Rule #6

6 10 2011

Educate yourself about retail channels.  

It is important to have a clear understanding of the types of licensed products you want your art to appear on, as well as which type of retail channels, and retailers, carry those types of products.

Art licensing doesn’t mean you need to be in Wal-Mart. And while the landscape is always changing, today there are more products featuring licensed art sold in specialty retail channels (Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, etc.), independent retailers (privately owned gift or card stores), and upscale department and chain stores (Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, etc.). And less than half of licensed art on products are sold through mass-market channels.

You need to think about where you want your product to ‘live at retail,’ and then plot your strategy for getting there. You, as the licensor (artist), need to make a decision as to where your art fits on products—what type of products, retail price points and retail channels are best for your style of art, and the brand you want to build. And when you make that decision, then you have to stick with it and be determined to make it happen.

There are a lot of manufacturers out there who will get you in department stores, but they also have distribution in drug stores, deep discounters and even ‘dollar’ stores. It’s up to you to ask about a manufacturers’ channel(s) of distribution and to come to an agreement as to where your product will be distributed.

No discussion of retail channels would be complete without the dual acknowledgement that retailers today are being held hostage by the economy, corporate mergers and price-driven consumers, while at the same time acting as the gatekeepers who hold the key to distribution (or not!) for manufacturers. This means retailers are both unusually stressed and powerful at the same time.

Regarding your art licensing business, keep in mind those retailers—whether brick and mortar, catalogs, or online e-tailers—allow or prevent the flow of products to consumers. So, they can help you reach consumers, or they can prevent your licensed products from reaching the consumers’ hands.

Today there are more and more online retailers who can take your art from production all the way to the consumer. But online sales of art licensing products are still miniscule compared to the level sold at brick and mortar retailers.

So, retailers still have the ultimate power. But years from now we may be stating something entirely different here. Understanding who the gatekeeper is—who has the power in an industry—will absolutely affect your marketing plan and how you create and manage your business.

A Retail Renaissance?

28 09 2011

Once again the folks at have made sense of why those of you who want products in the marketplace should be paying attention to the retail world. I couldn’t say it better:
“No matter what consumer-driven industry you’re in, the latest developments in retail and shopping need to be on your radar. After all, retail is about that very crucial moment that consumers actually PURCHASE your goods and services in person. If that isn’t worth half an hour of your time, we don’t know what is 😉

So click the link above to read about the trends in retail that will get you thinking about what art and designs will really capture the manufacturer’s attention and this new breed of shopper.

For further fodder, consider our latest Intermediate level audio courses–Manufacturer’s Mindset, taught with Current veteran Dana Grignano, will give you the “insider” perspective, needs and desires of those manufacturers you are selling to; and our upcoming live TelEvent on October 18th, Doing More Deals, will cover more intricate sales strategy and negotiation skills.  I’ve got lots of information and techniques to share, so give it a try!


26 09 2011

Know your skills.

Art talent isn’t enough to make it in the Art Licensing industry. Even more interesting is the fact that you may do very well in Art Licensing for any number of other reasons. For example, your art skills may be good; they may even be awesome!  But you could be incredibly successful in Art Licensing because you can market yourself better than other artists. Perhaps you have the innate ability to capture the attention of various media outlets, or you have a large following of active and demanding fans (which would be is very appealing to manufacturers).

I’ve seen artists make lots of money because they appeal to a certain niche audience (not a small niche, but one that’s large enough to warrant mass market attention) that is peaking and has a current need for art. Maybe an artist loves creating holiday themed art, for which there is always a need. Art Licensing is a commercial industry, so artists who have a distinctive style, enjoy creating a certain theme, and who also appeal to huge audiences have more potential for income than others.

Other skills that affect your Art Licensing business potential are:

Technical Skills

You definitely need computer and technical skills, or access to them. If you don’t have them, you need to get them or find a partner that does, because people will no longer put up with artists not having internet access, high resolution scans, layered files, etc.

Product Design Capabilities

If you can envision your art on products, then show your art to manufacturers on product mock-ups to help them. This is a really important skill set today and is going to help put you in the league of serious art licensors.

Trend Watching

Not everybody is going to be a trendsetter, because that takes a lot of forward thinking.You may have that, or you may just love to watch trends, and can keep up with them. Either way, don’t avoid learning about trends and seeing how your art can interpret them.

Entrepreneurial Abilities

Artists need entrepreneurial skills more than ever!  And we’ll talk more about this later…

Rule #2

22 09 2011

Have a passion for seeing your art on products.

It’s important to have passion for seeing your art on product. Would you like to have your artistic creations adorn curtains, notebooks, tea towels, stationery, calendars, t-shirts, journals, pajamas, rugs, dishes, sweatshirts, table clothes, home décor items, beach towels, candles, scarves, platters, pitchers, shoes, clothing, toys, cutting boards, games, sports equipment, or mobile phones? I strongly believe that if you walk through stores and say to yourself, as you look at some products, ‘I can do better than that!’ Well, then this just may be the industry for you.

For some creator’s, it’s enough to hang art on the wall and sell it, or hope it sells.  But for others, being surrounded by your art on products is so important and will drive you.

So, I want you to think about whether you have this passion. Believe me, there are many hooks, crooks, cracks and crevices in this industry. Your passion will go a long way when it comes to helping you see beyond an immediate problem and push you through to your ultimate goals.

Remember that curiosity, interests, and even desire may come and go.  But passion is life long and life changing.  You just won’t be satisfied until you try and succeed.

I am reminded here of a life altering moment in my career when Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, told me that the only difference between him and other cartoonists is that he got out and did it.  What’s the difference between you and other artists and creators?  There may be many, but are you going to get out and show the world?

Hot topic: Is QVC a Viable Retailer for Artists?

6 11 2010

For some selling product on QVC is the Holy Grail.  It includes not only product sales, but an opportunity to star in your own television show.  Over the years I have had many artists express interest and ask questions about the behemoth retailer.  It must have been after they saw the likes of Thomas Kincaid, Jim Shore or even Brenda Walton on QVC touting their art on various products.  So the question still remains, how do you get on QVC?  And is it a realm that artists should consider viable.

I spoke recently to Barry Matus, Founder and CEO of Development Solutions Global, a company that specializes in placing products on QVC from the home décor, accessory, collectible, garden, giftware and stationery industries.

Barry M: First of all, artists need to know that QVC is basically a retailer, just one that exists exclusively on television and online rather than, as they say, in brick and mortar.  Their sales today are over $7 billion annually.

J’net: Is QVC a viable retailer for artists?

Barry M: For an artist who has a strong following and has 10 or 12 companies licensing products from them, the artist and/or artist’s agent can bring the licensees (manufacturers) together to do a show on QVC.

This requires a lot of detailed organization on the part of the artist and/or agent to pull this off. They have to get all the individual licensees to agree to the QVC terms, as well as manage the entire process.

J’net: What can you tell us about QVC’s business terms and traits as a retailer?

Barry M: Like most retailers, QVC won’t manufacture product for you. And unlike most large retailers, QVC is a consignment business, so don’t expect them to buy your product up front. They see themselves as a brand-maker who goes into 1000s of peoples’ homes with quality products. They are always live TV and their mantra is: products which can be demonstrated will sell well with QVC.

Their brand is based on quality and QVC’s quality control is some of the toughest of all retailers. There is no tolerance for defects. In addition, there are a series of shipping tests (such as drop, vibration, etc.) to determine if breakage is possible when shipped via UPS. So even if QVC is excited about your products, only once you have passed the quality control tests can your product(s) be considered for selling on QVC.

J’net: So they are like book stores who can send back any item that doesn’t sell?

Barry M: Yes. And for an artist who has licensees, the entire risk for a QVC show and venture is laid on the manufacturers of the product who guarantees the products will be:

1)  shipped and arrive at QVC in time for airing of the show

2)  delivered to them in a ‘re-shipper’—packaging that can be sent right back out the door without needing special handling and

3)  100% returnable.

J’net: Why are artists and QVC a good match? Or are they?

Barry M: QVC’s secret sauce is the ‘soft sell’ that is served up by professional hosts and their guests, as well as celebrities and the manufacturers. All can be important to the process.

Artists can make fantastic spokespersons——telling stories about inspiration, creating art and fans.They get excited about their art and related products. And if they have 9-11 great products available, QVC can build an hour show around an artist (approximately 52 minutes of sell time).

J’net: When should an artist think about approaching QVC?

Barry M: The opportunity is when they have built a certain level of business and have a wide variety of great products made by various licensees. And then, if you like telling your story, QVC may be a way to gain exposure with a wide audience and support your licensees.

J’net Note: I appreciate Barry  taking his valuable time to share with us this information about QVC and look forward to talking to other artists and agents who have worked with them.  Sounds like for artists gaining momentum, and with a group of passionate licensees, there are opportunities for brand building and sales.  Please send your thoughts and experiences.  And stay tuned.

Today’s Featured Artist is Sara chapman of Art Squad Graphics who enjoys graphic design, book design and photography. These peppers are just like Sara and her designs: spicy hot and beautiful.

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