Top 10 Checklist for How to Get Moving in Art Licensing, by Linda Mariano


When Lance and I spoke about me being a guest writer for his Business of Art Licensing Blog, I was on my way to ArtExpo in New York and excited about presenting several seminars there to the art industry.  

Lance and I talked about my article and we thought it would be helpful to discuss the ins and outs of art licensing – little did I know how much that subject would resonate with the audiences at Art Expo. 

What became very clear to me speaking with artists and gallery owners alike was that if they weren’t already successfully established in the business – and sometimes even if they were – their impressions and understanding of art licensing were out of focus and unrealistic based on today’s global economy and retail marketplace.

Since then, I have met with and begun coaching a dozen or so artists and art business entrepreneurs and the starting place that seems to fit almost all situations is the answer to the question: “So how DOES the business of art licensing work?”

Through his posts, Lance has done a great job of providing information to guide and assist so I thought I would take us along that same path with a Top 10 Checklist for Art Licensing. 

This Checklist was a big hit at ArtExpo and helped many understand the basics of beginning to think about licensing their artwork.  Let me clarify that this Checklist applies to consumer product licensing for the most part – not necessarily for licensing for the purpose of art publishing, although many of the same premises apply.

So if you think your art is perfect for calendars, mugs, puzzles, stationery, t-shirts, toys, games, and a myriad of other consumer products, here is what you need to think about as you prepare to launch into the Licensing industry. 

Some of this will be a reiteration of what you have read on Lance’s sites or seen shared on other sites, blogs, newsletters, and trade publications, but it is the critical baseline for approaching your goal of understanding and potentially participating in the art licensing industry.

1.   Know what’s out there!

Research, research, research. 

Look around – what’s selling at retail?  Does it have a design – one you recognize? One you don’t?  Get to the mall, look in every store, and know what designs and artwork are being used.  Scour the internet, find out if there’s a different appeal in terms of design or artwork in the fast world of cyberspace. 

Look at everything: Apparel – women’s, men’s, kid’s, baby’s; Gifts and collectibles; Stationery and Social Greetings of all types; Games, toys, puzzles; Holiday – and make that all holidays, not just Christmas.

2.   Know who you are!

As you are doing your research, be thinking about you and how you like to work. 

Are you open minded, an expansive thinker, love to take input from others, excited when your creativity is enhanced with new ideas? 

Do you like the idea of commercializing your art? Or do you prefer to create your art for yourself, to satisfy your creative spirit alone? 

This is a critical component to understand because licensing is all about stepping into a larger arena and reaping the rewards as well as the challenges.

3.   Is your Work Style in tune?

Think about this aspect in depth and answer each of these questions honestly. 

Do you enjoying working with clients on projects?  Do you like promoting yourself and your artwork successfully via phone calls and emails? 

How about getting input and taking direction for your work and delivering on those requests? 

Are you sufficiently business-minded to oversee all aspects of your business? 

And you are also financially astute enough to oversee accounting and delve into details when needed. 

Plus are you savvy on legal terms and can you protect your intellectual property in agreements and commitments?

4.   Is your Artwork ready to roll?

For the purpose of licensing, your artwork needs to be ready to present and capture a potential licensee’s attention. 

Can you answer “yes” to each of these questions?  If not, you have work to do!

·      The artwork is in a series or collection

·      The artwork is in a standard size and format that can be used for multiple product types

·      The artwork is fully rendered, is flat rather than sculptural – and in color

·      The collection(s) has broad appeal and is something people want to look at over and over again

·      Clear understanding of your competition – what’s going on in the marketplace for similar work, types of products, price points, retailers, etc.

5.   How do you decide if Licensing is right for you?

Maybe Licensing is a great way for you to maximize revenue from a single piece of artwork – not any different than a musician producing a CD rather than only doing concerts. 

But it is an avenue that requires a strategy – plus lots of time and patience! 

You need to understand what kind of artwork fits the marketplace – and if it’s in sync with your style. 

Your artwork is such that it can be captured easily and translates digitally. 

You are ready to listen and work with market and client requests and can work quickly and can be prolific when required. 

And, by the way, you are also excellent at meeting deadlines!

6.   Ready to represent yourself – or should you hire an agent?

So you are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” to all the above but don’t know where to start. 

You want to create and are eager to work with clients, but don’t want to handle the business aspects. 

Maybe you don’t know where to begin in terms of contacting the right people, or promoting the artwork makes you uncomfortable.

If you don’t want to go it alone – or just aren’t quite ready to do it solo – then a licensing agent may be the right answer for you.

Or if handling all aspects as you begin has you excited, then get going. 

You can always change your plan as you progress.

7.   Who, what and where are the keys in today’s fast paced Licensing world?

How and where do you find out more about Licensing?  How and where do you meet agents – or potential licensees?

Start by going to the key trade shows for art licensing – this is for the U.S. There are now several others worldwide. 

Walk the shows – see what is being shown by publishers, agents and artists. 

Try to set appointments in advance if possible and talk to Licensing agents and art publishers. 

Bring a sampling of your portfolio to show if asked.  (Do remember trade show etiquette and always ask for an appointment if time is available with the right person. 

If not, leave your card or brochure and ask for theirs in return. Then follow-up after the show.)  Remember you are there to look, listen and learn.

  1. Surtex – May, Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York City
  2. The National Stationery Show – May, Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York City
  3. Licensing International Expo – June, Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. AmericasMart License & Design (part of the Atlanta International Gift Show), January, Atlanta, Georgia
  5. CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) License & Design, February, Los Angeles, California

And remember the mantra in #1 on our Checklist:  Research – research – research! If you are not going to the shows or want to get a jump start, there are other places to find the who and what in Licensing:

  • On the internet – type in Art Licensing and read everything you find!
  • Talk to other artists, especially those in the art licensing business
  • Use the services of a coach to get your dreams directed
  • Read the licensing trade magazines and subscribe to their newsletters
  • Listen to teleseminars, read the licensing blogs, be interactive in the licensing groups on LinkedIn
  • Be an empty sponge – gather information from everywhere

8.   Market your brand for Licensing!

Remember this is art for business purposes – not being sold in a gallery or to an art collector. 

Generally, it needs to be art that represents something – rather than being completely abstract – it will have more application to product.

And one of the most critical pieces that almost everyone forgets:  What’s your story? And the story behind the art? 

This begins the vital connection and experience between the consumer, the artist and the art.

Do you have brand identity – what differentiates you in the marketplace?  A strategy that tells your story?  If so, what is it – what does it look like?  Is there a logo, colors, tagline?  If not, what could it be?

9.   Always protect your intellectual property while you maximize exposure!

What royalties do you charge? 

Is it by the piece of artwork or by the product the artwork will be used to create? 

How do you protect your images from being used without permission?

What are the key points that need to be covered in every agreement? Everything!  From the term of the agreement, exclusivity and ownership rights to approval rights, territory, royalty rates, advances and guarantees to the royalty payment schedule.  And don’t forget indemnification for the artist and termination clauses.

If you are working with an agent, how are they paid, how much and when?

Will the agent be doing all the work – or what is required from the artist? 

All of these elements become the important details of protecting the artist, the artwork, and the agent while maximizing the opportunity.

10.    Focus and begin!

Begin Planning

Begin Collaborating

Begin Marketing

Begin Promoting

Begin Creating

Begin Understanding the exciting world of Art Licensing!

And always remember the bottom line of pursuing the world of art licensing – to share the joy and creativity of the artwork more broadly and, of course, being paid multiple times for the same art! 

But as both Lance and I will tell you – it takes time and patience. 

Use these guidelines as a starting point and clearinghouse for your endeavors and you’ll be off to a good start down the path of exploring the business of art Licensing!

– – – –

With a career that spans 30 years, Linda Mariano has worked with major retailers, specialty retailers, art galleries and artists, licensing partnerships, media and entertainment, as well as entrepreneurial business environments.  Linda has been the chief marketing and licensing architect for iconic consumer brands, added multi-million dollar sales by initiating and directing strategic alliance and partnerships, and conceived breakthrough media-based retail concepts. Her expertise in the licensing industry, both as a licensor and licensee for over 15 years, has made her readily-recognized for her expertise and strategic approach to integrated brand developent and business strategies.

Learn more about Linda at and at


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