November’s One-A-Day Q&A – Question #3

3 11 2016





Q: I’ve been in the art licensing business for more than ten years and making good money.  I know my art is still marketable and on trend, so why would I be making less money?


A: I appreciate your asking this and confirming that your art is still ‘marketable and on trend’ because many artists won’t question or know that.  I’ve seen it happen before; some artists create the same art for years and years and they don’t see the world changing around them because they still have passion for creating a certain type of art—even when it’s no longer viable in the marketplace. With that said, there are many reasons why this situation could be happening.

Today we are still having difficult economic times and the manufacturers are very conscience of the price they may pay for every new artist taken on that doesn’t sell enough products—so to keep costs down they have become very cautious and risk adverse. There is also more competition; more artists in the licensing arena and certainly more characters, so putting your best work forward is always important.  Let’s not forget that there are fewer retailers, even if there is more online shopping.

One of the things that I recommend you think about is how many types of products does your art will fit well on?  If you’re losing business and your art only fits in a few product categories, to see growth you will need to increase your art collections to make sure that your art extends onto different types of categories down the road. Similarly, you could be experiencing the effects of seasonal or age-related changes in the marketplace.  In these scenarios, manufacturers are looking to capitalize on seasonal trends, such as our current political fervor (don’t get me started!) and holiday sales (Halloween is now the 2nd largest holiday in retail volume!). The audiences for purchasing products is also, always, a moving target. For example, Gen Y is currently pulling many economic strings while Baby Boomers, still a huge and influential audience, has seen their buying habits as seniors has changed drastically!

Or, maybe, it’s a matter of your art working best, in a product category that’s no longer practical.  For example, 10+ years ago people made quite a bit of money in scrapbooking or rubber stamps before these industries hit a slump. (Funny note: I saw the Dilbert™ cartoon character make lots of money on screen savers, which of course today is so laughable.  Make sure your product categories aren’t becoming obsolete). There could also be retail-related reasons for your loss of income, if your artwork sold well in brick-and-mortar stores, for example, that have gone through mergers, a major reduction in ‘doors’ or even closed forever.

Some things to consider:

  1. Think about new marketing efforts, especially new themes and collections which will diversify your portfolio and create opportunities in new product areas.
  2. Develop a new lead list with manufacturers in new product areas.
  3. Have a plan for creating collections, mailing them out and following-up on a quarterly basis
  4. Contact retailers directly to tout your retail sales track record.  You might want to offer an exclusive opportunity to a retailer, rather than simply focusing on manufacturers.  Try catalog and online retailers as well, if you can’t get a foothold in the brick and mortar stores again.
  5. Try a total change in strategy, which may require getting some advice from a licensing coach on how to expand your business.

If you know your art is marketable and still viable, then there are things you can do!




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