Maria Brophy and I are thrilled that our eBook and Maria’s templates are making this part of the business more understandable and easier to do.
Here is an email we got the other day about the eBook How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts and The Artist’s Short License Agreement Template Package:
I just sent off my first contract using one of Maria’s templates and I was so glad to have them! Up until this point I had been provided with contracts from the Licensees I’ve worked with, so when I was asked to provide my own, I was able to avoid that deer in headlights feeling! It was comforting to know there was language covering all the major points of a basic agreement and it was so easy to use. It was far less intimidating to go through each of the sections, making sure they fit my needs, than trying to come up with something from the ground up. I loved that all the fields were called out in red, and in some cases, I realized I didn’t have the information to fill them in, prompting me to go back to the manufacturer for clarification. I have found your ebook “How To Understand Art Licensing Contracts” to be an invaluable reference and Maria’s templates are the perfect compliment. Thank you for all you both do to educate artists about this industry; it has helped pursue a career in something I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to do otherwise!
Thank You SO MUCH Again!
Thank YOU Nicole for your feedback!
If you want to better understand art licensing contracts, go to www.ArtLicensingInfo.com/contract.html to learn more about these resources.
Here’s to your creative success!
– Tara Reed
Question: If I have designs that I would like to try and get licensed, is it a good or bad idea to share those on sites like Spoonflower?
Don’t just click “accept” on sites where you are showing art you might want to license – READ THE TERMS like they are a contract!
I say that because I am very guilty of doing just that with certain things. Like software that I have purchased and know I need, that has me re-commit to the terms while upgrading… I will admit to not reading all of those. But if you are using a site to show your art – in the hopes of getting sales or getting noticed (it happens! I, too, have read the blog posts about artists being discovered on Etsy or Spoonflower and the like) – read the terms.
You want to make sure you aren’t giving up any rights that could make it impossible to license the art later, or that you wouldn’t get back if you remove the art from the site.
For example (and I’m making this up just to give you an example) – say you upload art to show how it looks on a coffee mug. The mug can even be purchased if someone finds it and loves your design. Now let’s say you connect with a manufacturer who makes and sells mugs on a large scale and they want to license that very same art. You want to be able to do it.
So you want to ensure that there is no language like “XYZ website has the right to sell any art uploaded for a specific product in perpetuity…” In perpetuity means they can ALWAYS AND FOREVER use that art to sell coffee mugs. That would be fine if the manufacturer you are now talking to doesn’t want an exclusive license (meaning they want to be the only people to sell that art on coffee mugs.) 95 times out of a 100 they do… so you want to make sure there is always a way to get the rights back, or later modify any agreement that you have with a company online.
Need help? Check out the resources Maria Brophy and I have put together at www.ArtLicensingInfo.com/contracts.html
Here’s to your creative success – I hope I get to read YOUR story of being found on Spoonflower and the like one day too!
– Tara Reed
Question: Is it normal for a manufacturer to want to “Shop” your art to retailers before doing a contract?
One of the questions that came in a little late for the Ask Lilla Rogers call last week was this…
I recently was asked by an apparel company to let them use my art for a mock-up. They wanted to approach big box stores for a new bedding line they were producing. They only offered me compensation IF the deal went through. Still waiting, although i did see the mock-ups by a legit designer. The process began in March and is still on-going. So far, no licensing deal for my art which was used in the mock-ups by their graphic designer. My question is: Does this sound legitimate?
Different artists have different opinions on letting manufacturers “shop” their art. If that doesn’t make complete sense, it basically means they want to mock-up your art on products (digitally or physically) and show it to their larger clients. They don’t want to commit to the art until they know it will sell.
This is becoming more and more common in the marketplace, especially if your art fits in the mass market channel (selling into large retailers with many, many locations – like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, WalMart, department stores and more…)
Personally, I do let manufacturers shop my art. Sometimes it lands me a great license, other times it isn’t selected.
I don’t, however, let companies I have never worked with before shop my art without understanding what the deal will be if the art is selected – this is KEY!
You can use a Deal Memo format that Maria Brophy has been kind enough to blog about (it is also discussed in greater detail in How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts and is included as one of the templates in The Artist’s Short License Agreement Template Package. You can learn more about both of these at www.ArtLicensingInfo.com/contract.html)
Or you can simply ask the questions and keep notes – or preferably have the answers in writing – by email, etc. The key things to know before letting a company “shop” your art include:
- What retailer(s) are they showing the art to and for what products?
- When do they expect to have a decision? (As in, how long will your art be on hold and unavailable for those products for other deals)
- What royalty rate, term, and territory will be on the contract if your art is selected?
- Will there be an advance if your art is selected?
- I also want to review their basic contract – or know that they will work from mine with the above terms – before going forward as well.
It would be horrible to have your art selected and then be unable to agree to the terms of the deal. You won’t win points with the manufacturer and will probably burn the bridge to work with them again in the future. The retailer won’t be pleased and you will have wasted time and energy on the process.
So make sure you know what the terms of the license will look like up front before you let your art get shopped around.
Here’s to your success!
– Tara Reed
P.S. Thank you Gloria for bringing up this issue – it is one many artists wonder about!
We had yet another home-run from Paul Brent. As I told him on the line last night, it is now his DUTY to do the Ask Call right after SURTEX because he does such a wonderful job with sharing his impressions of trends coming, trends going, new things, new artists and more.
We had 150 people listen live and now the replay is available for purchase. In addition to the hour-long mp3 audio file, you will also get Paul’s notes about the show – I can assure you I wasn’t able to be taking notes as fast as he was sharing info!
- SURTEX 2013 trend report – written notes from Paul are included with the purchase of the mp3 replay
- Do you have to go to Surtex to get Licensing deals or can you contact individual companies directly?
- The news reports that retail is picking up. Do you feel that was reflected in Surtex 2013?
- How many new, unveiled collections, above and beyond your existing portfolio, do you show at SURTEX each year?
- What is one barrier you have had to overcome in the licensing industry?
- How does an artist judge that their portfolio is ready to take to Surtex, or to an agent?
- How do you know you are ready to go to Surtex?
- Is there any one type of style that MOST manufacturers are looking for?
The audio is on sale for $20 thru Thursday, June 13, 2013 and will then go to the regular replay price of $30 so order your copy now for the best deal.
Agent Lilla Rogers will be making her “Ask Call Debut” -after visting wtih her at SURTEX I’m extra excited! Please submit quesitons asap – we don’t have a lot of turn-around time for this one!
NEW Contract Templates from Maria Brophy and distributed by ArtLicensingInfo.com
One other thing I mentioned on the call is a new resource for artists – The Artist’s Short License Agreement Template Package by Maria Brophy. It’s a great compliment to the eBook, How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts and will save you time and money putting your own contracts, deal memos and amendments together. See all the options for becoming a master at contracts at www.ArtLicensingInfo.com/contracts.html
… and how not to have your life consumed by this concern.
I’ve been licensing my art for 10 years now and I’d like to share a little secret – I’m still not always sure if I’m getting “a good deal”. Royalty rates and the ways companies work can vary by industry, by company and even by the artist a company is working with. I’m pretty sure Mary Engelbreit gets a better royalty rate than I do…
The way I see it, “A good deal” all depends on who you are and what you want for yourself, your lifestyle and your business.
A good deal for one artist will look like a horrible deal to another. But there have to be ways to quantify what “a good deal” is.
Attorney Kyle-Beth Hilfer just did a post entitled: Evaluating Art Licenses: How to Tell if You Have a Good Deal. She gives some great advice about what to look at and look for from a legal / contract perspective.
Maria Brophy blogs a lot about lifestyle – her recent post: How Taking an Adventure can grow your Business is a great example of what a “good deal” looks like to them. A job where they got 2 weeks of vacation a year and were expected to report to a cubicle the rest of the time would be a horrible deal for both Drew and Maria. But for others – it gives them the structure and consistency they need and they have no desire to go on 5 month adventures and work out of a black box.
A friend of mine – Steve Strauss, attorney turned entrepreneur and owner of TheSelfEmployed.com - recently went to Istanbul for a week with his wife. He was hired to speak and MC for 2 days at an event for entrepreneurs. In return, he and his wife were able to take an amazing trip! To me that’s a great deal (anyone want to fly me somewhere interesting???) but when I told another friend about it, she cringed and said the flight alone would make it pure torture.
Basically – there are parts of each deal that are subjective. At the same time, it’s important that you fully UNDERSTAND any deal you do – in terms of what it will mean to your business financially and from an art copyright standpoint, if nothing else.
Just some food for thought about deals. Back to your creative work!
– Tara Reed
This is an interesting question and one I think deserves some conversation.
Here is the situation that was presented to me:
Here’s my dilemma: I get a lot of interest in my work for possible “license” arrangements. I haven’t closed any deals because I am thinking as an art director (X years experience commissioning art and negotiating terms). I think about the fees structure outlined in industry books like AIGA. ..and I take into account everything I read, follow, listen online.
Now I’m a licensee wannabee – I have missed out licensing art to several companies in a variety of categories around the world…
I believe I missed out because I must not answer their question correctly.
All of these initial enquiries had something in common: they were were vague about their business and yet got to the point about asking me “how much “.
I google them to find out who they are before asking for more info, territory, term…and would always include something to suggest that I would work with their budget. I would also ask if there was cross-promo op.
Yesterday I have a new email inquiry about exclusive right for x image for (product category).
What triggered me to ask for expert advice is, once again their opening email is sooo vague and I feel again like I’m asking “too many” questions.
Shouldn’t they supply info like an introduction to who they are? (and maybe loose contract info) upfront? That’s what I do when I commission art/ design. That’s what I get when a publisher/agency contracts my design. Why is “licensing” enquiries so cryptic? Is this too be expected?
I looked for this topic on your website. Maybe you know have a new topic to expand on. Tara, thank you for this.
(I left the artist’s name out so it can’t affect their business)
It sounds like you might be being approached by companies that don’t do much licensing. I’ve had that – have one at the moment – I keep explaining how it works and he keeps asking… pain in the neck.
My best advice is try to not feel bad about wanting to know who you are doing business with. You need to understand who they are, where they sell etc to make sure it’s a fit for both of you. Sometimes artists are so eager to get a deal they feel like they should just be thankful – not true. We are in business and we need to know what will be happening with our art.
That said, some of the fees/rates in the AIGA are higher than I’m seeing in the marketplace right now. Decide how you want to do business and don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that feels weird or a company who won’t tell you any details. Some companies – especially if they aren’t used to licensing – will ask for your rates. Others will tell you theirs up front. But you need to have that info before you send art or commit to working with someone -no blind business dates!
As artists we need to think like a business in situations like this and not feel like the other person holds all the cards.
You are in the business of creating art. You get to decide if you license it, sell it, give it away or hoard it in a closet. Just like you get to pick your friends, you get to pick your clients. It’s a really good idea to know who those clients are before becoming tied to them through a licensing agreement.
- Is it always easy when you don’t feel like the company is being forthcoming? No.
- Is it always a comfortable process? No.
- Is it necessary? Absolutely. Both for your business and all the other artists trying to make a living.
SO… don’t be afraid to ask questions so you understand who you are talking to, showing your art to and potentially working with. You are an artist, you are in business, and you deserve to know.
Here’s to your creative, empowered and informed success!
– Tara Reed
P.S. Looking for more information and confidence when it comes to contracts and negotiating? Check out How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts by Maria Brophy and myself. I think EVERY artist exhibiting at SURTEX or the Licensing Expo should have the knowledge or have a copy and artists to the point of discussing terms should too.
Another great call took place by phone last night – were you one of the 96 artists who listened live? This was the third time Maria Brophy and I tag-teamed the call – giving you both of our perspectives on some great questions submitted by artists like you.
- How do I go from traditional artist to licensed?
- What is the first, most effective, most cost efficient exercise I should do when just starting out wanting to license my artwork?
- Where do I find Licensors interested in my art where I get paid versus getting an agent who I have to pay to locate one?
- From your experience, can people find success in licensing doing it part time or is it almost always a full time endeavor?
- Since I do not plan on having an agent, at what point do I need a licensing attorney?
- How does one know when they are ready to exhibit at Surtex?
- Discussion about creating collections & size of art…
- What happens when another artist imitates an image with their own work, but obviously copying the original style?
The replay will be on sale for $20 thru January 31, 2013 - CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY OF THE CALL AT THE DISCOUNTED RATE!
Some “tweet-worthy” comments we thought we’d share from the call -
“Know thyself, be yourself!” – Maria Brophy
“Art Licensing: learn & make art, but don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. At some point you need to jump in and take the leap!” – Tara Reed
“The Art Licensing Biz is like one big puzzle.” – Maria Brophy (“…and you don’t have to do every piece of the puzzle yourself!” – Tara Reed’s follow up!)
Some resources we discussed on the call –
Beginner Basics Teleseminar Replay – great way to see if the “art licensing lifestyle” is a fit for you
How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts – any artist really serious about licensing their art should understand contracts and be comfortable with the terminology, etc.
Also be sure to click the FAQ tab for answers to some of the most common questions about licensing.
Ask About WordPress for Artists – Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Kim Beasley will be doing her second call about how artists can use WordPress for their website, social media integration and online portfolios. If you have website or social media questions – Kim is your girl! Head to www.AskAboutWordPressForArtists.com when you are ready to submit your question.
Key #1: Create art… and lots of it.
If you don’t create art – constantly create art – and art that is a fit for products and licensing, then, well… you don’t need anymore keys. This is the GOLDEN RULE key – without it, you won’t go far in trying to license your art. To learn more about the types of art that work well in licensing, go read the post: How do I know if my art is a good fit for licensing?
Key #2: Listen, learn, adapt, innovate.
Creating volumes of art isn’t enough – it has to be the kind of art manufacturers are looking for. The most successful artists in licensing are astute listeners – they ask questions, see what is changing in the market and work to meet the needs of their clients – the retailers or manufacturers who license art. Learn what they want, adapt your art, your techniques (while still being uniquely YOU of course!) to meet their needs. Be innovative when and where you can – in how you connect, communicate, create and deliver your product – which is your art.
Key #3: Be flexible.
Your art’s purpose is to help sell product. You are a partner with the manufacturer to create the best possible art/product mix to make consumers open their wallets. You need to be flexible and willing to change your art when needed to meet their needs. This goes along with key #2…
Key #4: Be unique.
Don’t be a “me too” artist – copying the style or techniques that you see another artist successfully licensing. You will be known as a copycat and risk some infringement issues… every artist brings a unique perspective to the table, figure out how you can offer something uniquely YOU to the art licensing industry.
Key #5: Be persistent & resilient.
This isn’t an easy business. It takes time, persistence and a thick skin. You will hear “no” … a lot. Sometimes you will hear nothing which can become worse than “no”… you feel ignored. Just know the decision makers are busier than ever – most don’t mean to be rude, they simply don’t have the time to reply to everyone. If that will consume you, anger you and get you down – this might not be the business for you.
Key #6: Be professional.
Art licensing is a business. You will be dealing with business people – their job is to make profits for their company. Some are creative, some need lots of help from you. Some you will love, others you won’t. But you are running a business, they are running a business – act professionally. Don’t sign contracts without understanding them just because you are desperate to get a deal – that hurts all of us in the industry and certainly you. Have the knowledge you need to build a successful business. (Learn more about contracts from the eBook: How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts)
Key #7: Build relationships.
While having great art is crucial, so is building relationships with manufacturers. Believe it or not – there are always several art choices that will work. Your relationships can help you better understand how to create art that works well for a particular client’s process and also have them come to you when they need something instead of sending out art requests to hundreds of artists. This is a relationship business – you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but it will never hurt your business to work on the relationships!
Key #8: Be yourself.
Don’t create a brand image or persona for yourself that isn’t aligned with who you really are. In this day and age, you will certainly be found out. Look at what happened to Tiger Woods and Thomas Kinkade – major disconnects. I’ve been asked to work with friends on pretty edgy projects for teens and have turned them down because the art, language and look really aren’t aligned with who I am or the business I have built for myself. I don’t want to create disconnects in my business for a chance at a buck. Learn more about this from Paul Brent in his teleseminar replay: Brand Yourself for Success in Art Licensing.
Here’s to your creative success -
Over the weekend I received an email from artist Elizabeth Olwen that made my day! When Maria Brophy and I set out to write the eBook, our main goal was to make it easy to understand, easy to use as a quick reference over time, and a tool to help artists feel more confident about negotiating contracts.
The more knowledge artists interested in licensing have, the better off we all are. When artists unknowingly sign contracts that devalue their work and pay sub-standard fees or royalties, it hurts us all.
Contracts can be intimidating things if you haven’t dealt with them. Many times artists think they will lose a deal if they ask for any changes or they don’t understand the contract and decide that it must be ok so they sign it. Doing this sort of thing is bad for every artist’s business!
That said, you can imagine I was thrilled to read Elizabeth’s email and learn that we had met our goals. Here is what she had to say…
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
I purchased your eBook ‘How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts’ about a week ago and I just wanted to write to you to say how incredibly helpful it’s been!!! I am a new-to-the-scene surface designer and I was putting off learning about the ins-and-outs of licensing and then the moment I’ve been waiting for happened, and I was offered my first art licensing contract!
I had attended one of Tara’s seminars on licensing at Surtex this past May and knew she knew her stuff so I bough the e-book, grabbed a cup of coffee and settled in to face my contract fears.
And thankfully the book was so well done and thorough that within a few hours I had all the information I needed and felt fully confident about the process. I took your advice, sent my revisions through to the licensee and they worked in my additions without protest!
I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to negotiate if I hadn’t read the book. The book was a life-saver! Thank you so much — it was worth every penny.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
You can learn more about Elizabeth at www.ElizabethOlwen.com
Want some contract confidence for yourself? Go to www.ArtLicensingInfo.com/contracts.html to learn more about this valuable resource.
FAQ: What is the difference between selling your art, licensing your art or doing a flat fee license?
Lingo, lingo everywhere! Many artists (I was one!) get rather confused about what some of the terms used in art licensing really means. It is really important to understand the difference between selling your art vs licensing it for a flat fee vs traditional royalty based licensing. Let’s look at all three…
>> Selling your art.
This is not licensing. If you are a “selling artist”, you are selling your art outright to a manufacturer. For a set amount of money, the manufacturer buys the art and all copyrights associated with it. Some manufacturers and industries will only buy art. They want to pay up front for a design and walk away with it — all copyrights included. Then they can take it, tear it apart, change colors, put anyone’s name on it, etc. It becomes theirs completely, you as the artist create something new. You can not use the piece of art in any other way or version, you start over.
So that is “selling your art”. Many artists like this format. They create, they get paid, they move on.
>> Licensing your art.
Licensing your art means you retain the copyrights and control of our art. You “license” the rights to manufacturers, through written contracts, to use your art on their products for a certain period of time. The goal is to license the rights to the same art to many manufacturers so you can earn a nice living.
Traditionally, licensing contracts are based on royalties so artists are paid based on sales. That means you wait, sometimes 12-18 months to be paid, but you share in the risk and reward of the product. If the product does well, you should make a lot more in royalties than you would be paid if you simply sold a design. If it doesn’t do well, you may make less.
“Licensing your art” means you can use your art more than once, you retain the copyrights and you have to wait a little longer to see the money. But once you get projects in the pipeline, you can earn a nice income.
Here’s a video I did about pie that illustrates the differences between selling and licensing your art…
>> Flat fee licensing.
Taking a “flat fee” is often confused with selling but it isn’t. To my way of looking at it, flat fee licensing is like a hybrid car – it has some things in common with selling art and some things in common with licensing. The contract is like a licensing agreement (products the art will go on, time frame for the usage, you retain copyright) but instead of a royalty percentage, you both agree to a set fee. The key difference between this and selling your art is that you still maintain the rights to use the art in other areas, you have simply agreed to an amount of money you make up front.
I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion – here’s to your creative success!
– Tara Reed
P.S. You will notice there is a lot of talk about contracts in the licensing explanations – it is very important that you understand how they work and what they mean to your business and art if you go into art licensing. To learn more, check out the eBook How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts.