Did you notice that there is an FAQ tab on this blog? This is the place to find quick answers and links to more detail about some of the most common questions artists have when they first hear about the concept of licensing their art. I encourage you to take some time to look at that info and read the blog posts.
Here is a brief rundown of the basic WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, HOW and HOW MUCH of art licensing.
Artists who want to share in the “success or failure” of a product vs. being paid for their time for art often choose to license their art. Traditionally they are paid a royalty based on the sale price of a product and based on the quantity sold – similar to a sales person who works on commission.
Art that works well for licensing is art that is pretty mainstream that a wide variety of people would want to have on products. The art’s purpose is to sell product. Extremely abstract art and portrait style art doesn’t usually work well in licensing. Art that is more mainstream will – for example, people always want Santas or Snowmen for Christmas products and look for new options every year.
Manufacturers and retailers from around the world may choose to get their art by licensing it. There really isn’t a geographic boundary. A great place to connect with those manufacturers are at licensing shows where artists exhibit and manufacturers and retailers come. Here are the main shows that I’m aware of and a few I found today while writing this post –
- USA: Surtex – each May in New York
- USA: Licensing Expo – each June in Las Vegas
- EUROPE: Brand Licensing Expo Europe – each October in London
- RUSSIA: Licensing World Russia – was held in March 2014 – not sure how established this is or any other details
- CHINA: China Licensing Expo – October 2014 – again, don’t know much about this, just found it when I searched beyond the US
Manufacturers and retailers can get their art in 4 primary ways:
- in-house artists
- buy art outright (copyrights and all)
- use stock art from factories who create their products
- license art (either traditional royalty based agreement or a flat fee but still based on a contract that defines term, product and territory and the artist retains the copyrights to the art)
Manufacturers often choose licensing for the following reasons:
- Exclusivity. By licensing art they can usually negotiate exclusive use of an artists design for their products – ensuring their competitors won’t bring the same thing to market. This isn’t always the case if they use stock art from factories.
- Flexibility. By licensing art, companies can work with artists with a wide variety of styles that they might not be able to create with a group of in-house artists.
- Cost savings. When a company licenses art, they pay the artist based on how well the product sells. So while their costs can vary, they are always directly related to the income from sales.
- Design support. Many artists who license their work become like a part of the design team – working together to get the art just right and often setting it up to templates for production. This saves the manufacturers labor costs of having their own graphics team or at least lightens the load on the team they have in place.
Art licensing is done through contracts. An agreement is made between the artist and the licensee (manufacturer or retailer) about what art is being licensed, for what products, to be sold in what territory and for what time frame. Payment amounts and time frames are also included as well as many other details – but these are the key points. (Learn all about contracts from the eBook How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts by Tara Reed & Maria Brophy)
Artists can do their own marketing and work directly with licensees or choose to use an art licensing agent for that side of the business. (read the blog post: Agent or Not)
There is a lot to the “HOW” piece of this puzzle – how to create art for licensing, how to connect with people who license art, how to negotiate a win-win contract… More information is available in the FAQ page links, from eBooks or the Art Licensing Academy.
The “how much can you make and how long will it take” question is pretty much impossible to answer. There are so many factors that go into it – including but not limited to:
- how much art an artist creates for consideration for licensing
- the relationships an artist develops with licensees – how many eyes can you get on your art?
- how well the art fits the market, the product, etc.
- how well the product sells, where it sells and the price point
- how much you make in royalties or a flat fee
I know artists who make $1,000 a year and some who make mid to high six figures. This is both good and bad – the sky is the limit (that’s good!) but when you are beginning it is hard to get a feel for how you will personally do.
You have to take a long-term mindset if you jump into licensing your art. While I can’t guess what you will make, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be fast money. It can take 2-5 years to get enough in the pipeline to start earning any kind of consistent income, so have a way to pay your bills in the meantime.
SO… where do you go from here? If you are interested in seeing what you can do with your art in the art licensing industry, I recommend you do the following:
- Read through the FAQ page and associated blog posts on this blog. (just click the tab at the top of the blog!)
- Subscribe to my bi-monthly eNewsletter – you will get a free audio about the industry when you sign up and each newsletter has links to blog posts here as well as links to other articles and posts I think are of interest to artists learning about art licensing.
- Participate in the bi-monthly Ask Calls. Every other month I host an expert in the industry for an hour-long teleseminar (a seminar conducted by phone) where we answer questions submitted by artists like you. Send us your questions. Listen to the calls. Check out the replays. There is SO MUCH knowledge to be had through this program! Learn more and bookmark AskAboutArtLicensing.com
- Consider the eBooks and audios available on specific art licensing topics. Learn more at ArtLicensingInfo.com
- Really ready to dig in? The 4 week group coaching program – the Art Licensing Academy – might be a great next step. Visit the website to see when the next session will start. www.ArtLicensingAcademy.com
- Take action every day! Create art. Build collections. Build your portfolio. Get it in front of decision makers. Repeat.
Here’s to your creative success!
– Tara Reed