You’ve got a great piece of art you’ve been working on for a while, and you have heard that art licensing is an excellent way to earn extra money.
You’ve seen other artists who create art like yours license their work and make a lot of money, and you want in on the action.
One of the most common challenges a fine artist has is pricing their work correctly when trying to land a licensing deal. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you also want to make sure your royalty payment is profitable.
Another challenge is finding the right company or client to license your work. You don’t want to sell your work to anyone; you want to find someone who appreciates and respects your art.
Finally, you need to understand the legalities of art licensing. This includes understanding copyright law and applying it to you and your work.
It’s a tricky balancing act, but you’ll be on your way to finding success with these tips.
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1. What is Art Licensing
Licensing work means giving a business or someone exclusive use of your artwork for a specific purpose.
When artists license their work, they rent it for a specified period.
The licensee (usually a company) pays the artist a one-time fee or a royalty for the right to use the artwork on their products.
Traditionally, art licensing has been used for mass-produced items like wall art prints, t-shirts, greeting cards, and coffee mugs. However, with the rise of digital technology, licensed art can now be used on a wide range of products, including web applications, games, and even virtual reality experiences.
For visual and graphic artists, licensing can provide a steady income stream while allowing them to retain the copyright to their work. It can also be a helpful way to build name recognition and expand their reach into new markets. In short, art licensing is an excellent way for artists to make extra money, grow their businesses, and possibly have the opportunity to become a full-time artist.
Art Licensing Business Benefits
Increased visibility and brand awareness
When you land a licensing deal, reproductions of the original painting or drawing can be featured in various marketing materials for the company or client that owns the art licensing deal. When you license art, you can increase exposure to your own business and help get your artwork seen by more people, leading to increased recognition and brand awareness. Increasing brand awareness is one way to build an art career and bring attention to your brand.
In many cases, art licensing agents will also promote the artist who created it. This can lead to additional opportunities for cross-promotion, such as featuring your work on the company’s website or social media pages.
Cross-promoting can generate immediate income on a variety of different products you sell.
Many artists start licensing because they can earn money off a piece of original art that has already been sold. Many artists make more money from an artwork licensing deal than if they sold the painting at the total price.
2. Legalities of Licensing Art
When licensing your artwork, it’s essential to know the legalities involved. This includes understanding what rights you grant to the licensee and what they can do with your work. It’s also essential to ensure that any contracts or agreements you sign are fair and protect your interests.
Ask an attorney about any art licensing info you read before committing to any licensing deals.
Any time artists create a new piece of art. It is automatically copyrighted under federal law (the same protection as a book, film, and song). There’s no need to do anything else to make it official; however, there are some limited circumstances where you may wish to register your work with the US Copyright Office. The most common reason for doing this is to have a better standing in court if you’re ever involved in a copyright infringement case.
Ask an attorney for advice on what actions would be best when protecting your art.
What rights are granted to the licensee
Generally, the licensee acquires only limited rights in the art. These rights usually exclude a retail store’s ability to resell art reproductions on commercial products or reuse the art.
Artist’s Perspective: An artist should consider how a licensee uses their artwork before licensing it. The artist will want to avoid unpleasant surprises later when they must sign away intellectual property rights or even their moral rights.
Licensee’s Perspective: It is not unusual for an artist to be concerned with how the licensee will use their artwork before licensing it. However, when entering into a licensing agreement, remember that many different types of licenses convey various levels of usage rights. Properly clarify the rights you grant to the licensee before signing any contract or releasing artwork.
Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive Rights
The exclusive (or sole) right to use an artist’s work is unique in limiting others from using the same art. It also limits the artist’s ability to license their artwork for other uses. Generally, non-exclusive licenses are preferred because they allow artists to license their work to multiple clients simultaneously.
Artist’s Perspective: An artist may want to retain sole ownership or an exclusive license if they believe controlling how their artwork is used benefits them financially. For example, the artist may sell art prints of their paintings and wish to maintain control over the distribution of those prints.
Licensee’s Perspective: A company may prefer to license exclusively because it is difficult to find an artist whose work matches their needs if the artist licenses with multiple clients simultaneously. However, manufacturers may prefer to license non-exclusively because they can be confident that their competitors will not use the same artwork.
Licensee-specified Usage Restrictions
The licensee may give particular usage restrictions when licensing artwork. For example, they might specify how often an image can be published or whether it must be in color. While these specifications are often legally nonbinding, it is in both parties’ best interest to be as specific as possible when drafting the terms of a license.
Artist’s Perspective: An artist may want to offer exclusive licenses if they believe it is in their best interest financially because companies will not have the option of licensing from another company that has already licensed the artwork. For example, a children’s clothing company might be willing to pay more for an exclusive license with a well-known artist because they would not have to worry about their competitor using the same work printed.
Licensee’s Perspective: A company may prefer to license exclusively because it is difficult to find an artist whose work matches their needs if the artist licenses with multiple clients simultaneously. However, a company may prefer to license non-exclusively because they can be confident that their competitor will not use the same piece.
Licensee-specified Exclusivity Period
The licensee may request an exclusive right for a limited period, usually in one or two-year increments. This type of agreement is generally used when an art licensing agreement is for a limited duration or project expected to be completed within a specific period.
Artist’s Perspective: An artist may want to offer an exclusive license with limited exclusivity if they believe it will help them financially because companies will not have the option of licensing from another company that has already licensed the artwork. For example, a publisher might want to license an artist’s work for only one year to time the publication with a significant event.
Licensee’s Perspective: A company may prefer to license exclusively because it is difficult to find an artist whose work matches their needs if the artist licenses with multiple clients simultaneously. However, a business may license non-exclusively because they know their competitor will not be able to use the same design.
What to do if someone uses your work without permission
The best way to start is to email the business and ask them to stop producing and selling products with your artwork on them. If the infringing party is a corporation, they may offer to pay you for your work. Most infringement stops there. However, if you suspect someone is actively using your work without permission, you can send a cease and desist letter. This will usually stop the infringing practice. If not, you can file a complaint with their hosting service or internet service provider.
What happens if someone uses your artwork for commercial purposes?
You might be compensated if the person or business gained a commercial advantage from using your artwork. The company must have requested a licensing deal or commercial use of your work. If they did request it and you granted permission, the user will likely be held liable for their infringement unless they can prove they didn’t know about your work or derived no commercial benefit from it.
What if someone uses your artwork without permission or compensation?
If you created an original work of art, the copyright is automatically yours the moment you make it. By default, your artwork belongs to you, and no one can reproduce it without your written consent. However, suppose you grant another person or business permission to use your work. In that case, you cannot revoke the consent later – even if you realize it’s not in your best financial interests to allow them to do so.
Always talk to an attorney to ensure all licensing agreements are appropriately written and if someone uses your art without permission.
3. Licensing Opportunities for Artists
There are a variety of ways artists can license their work. One of the most common is through a stock photography site. These sites allow you to upload your images and make them available for others to purchase. There are a number of these sites, but some of the most popular include Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and iStockphoto.
Another way to license your artwork is through a business licensing products such as apparel, home decor, and other consumer goods.
If you have a specific type of artwork perfect for a particular industry, you can also contact companies directly. For example, if you’re an oil painter, you might contact a company that manufactures ceramics to see if they would be interested in your work. Many retail stores sell licensed products.
How Do I Find a Company for Licensing Your Art
One of the best ways to find a company or client interested in licensing your artwork is to attend art shows and trade shows. These events are a great place to meet potential licensees and network with other artists.
To get started, attend a trade show in your local area and try to build relationships with other artists. Ask them for their expert advice on how to get started. Just be respectful of their time.
You can also search for companies online. Several databases and directories list art licensing companies.
Finally, you can approach companies yourself. This can be tricky since you don’t want to appear aggressive or desperate, but a well-crafted email can be a great way to start a dialogue with a potential licensee.
Making money doesn’t come easy. It would be best to work hard to find manufacturers interested in your artistic style. The best advice is to study the art industry and find a way to make your work stand out.
4. Pricing Your Artwork Correctly
When licensing your artwork, it’s important to price it correctly. This means setting a fair price for both you and the licensee. You don’t want to put your price too low, as you’ll leave money on the table. However, you also don’t want to price it so high that no one is interested in licensing it.
There are a few things to consider when setting your price:
- The marketability of your artwork
- How much time does it take creating art
- The size of the artwork
- The medium of the artwork
- How exclusive do you want to be with your work
5. Ways to Promote Your Work as an Artist Through Licensing
As an artist, it’s essential to promote your work as much as possible to generate sales.
There are several ways to promote your work as an artist through licensing:
- Blog about the artwork you’ve licensed and promote it to your readers
- Post on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
- Attend conventions where potential customers might be interested in licensing your work
- Being active within art communities where people interested in licensing or starting a business might be found
- Join a company that specializes in promoting artists
- Include a licensing option in your email signature
How Do You Get Payed
It is essential to know the different royalty rates for your product. Royalty amounts can vary depending on what you sell and how much of it, so make sure that any company offering royalties has a rate that will work with yours before signing up!
The typical royalty-based agreement in the print/poster market ranges from 10-15%. However, there are other types like licensed gadget cases or similar where these could be as low as 4%, but more likely 7%-10%. You should always negotiate this part, too – try getting yourself the most lucrative deal possible.
As an artist, you can create something that others can’t. However, you also want to make sure you’re getting compensated for your work. Licensing products is one way you can do just that while still sharing your art with the world. Before you get started, ask other artists how to get started and what to look for. The more information you can receive, the better prepared you will be when negotiating deals.
Licensing Art FAQs
Can they change the artwork I have licensed for use?
Sometimes, a licensee will be allowed to make specific changes to the art to make it work better with their product. For example, if you license your painting of a dog for a set of phone covers, they might ask you to change the background color or add a border around the image. If any changes would significantly alter the meaning of your piece, they will need your permission before making them.
How long does my license last?
Licenses typically last from one year up to five years, depending on what type of licensing agreement you have used and how long you want them to have rights over your work. Both parties must agree on an end date on the front end before signing a contract.
If I license artwork for use on products, do I still own the copyright to my work?
When you license your art, it does not affect your copyright in any way. You are still the owner of your work and retain all rights over its use. The licensee has only been granted limited rights to use your work for a certain period, which you have agreed upon beforehand.
Is there a difference between licensing my art for commercial and editorial use?
Yes. Commercial uses are typically for advertisements or things that promote a product or service, while editorial uses are more closely related to something newsworthy or informative such as an article or book cover. Again, this refers to the usage rights you discussed with your licensee.
I licensed my art, but then they stopped using it!
If your licensee stops using all or parts of your work covered by a license agreement, it’s essential to ask them for an explanation and proof of use. If they can’t show you how and where they used it, you might want to consider revoking the licensing agreement and taking legal action (if necessary).
Do I need a lawyer?
It’s unnecessary to retain an attorney every time you enter into a licensing agreement. However, if there are certain things within the contract that you don’t understand or don’t feel comfortable with down the line, having legal representation is always a good idea.
Can I charge more for using my art on products instead of editorial uses?
Yes, depending on what type of product is in question and how well the artwork matches that particular market and audience (and vice versa). For example, if you license your painting of a dog for a set of phone covers, then this would likely fall under commercial use and could be priced accordingly.
What Is Print On Demand?
Print on Demand (POD) is a business model that enables the creation and sale of unique and customized items without the need for inventory. Under this model, artists or designers can sell their designs on various products such as t-shirts, mugs, posters, and more. When a customer orders, the item is printed and shipped directly to them by a third-party supplier. This method is a cost-effective way for artists to sell their art on a variety of products without having to handle the logistics of manufacturing, inventory management, and shipping.
How much money can a licensing artist make?
The earning potential for a licensing artist can vary dramatically based on several factors, such as the popularity of their work, the number of licensing deals they have, and the terms of each license. Royalty rates for licensed artwork typically range from 4% to 15%, with most artists making between $20,000 and $50,000 annually from licensing. However, well-established artists with high demand and wide-scale distribution can earn significantly more. It’s important to note that these numbers are estimates, and actual earnings can vary. The key to success in licensing is to have a diverse portfolio, negotiate favorable terms, and continually market and promote your work.