ArtId Art Blog
You've just finished your newest masterpiece - a floral still life, a gestural abstract, a beach scene. You show it to your best friend; and he or she says, "That would make a terrific greeting card!"
Your initial response is to grab for the nearest blunt object... but wait. I'm sure they meant it as a compliment, and you know what? Maybe they're right.
Welcome to the world of licensing, where the concept of multi-tasking is applied to art, and art is applied to everything. Licensing, at its best, offers an opportunity for artists to expand their audience, augment their income and have fun. At its worst, it can serve up a quagmire of vague promises and contractual loop holes in which your integrity is compromised and your self esteem marginalized. Licensing is certainly not for everyone; but when the shoe fits - or scarf, or place mat, or poster - it can be very rewarding.
If you're interested in pursuing licensing, and if you're reading this, then I presume you are, first things first. Do your homework - in this case, that means GO SHOPPING! Walk the malls, peruse your catalogs, see what's out there. And TAKE NOTES - on quality, pricing, store placement, trends you think you're noticing. READ THE LABELS to get manufacturer's names and locations. ASK store owners or approachable sales people what's selling and what isn't. ASK your friends if they have brand preferences for any image related products. TAKE A GOOD LOOK AROUND your own house, see what you surround yourself with, and then ask yourself, "Did I buy those coffee mugs with the cows on them because they look like something I would paint, or because they were cheap, or because I'll buy anything that has a cow on it?" BE HONEST.
Study your notes and set up a simple chart to help clarify your findings. I'm serious. This is business. Chances are you'll be seeing certain manufacturer's names popping up again and again. That's because, truth be told, there's a limited number of worthwhile prospects in each manufacturing category, and that number usually falls between five and ten. Usually. The trick is to find the five to ten that hold possibilities for you.
Make a list of the manufacturers whose names you've accumulated. Visit their web sites, if they have them, or call their general number and see if you can acquire their catalogs. This way you can see their product lines in their entirety and get a better idea as to whether or not your style of art would be a good fit. For instance, if you specialize in Impressionist landscapes and you love the greeting cards and wrapping paper from Arthur Deco's Hard Edge Graphic Card Company, don't waste your time going after them. You'll only be setting yourself up for a fall. But... if you also love the product line of the Starry Night Living Impressionist Artists Card Company, go for it! It only makes sense, right?
Now, some of you are probably thinking,"I've always heard that manufacturers are looking for the next new thing. Something different." And that's true, BUT - and it's a BIG BUT, their definition of different is, well, different from mine and, I'm guessing, yours. I think black is different than white; they think gray is different from grey. And they'll "build a story around it", to use the jargon of the industry - GRAY is the new GREY! GRAY is the navy blue of Iceland! - get the picture? But try and show a still life of TULIPS to someone looking for a still life of ROSES, and you'll be amazed at how many people can't make the leap. By way of explanation, creative decisions at every product company I've ever worked with are made by committee - a group of people, some creative, some strictly business. They're given lists to fulfill based on market research, trend reports, color projections, etc., etc. They're expected, by their bosses, to hit a home run with every new product they introduce. The desire to take chances on the new and unknown shrinks noticeably under that kind of pressure. I don't envy them their jobs. I much prefer being the one who creates the art.
But, if you want to succeed in licensing, creating the art isn't enough. You also have to be willing to help people really see it and the possibilities it holds for them. Don't be shy.
Remember... YOU MAKE STATEMENTS FOR A LIVING.