if the story doesn’t resonate with the market then we go looking for a different story. Learn to move on – grinding yourself into dust by continually executing on a plan that doesn’t work is such a waste of talent and opportunity.
It’s a big world. Passion is not supposed to be a prison. It’s the fire that powers you and you get to steer it, not the other way around. Just as creativity is not random, neither is your passion and you can re-direct it to find a workable audience. Ignore any voice that says you can’t including your own.
In business, the chances of getting it exactly right the first time are infinitesimal. There is a reason concepts like pivot, iteration and minimum viable product are all the rage – because that’s how it works, that’s how you get there. It’s a process. “Well, that didn’t work” is much more than just an acknowledgment, it implies a course of action: Next!
Because you love it. Open oysters looking for pearls, search for the tenth Muse, throw things against the wall because it’s fun to throw things against the wall. Work your idea machine. Businesses go through hundreds of ideas to get to the right one, so it’s crazy to believe that it will be different for you. Continual experimentation is the new normal. You want to create something magical to rise above the clutter, and once you get there it’s temporary, so keep that river flowing. The worst you can hear is no, so get out there and EXPLORE!
Happy New Year!
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