I’ve encountered a number of artists lately who have been tempted by the art licensing industry, but a bit afraid to dip their toe in because it might devalue their originals and the fine art side of their career.
For a small group of artists, this can be true.
So I’d like to take some time today to help you figure out if licensing is a danger zone for your reputation or not.
YOUR TARGET MARKET
Like many things in your art career, the place to start is with your target market.
If your customers (or intended customers) buy art as an investment, not because they love it, and look at art as part of their social status then you might be in a danger zone if you try art licensing.
Similarly, if you rely on fancy galleries with directors who carefully assess your exhibition history, pricing, and collector-base as much as they assess your art itself, you may be in a danger zone if you try art licensing.
You want to think about how “elitist” your customers and gatekeepers (like gallerists) are about the art world.
With that being said, most art buyers and most gallery directors have no problem with your art appearing on products.
Some even like it because it increases your renown & fanbase, which just means more customers wanting your art.
TYPES OF PRODUCTS
A lot of artists carefully choose which products their art appears on.
Licensing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing ordeal. You are completely in control of the licensing deals you do and don’t take.
If you feel like mugs and cell phone cases cheapen your art but stationery and duvet covers are in line with your high-end brand (not that those products are specifically low- and high-end, respectively… it’s entirely subjective), then don’t take deals for mugs or cell phone cases, and seek out some deals for stationery and duvet covers.
This sounds simple, but a lot of people don’t try licensing because of one or two products they imagine being low-class.
Take a few minutes to write down the sorts of products you can envision being proud to tell the world your art is on, and then seek out deals for those products.
TYPES OF ART
Many artists have stacks of work that didn’t make the cut for their website or exhibitions.
This work is often perfect for licensing.
Since you aren’t selling or exhibiting the originals, there’s nothing to devalue.
And you get to monetize artwork that has no other way of making you money.
It’s also great to dig up old work that no longer reflects your style or work you made in a different medium just for fun. Get creative with what artwork you license!
This is the trick artists are the least aware of – you don’t have to put your name on the licensed products.
You can remain anonymous or even use an alias (I’ve seen both work great!) to distance your artist persona from the products that bring you money.
So if you’re in the danger zone, but you still want to try licensing, consider using an alias for the licensing side of your career.
Don’t be afraid to delve into art licensing.
It can be a great income booster, bringing you thousands of dollars a year (some artists even eventually make most of their money through licensing). And, with a little thought, you can make it work for you no matter what kind of art business you have.
Want to learn how to get into the licensing industry? Enter your email below and I’ll send you info about my upcoming course, Artistic License, which teaches you the process step-by-step. Easy peasy!