Hooking up with the right manufacturer to license your artwork is a little bit like looking for the right mate. It requires a little research and vetting on your end.
Much like finding that special sexy someone that you want to wake up next to everyday, there are things that you need to know about your potential licensee. Things like their values, principles, and plans for the future. And do they line up with yours?
Just like a devout Christian should never marry an Atheist, unless they want some serious drama in their life, you shouldn’t do a deal with a company that has radically different ideas about what’s cool to do with your artwork, unless you want some serious drama in your life.
To be more specific, if they want to print your art on cheap-ass tees and sell them at the $2.00 store, and you had visions of having top quality $75 tees sold in boutiques, well, then you’ve got a mis-match.
In the case of our Drew Brophy / Palisades co-branded Skateboard line, before closing the deal we had many meetings with our contacts Brad, Kurt and Heidi to talk about our plans for the future of the line, where we wanted them sold, and how we could make them look just awesome. In the end, we were all in agreement as to distribution (core surf, skate and sports shops), what the art will look like and the quality of the deck (awesome).
In the beginning stages of your discussions with a potential licensee, whether it’s on the phone or in person, you’ll want to have a get-to-know you conversation. Much like dating, this first meeting will help you to determine if you share the same values and goals with the license.
Before that first meeting, be sure that you are familiar with the company, their history and the names of the top people that work there. This is easy information to get with a simple search on Google. You should also know what all of their products are and determine in advance which ones you think will work well with your artwork.
Be prepared to ask ten very important questions which will not only make you seem like you’ve done this before, but it will also help to determine if your artwork and brand is a good fit with the company you’re talking to.
The first nine of the topics listed below will be specified in the licensing contract, so asking the questions in your initial conversations will be a step in the right direction to make sure that both parties want the same things.
And being sure that you both want the same thing is the key to a good relationship (just like marriage)!
Ten Questions to Ask Before Hooking Up with a Licensee:
1.) What are your distribution channels? (Translated: where are your products sold?)
Distribution Channels can be broken down in this way:
Specialty: Includes boutiques and specific shops that cater to a particular lifestyle such as surf, skate, snow, fishing, dive, etc.
Upper Tier: High end department stores (i.e. Saks)
Mid tier: Middle end department stores (i.e. Penney’s)
Lower Tier: Target
Mass Market: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Costco
Other: Catalogs, direct mail, online, televised shopping
You want to know where they sell their stuff because if it’s to Wal-Mart and you don’t want your art sold there, then cancel the engagement!
2.) Who are your top 5 retail accounts?
3.) What other licenses are you currently working with?
(If they haven’t licensed before, it can be a little problematic getting reports on time and accurate. If they have, get the names and contact the licensors for a reference.)
4.) Territory in which you distribute: Territory is named by country or region, such as North America, or they may sell worldwide.
5.) Product Categories you wish to use the art for. (i.e. t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tea cups…)
6.) How many will be in the first print run – how many of each product type will you roll out initially?
7.) Estimate of sales projections the first year? The second year? The third year?
Don’t hold them to these estimates, it just gives you an idea of how much they think they can sell.
8.) Which images are you interested in? Go through your website or portfolio and get a feel for which will work best with their products.
9.) What is the projected date that the product will be delivered to retailers?
10.) Provide me with one sample of each product that we will produce. (Usually I’ll ask that the company mails me a sample of each so that we can see the quality of what they currently produce before moving forward.)
It’s important that you get a good picture of how the products bearing your artwork will be sold, in which stores, and when.
Be confident in asking these questions, because it’s your artwork and it’s your future. You are in charge of what happens to both.
Here are a few other articles on this topic that will help you:
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