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Licensing Artwork

I can't get artists onboard.

     
11:51 pm on Apr 3, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to license artwork from various "small time" artists for printing on-demand and subsequent sale online. My site is well-established, although we haven't licensed anything before. I've contacted 20 or 30 different artists now with basically no interest from any of them. What could I be doing wrong? Don't these guys want to make a buck?
4:18 am on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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They don't know you. Do they have any reason to trust you?
9:27 am on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So you think they're worried that I would print up their stuff and not pay out royalties?
9:56 am on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Perpahs you need to start with some local artists and meet face to face to build trust.
8:24 pm on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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you think they're worried that I would print up their stuff and not pay out royalties?

Well, _I_ would.

Hasty assurance for people coming along later: I do not personally know Tonearm. This is purely a generic worry.
8:58 pm on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There are quite a number of POD sites available that you are competing with whether you've checked into their sites or not. Your offer needs to be far better than these to even get a second look. Are the products you want to print up competitively priced, guaranteed and commissioned? Some of these POD sites even label with the artist's logo and business. People who market their art want some very complete descriptions of what their work will end up on in someone's hands and most POD sites give complete selection, color, pricing and image control over to the owners of the work.

Just a suggestion, but look into some of the large POD options available to the artists you're trying to convince and see where your offer may not be measuring up. (CafePress, Spreadshirt, ImageKind, SmugMug etc.)
9:52 pm on Apr 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I don't think lack of artist logo etc on the printed products is the issue. Most of the time I can't even get a response from an artist and when I do they just say they aren't interested. The initial inquiries I'm making are very simple. Just something along the lines of: "here's who we are, would you be interested in licensing some of your art to us for printing in the form of x, y, z". So I guess I need to add something to make it more enticing. Maybe mention specific royalty/commission percentages? What are typical royalties for this?
9:14 pm on Apr 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How are you contacting them?

Certainly make it plain that you aren't asking for any sort of "registration fee". Remember that the first reaction of most people to an emailed "business proposal" is to think that there must be a catch.
3:10 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm emailing the artists.

Is licensing a dirty word to an artist or something? Maybe I should phrase it differently?
5:48 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Why not meet with local artists first and get them on board? I am an avid photographer and I sell on my own website, for me a face to face meeting would mean so much more than an email!
6:55 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Where's your margin/interest in this offer? What are you really attempting to do? If it is to monetize on their images you best make sure they are well-rewarded for doing business with you.

I am an artist, and I'd turn down this offer (as outlined) without a thought... well, I might also think "jerk!".

Not suggesting anything shady here, just the initial reaction that any creator might feel.

There would have to be something really compelling about doing business with you... and it would have to be more than money.
7:52 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If I want to contact a business prospect I normally start with a carefully crafted letter in the post.
8:01 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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tangor, why? Artists are above making money?
8:24 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There would have to be something really compelling about doing business with you... and it would have to be more than money.

This is what happens whenever I try to hire, or otherwise partner with, artists... worlds collide.
:-)
9:23 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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tangor, why? Artists are above making money?


Not at all... but they (me) would rather make 100% than anything less than that... and in nearly all cases an internet guy talking about printing would certainly make me think twice. If you were one of the established print houses, or an author wanting to write bout my work, or a publication seeking illustrations for a special project, yeah, I might think about it.

As others have mentioned, you have no track record showing. Start with local artists, face to face, establish whatever market you are attempting to embrace, and show success in that regard.

As stated, there's no compelling reason to respond to an email that most folks will file in junk wihtout reading it through.

As I read what you say you're sending, you're offering speculation for use of an image on something you sell... if it doesn't sell, what does the artist get? Under those terms I wouldn't give the time of day.
9:33 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The term license means something different: ie. YOU pay for the use of whatever is being licensed. No royalties, no commissions. You pay. For a period of time specified by contract. Up front. Of course royalties can be included, depending on agreement.
9:37 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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but they (me) would rather make 100% than anything less than that

It always amazes me when people automatically dismiss residual income deals with this thinking. They would rather have 100% of $0 than X% of $Y. Especially when little to no work is required on their part.

I can understand it in the rare case where an established niche brand doesn't want to dilute their brand. But that doesn't sound like the situation in the OP's prospective artists. If anything, they should be desperate (or at least favorable) to increase their brand awareness on top of the residual income.

Then again, maybe that's part of the reason they're still small-time artists...
10:21 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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if it doesn't sell, what does the artist get?

The same thing I get.

So it sounds like you've identified 2 problems:

1. I have no track record with licensing. (Although I have a very long track record with buying the same type of art at wholesale and selling at retail.)

2. The artist doesn't get paid if their work doesn't sell.

Is that correct?
10:27 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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LifeinAsia: +1000

tangor, if what I'm describing is not licensing, what is it called?
10:41 pm on Apr 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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if it doesn't sell, what does the artist get?
The exact same thing as if the artist didn't make the licensing/royalty/whatever-you-want-to-call-it deal- nada.
What has the artist done in both cases? Nada.
If the item DOES sell, what does the artist get? A percentage of something.
What does the artist get is he doesn't make a deal in the first place (and the site owner sells something from a different artist)? Nada.

So the worst case scenario is that the artist doesn't do any work and doesn't get any money. (Actually, the worst case scenario is that the artist COULD have made money, but never made an agreement with the site owner.) The best case is that he makes some money.

In other words, if the artist doesn't make a deal, he can lose or draw. If he does make a deal, he can draw or win. Basic game theory dictates that a (rational) person should chose the scenario where the worst outcome of an option is better than or equal to the best outcome of the alternative option.

Ergo, artists (or at least the ones the OP has been trying to contact) must not be rational. :)
2:43 am on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In other words, if the artist doesn't make a deal, he can lose or draw. If he does make a deal, he can draw or win.


IF the artist is not paid up front for the licensed use of his work then:

a) the website makes dough off the artist just by having their name/art on the site and the artist gets nothing (tough some might say "exposure" is something).

b) the artist has no control/oversight on the sale of his work or the accounting thereof

The licensee pays to use the licensed material. Done that way nobody can complain. Much like a movie studio paying the author to license their book for x years, paid up front, and possibly pay royalties on income above z.
12:39 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm emailing the artists.

Is licensing a dirty word to an artist or something? Maybe I should phrase it differently?

The key word is EMAIL. Most people will disregard an unsolicited emailed offer of a "business opportunity" on the assumption that it is a scam.
2:44 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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but they (me) would rather make 100% than anything less than that


Many great opportunities are killed by the fear that someone else might make a buck.
4:17 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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the website makes dough off the artist just by having their name/art on the site and the artist gets nothing

You mean like Pinterest?

The licensee pays to use the licensed material. Done that way nobody can complain. Much like a movie studio paying the author to license their book for x years, paid up front, and possibly pay royalties on income above z.

That's a(nother) big barrier in the way of getting the artists work "out there".

Truthfully though, so far I haven't even had the chance to say whether or not I have any up-front fees in mind. So I think the problem lies elsewhere. Maybe it's the face-to-face thing.

tangor, what about my initial contact would make you think I'm a jerk?
5:23 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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a) the website makes dough off the artist just by having their name/art on the site and the artist gets nothing (tough some might say "exposure" is something).

If no one buys anything, the site owner doesn't make money. Maybe if it's a big brand name artist the site might get some cred by association. (But again, we're talking about local artists without brand names.) Let's go the other other way- the artist can make dough off being featured on the web site. (Maybe someone doesn't buy directly from the web site, but the association with the site increases the artist's exposure/value, which leads to other direct sales.)

b) the artist has no control/oversight on the sale of his work or the accounting thereof

That's a valid concern. Which can be partially alleviated by the way the contract is written. And it's no different from a writer trusting a publishing house or a musician trusting a music publisher to give a true accounting of sales.
5:30 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have been approached in the past for some of my photos to be used, licensed, whatever you want to describe it. I turned the company down because i had no trust in them. In the end, the company just took the pictures and used them without permission. That's a separate story, of course.

The point i'm attempting to make is that there needs to be a level of trust and understanding. The Internet and e-mail is stacked full of "business proposals" which many seem scams of some kind or another, and it may also be that the e-mail is getting automatically dumped in the spam bucket before it's even considered. Genuine offers may get missed because of that.

i'd certainly look more closely at the approach to see if there's another way. As was suggested, start small with some local artists to see if you can put together a face-to-face meeting and build that trust. Look at the proposition and consider a loss-leader to get some on board and the program under way. I'd also look at the offer to make it enticing, and, of course, i'd make it absolutely clear that they are the rights holder and have complete control. Demonstrate how you manage the sales and their payments.

Once you have some artists on board you might find more will come, and you will be better able to demonstrate financial incentives based upon successful sales. The more that they talk to their fellow artists, the better. Word of mouth recommendations might be your best form of sales.
6:11 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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tangor, what about my initial contact would make you think I'm a jerk?


Think the same about Chinese parkas, web developers, pharmaceuticals, etc. Nothing personal! All spam is sent by jerks. :)

Unsolicited email is spam.

Pretty sure most folks feel the same way.
7:30 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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tangor, it's not spam, it's not like I got their email addresses from a hacked database. I went to each artist's website and used the email address they posted there for anyone wanting to get in touch with them. So if you had a website for your art and you posted your email address there in case anyone wanted to get in touch with the artist, and someone emailed you about licensing some of that art, you'd think they were a jerk for spamming you?
11:17 pm on Apr 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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it's not spam

In most people's definition, UCE === spam. There's a reason "Do you want to make lots of money?" is no longer an effective hook.

Now, you could use that artist's publicly given email address to ask about their prices for licensing, assuming their website doesn't happen to mention it. "Just askin'..."

Whatever you do, do not start by offering to render the artist a service, no matter how much you think it will benefit them. They will not believe you.
11:35 am on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So, aside from the e-mail approach, I think what Tonearm is asking is how to do a better job of targeting the artists.
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