BUILDING A LICENSING PROGRAM
©2007 Michael Woodward
(Figures supplied by LICENSE)
Many artists have earned substantial incomes from licensing. The following is a list of the top revenue earners in 2005:
- American Greetings Properties $800m
- Thomas Kinkade $360m
- Jim Shore $105m
- Paul Brent $59m
- Susan Winget $100m
- Flavia $145m
- Mary Engelbreit $75m
- The Hauptman Brothers $60m
- Rachel Hale $42m
- Wild Wings $55m
The above list represents the top ten Art Licensing properties in 2005 with the value of licensed goods at retail in millions $. This represents $1.8 billion out of a total of $19 billion for this sector. That’s around 10% of the all the retail goods sold from Art & Design licensing. Some of these artists started out from very humble beginnings and have steadily built a licensing program through perseverance, hard work and business savvy.
Many artists and photographers start out with a vague idea that they’d like to license their work and earn pots of money, however they give little thought to the fact that it is a “business” like every other. They often, because of their lack of business acumen, seek the help of others including well meaning agents who may know not much more than themselves.
The key to licensing is first to understand the business even if you do prefer an agent to handle your work. Being educated gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you a better understanding so you can make informed decisions about choosing the right agent and his terms or if you handle your own work, an essential knowledge of how the industry works.
The artists above and many more have become good business owners and they control their own destinies by virtue of their grasp of how things work.
Do you know what fees to charge? Can you read and understand a contract? Would you know if the royalty rate offered is fair? Is it OK to give the client world rights?
Do you understand sub-licensing clauses and how it affects you? Should you exhibit at Surtex or Licensing Show?
Creating a program which generates the kinds of income above takes quite a while, often many years.
Keep in mind your concepts/images need to sell to the public not just to the publisher. Often it takes 6-12 months for products to reach the marketplace, so income doesn’t flow in quickly. You need to sustain yourself in the first couple of years, as your income will be sparse and unpredictable. Look at what works and what doesn’t. Don’t expect all your work to sell. Listen to feedback from Art Directors. Keep educating yourself about the industries by reading trade magazines. Keep abreast of trends and colours. Study artists you admire who have successful programs. Check their websites and read their stories.
Above all don’t be discouraged by rejection. Turn it to your advantage instead. Each time you get rejected look at why. Use it as a learning experience so you can grow as a creator. If you want to be in this business you must realize that it’s the end user who has to like/love what you produce.
©2007 Michael Woodward