Licensing Expo – Out of the Desert

We are bouncing around at 39,0000 feet as our plane scoots around some weather after having finished another Licensing Expo in Las Vegas (used to only be the Licensing Show…we’ve been upgraded to Expo now…). We’re happy to leave the desert behind us – get me some humidity, please! All in all, not a bad show but definitely not a record setting event. We had a very good first day, an OK second day and the third – well, we could have slept in and hit the pool instead. It was a bit of a reversal of the usual pattern, traditionally the first morning has been quiet while everyone checked out the spectacular booths offerings of the big exhibitors, but this year it started off with a bang.
Overall, traffic did seem to be down although it is always hard to accurately judge from what we see in our little section, and I have not heard any of the official reports yet. (Hmmm, do official attendance numbers ever show a decline?) We had some pretty good meetings from both appointments and walk-bys, and will certainly see results from them, but definitely would have liked more. One problem we have had at this show for the last oh, ten years or so, is that the Art and Design section is usually placed in the worst location possible, and when it appears that may not be the case they will move us just to make sure. Unfortunately art is the small fish in the big licensing pond, and the reality is that the majority of the attendees have no interest in our section. It’s frustrating but all we can do is make the best of it.
The art on the floor was good this year, only a couple of obvious clunkers, and I think most of the exhibitors did OK and at least a few had really good shows. There was a lot of concept and character based work, which is good because that is more appropriate for this venue rather than other shows like Surtex. As I have said before, my opinion is that Licensing is not a show for an inexperienced artist, particularly if you are a pattern based surface designer or you work in single designs and associated collections. It’s a show about big ideas.
There were a few artists and IP owners walking the show looking for information (the work we saw ranged from bad to wow), and a fair number of agents, some of whom used to exhibit but now are “freelancing” it and hoping to meet with the attendees coming to our section. Not as many as Surtex, but it’s even more difficult to justify at this show since virtually 100% of the exhibitors are licensors. (Unless you are doing some consulting work but I can assure you most of these are not.)
And then there were the pictures – not those being displayed but those being taken. The show had No Photography signs up but the camera in all its forms is now ubiquitous in our world, and everywhere you looked someone was taking a shot. Phones, I-pads, big and small digitals, they were everywhere. One girl walked right up and shot our booth while we were in a meeting and then hurried away – I chased her down and had her delete it but could see she had a camera full of booth images. I think by the end of the show most everybody had surrendered and pretty much ignored it. (Although we did hear that Disney made the attendees at their early unveiling put all their devices into sealed envelopes – but they can do that ‘cause they’re Disney…)

Just one more sign that we are making our way in a new world out there.

4 replies
  1. Maria Brophy
    Maria Brophy says:

    Hey Jim,

    Great recap! I’m writing mine right now, too. It was wonderful to meet you and Ronnie in person. I really enjoy reading your blog, and now that we’ve met I will enjoy that much more.

    Now, let’s see what new deals we get out of this Licensing Expo!

  2. Andre Sibayan
    Andre Sibayan says:

    I agree, great recap Jim. It was great to meet both you and Ronnie at your booth. As one of the many artists you may have met, seen, or schoo’d off from your booth, I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me and give me some invaluable critique and advice about licensing as a whole. You’ll definitely be hearing from me soon, hopefully with a properly formatted group of images for you to peruse.

  3. Doreen Nagle
    Doreen Nagle says:

    Hi, Jim: You hit the nail on the head as far as I could see from my vantage point of “walking” the show. I also saw the woman shooting photos of each booth in your zone and tracked her down to tell her it was – in the minimum – overtly rude. PS: Thanks for the encouraging smile (and for whispering, “cute idea”) at the quick glimpse of my artwork. I will follow up and hope to get an even bigger smile.


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