20 Rules for Starting Your Art Licensing Business

Written by Art Licensing Coach J’net Smith

Rule #1 Learn all you can about art licensing before committing your time and efforts.

Licensing is big business. According to the 2011 annual Licensing Industry Survey released in June by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), global licensed product royalty revenues reached $5.065 billion in 2010. Character licensing, from all types of entertainment venues, represents the lion’s share at 47%, while art licensing equals about 2.5%. Art licensing is by itself a $128 million dollar industry.

Licensing is the simple concept of taking your copyrighted art, and contractually arranging and agreeing to lease the rights to one or more images to manufacturers who develop product with the artwork and then sell product to retailers to market to consumers.

So, licensing is really both a business and distribution model. It’s simply one way of getting your art onto product, and out to the consumers. The licensing model is especially appealing to artists, since it doesn’t require you to invest your money up front in production, or to learn the complex in’s and out’s of manufacturing and retail distribution.

The basic players in an art licensing agreement are these:  the artist is Licensor—the owner of the copyright. The licensor may market their art through self-representationor utilize the services of an agent. The Licensee is the entity (company or individual) who licenses the rights from you.  Most often it is a manufacturer, but it could also be a retailer, or an advertising sponsor. The contract—the legal agreement between the two of you—is the Licensing Agreement.

Like any business venture you might be considering, I recommend you study the industry to see if it is right for you and learn all you can about what it will take to succeed in art licensing.  So Rule #1 is that you must learn all you can about art licensing before you commit significant time and efforts. I can’t guarantee it will be easy, but if it’s right for you and you are willing to put in the effort, it can be rewarding and lucrative. Reading this blog series is a great place to start and here are some additional resources that also may be helpful.

About J’net Smith

Jeanette Smith is the consummate art licensing coach—she is passionate about helping you achieve a level of success beyond imagining and definitely knows how to do it! In just six short years, J’net turned Dilbert™ from a relatively unknown syndication-based comic strip into a 200 million dollar a year global brand. Then in 2000, J’net translated and expanded on her extensive experience to train, advise and license all types of creators. She has helped hundreds of artists, graphic designers, painters, photographers, authors, illustrators, design firms, fine artists, creative companies, non-profits and agents to maximize the power of their brands and talents.

J’net is best described by her combination of specialties—she is one of those very rare people who possess a balanced combination of creative sensibility and extraordinary business acumen. It is this combination that has served J’net over the span of a very impressive career,and has garnered her equally impressive press and testimonials!

From her early days in New York building new divisions for such corporate giants as Official Airline Guides, MacMillan Publishing, Paramount Communications, and VIACOM International, to her six years of work at United Media spearheading the astronomical growth of Dilbert, Jeanette has compiled a long list of satisfied clients and has gained an enormous amount of respect and experience in marketing, licensing, advertising, PR, agenting, negotiating, and much more.

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