Art Licensing Agent Marty Segelbaum from MHS Licensing

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Interested in the licensing business? Marty Segelbaum is laying it ALL OUT for you today in this episode! We cover everything you need to know currently about this business. Why do I emphasize currently? Because like any business, it is changing! Retail is changing, manufacturing is changing and if you are an artist who wants to get your art out on product, you need to understand those changes so you can make educated decisions about your own art business. We cover they way art is shown and licensed now. We also discuss portfolios, working with or without agents, trade shows, that never ending question on whether or not to password protect your art. I even ask him about developing your own audience as an artist! I liked his answer! Marty has been in the art licensing business for a long time (sometimes I think he is even surprised by it, haha!) He and his partners at MHS Licensing  know a thing or two about this business and how it as changed and what it takes to successfully navigate it. Whether you consider yourself a veteran or a novice,  this episode is a must listen!

Here are images of artists that work with MHS and their fabulous products!

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SR - Product 1

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  • Joy Laforme says:

    What a great interview – this was one of my favorites, Monica. Marty is incredibly knowledgeable about the industry, that is clear from the interview! I love his advice on having a particular aesthetic, but also rounding yourself out into other aesthetics as well.

    I am definitely confused by not password protecting at least a portion of my work, though. I totally get where he is coming from, and about how it is my job as an artist to make the art directors’ lives easy when visiting my website. However, it is difficult in the age of technology, because I’ve had art stolen directly from my website before it’s even made me any money. I see some of my work cycled into Tumblr, and Pinterest, with no source links, and its like a black hole that I can’t possibly prevent my work from going down (it’s like a full-time job, when I try, filling out DCMA forms and such). Even well-known artists are copying lesser known artists, and end up profiting off of that. I find this aspect of the industry perhaps the most frustrating of all. I’d love if you end up having another art agent on your show (which I’m sure you will!) if you can ask about alternatives for sharing work with art directors and potential licensees, other than having my work slapped on a website.

    I hope that licensing agents and art directors can understand that, in some capacity. I will keep it in mind, “making things easy for them” because that is absolutely important, and I need to be cognizant of that as an artist.

    • Monica Lee says:

      Hi Joy, I do think you save your best work for people “in boxes” only. I think most art buyers want to see a portfolio or body of work and then want jpgs and pdfs sent to them once they have made contact. In the art licensing industry most (almost all) art that will eventually be manufactured in to a product is before it is “seen. Always brand any piece of art with your name and keep it low res, right? Plunk that signature on it so it can’t be clipped out so if it does end up somewhere, you can still see your name. Nancy Zhang does this well and has been doing it for years.

    • Joy – Licensees need to see your entire portfolio (or at least a good portion of it) to gauge your viability in their line. There is a simple way to do this, to make everyone happy . . . add low res images that are watermarked with your copyright information and/or logo, and you significantly reduce the “desire” for someone to steal your art. At a very minimum, all of your art must contain your watermark!!

  • Bernadette Youngquist says:

    Super interview! You touched on great points and need to know info. I just have to inquire however, why would a licensing agent feel like they can question an artist’s reasons for being in the business and negotiate terms around that? Twice during the interview Mr. Segelbaum made reference to creating contracts based on the artist’s need for income. Shouldn’t compensation be assumed and standardized? Equal work, equal pay? It felt like another example of art not being respected as work. What hobbyist would seek a licensing deal? And what other professional platforms ask you how bad you need the money? Did I misunderstand? Thanks Monica!

    • Monica Lee says:

      I think by that he meant what the manufacturer can do with the art-for example: When I initially licensed my art for check designs it was not for private label and then we when back after a year and added an addendum letting the designs be sold, unbranded via American Express and Walmart which brought in more income. Some artists want to protect their brand and will make monetary sacrifices to accomplish that and sometimes an artists may want to let aspects go for larger royalties, like I did.

    • Bernadette – there are times when expanding a branding strategy is more important than the actual revenue received (I know, this sounds strange, but it does happen). So, you occasionally do a deal that helps round out a brand and the brand presence, while taking lesser money on the deal.
      Also, some artists are so motivated by a quick dollar that doing a licensing deal makes no sense. As stated, licensing is a marathon, and you cannot expect to see much money (if any at all!) for 12 – 18 months.
      I believe Marty was simply trying to caution artists to know what they desire, understand the strategy and process of licensing, and share that information with your agent, if you have one.

  • Sarah Frederking says:

    Thank you so much for this great podcast. I am so happy to again hear from the experts that selling your copyright is the wrong thing to do. I have many images still in my portfolio that I have refused to sell outright to some very good companies, as I know that is not the way to go. New artists need to hear this message over and over, and yes, realize that this is a slow growth process to get to where you want to be. Great great podcast that I will listen to many times over as a need the reminders.

  • Great information, for current practices and trends in the business…answered a lot of questions about the future of licensing…

  • Monica,
    It is so refreshing to have someone with Marty’s extensive background attempt to help artists understand the real picture regarding licensing. I would strongly urge every person desiring a venture into licensing to really listen to everything he mentions. The details are absolute:
    – Licensing is a marathon, and not a sprint. In other words, this is not a “get rich quick” route, and certainly a path that require a lot of effort on the part of the artist.
    – Conceptualizing your art onto three dimensional products is a MUST! You cannot expect a Licensee to look at a sheet of two dimensional art and understand how it will translate to a 3D product.
    – It wasn’t mentioned specifically, but truly do not attempt to negotiate a deal on your own! We find so many artists who have signed away so much of their world for the sake of a few dollars that is so very sad. And, if you are a female artist, thinking your husband can handle this for you is just not real (unless of course he is an intellectual property attorney!). This is why using a skilled, and experienced agent is so important!
    – Never, ever give away your copyrights!
    – For new artists entering the field, who don’t have existing deals, leverage as much of the social media as you can – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and even your own house mailing list. Licensees want to know what items with your designs are selling at retail, but they are also very impressed when you can show large numbers of followers through social media. Remember, manufacturers are truly risk adverse in today’s market, and need to know that if they license your art, the propensity for a customer to buy, based on the fact that they know you and your brand, is great (this reducing their risk!).
    – Always seek advice from folks with demonstrated experience in the arena of licensing!

    Thanks for including Marty in your discussions!!

  • Wendi Moore says:

    This was so informative. Monica, I’m so glad I recently discovered your AWESOME website. I’ve watched several videos and learn something new every time. MHS Licensing is a company I’ve been looking at for a while now – looking at their artists’ work and dreaming of submitting my art to them. I’m still working on building my portfolio and web presence for now, but I hope to be in a place to submit to an agent within the next few months.

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and asking the experts the questions a lot of us are too afraid to ask.

  • Trudi Dowling says:

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Katie Keller says:

    Great interview, interesting and insightful discussion – thank you.

  • Melinda Hopkirk says:

    what a great interview, really interesting to hear his take on selling outright, that was a real learning point for me. thanks Monica

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