Professional Writer, Photographer and Graphic Designer
You’re excited. You’ve been submitting your art to licensing companies for a while now, and you’ve finally received a response. A relatively big company is returning your calls and you’re feeling like you’re finally making some progress. You answer the phone when it rings and speak to the representative from this big company and after some talking back and forth, he says the magic words: “we want to buy your design.”
Wrong. While it’s definitely a good thing that they are interested in your art (it means that out of all of the work that people submit to them every week, they looked at yours and felt that it fit their products and brand – this is a VERY good thing) the last thing you want to hear is that they want to buy your art.
Unfortunately, this happens pretty frequently. And if you are an artist that is new to the art licensing industry, or you are submitting the work yourself and you don’t have an agent, it is very likely that you will make the mistake of selling your work to them.
“They want $500 for this design that I spent 4 hours on? That’s $125 for each hour of my work! How wonderful!!”
Here’s the catch. They will spend $500 on your design. Then they will take that design and put it on 5,000 t-shirts that sell for $20 apiece. It will sell well, so then they will put that design on more t-shirts, as well as hats and mugs. When that sells well, they decide they’re going to make some alterations to your design, and sell it all over again. And they continue to make an absolutely massive profit off of a design that you created – and were only paid $500 for. They now own that design, and you have no claim to it whatsoever any more. You no longer own your art; they do.
If you kept the rights to your work, and instead worked out a deal where you made only a 1% royalty, you would have made $1,000 just from the initial t-shirt sales instead of $500. Not only that, you would have continued to receive royalties in the future as they decided to put your art on more products. More importantly: you still own your art. 10 years down the road, when this company is no longer licensing that particular art piece, it is still yours to do what you like with it. You could license it to another company if you wanted.
Big companies will often say, “This is just the way we do it. We always buy art. We don’t usually do royalties.” They do this because in the case of the little guy, or the unrepresented artist, it often works. The artist thinks that in order to get a deal, you must be willing to sell out. This is only ever the case because companies can continue to get art this way. It’s important to be willing to walk away if the deal is not in your favor.
But even more than that, this is why it is so important to have an agent. Agents understand these types of deals and they will push back and fight for a deal that is beneficial for you. In the case of OC Designer Source, we are in an even better position because we create deals that are a major benefit for both the artist and the licensing company because we make it easy for the licensing companies to find high quality art without all of the typical hassle of searching for artists and then trying to work with them when they often don’t understand high resolution files, contracts, and other aspects of the industry.
We are the middleman that takes on the workload for the artist and licensing company and makes it a breeze for both to work with. The licensing company gets exactly what they need without any hassle, and the artist makes more money off their work, retains their copyright, and doesn’t have to spend time trying to hunt down licensing companies and figuring out how they work. We make it easier for everyone to make money and be successful in art licensing.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment box below and I will be happy to get back to you with a response.