Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Licensing International Expo: A Newbie's Perspective

One thing that I wanted to mark off my checklist before I began to work on an art licensing portfolio was to visit one of the big licensing expos to get a personal view of what the licensing world is really like.  After visiting the Licensing International Expo in Vegas on Tuesday, I can say that the walk through was a great learning experience and it got me enthused to begin working on a portfolio.  While I was successfully prepared for how to "walk" a trade show from art licensor Tara Reed's awesome Art Licensing Info website and E-book, How To Get Started In Art Licensing,  I have returned with some additional tips and notes from my recent experience.
Overall I thought the Licensing Expo was very interesting and informative and best of all - FREE to attend.  It was less art focused that I would have thought which made it take a lot less time than I had imagined.  It made most sense for me to attend this Expo because that I live on the West Coast but I heard from many exhibitors that Surtex is much more art focused with over 2x as many art booths.   At Licensing International Expo there were 70 booths comprised of individual artists, agencies and collaborative art groups all located in the Art & Design area.  This is where I focused my energy for the majority of my time.
Walk Through
I got to the Expo right at 10:00 when it opened.  It took me about 1 1/2 hours to carefully walk through the Art & Design area while picking up cards, talking to people and introducing myself when I had a chance.  I was very careful to mind people's body language and keep quiet when I thought necessary.  Some artists and agencies were more willing to chat than others.  I gave out my cards when people asked.  Cameras were not allowed so I had to stop and take notes often.  Luckily there were a lot of sitting areas in between booths.

After I walked around the Art & Design area about 2 times I didn't want to seem like a stalker so I toured the rest of the show.  This took about an hour.  The rest of the expo was very engaging - there were entertainment booths the size of a Mc Donald's and movie characters walking around in costumes.  There were a ton of executives who seemed to be doing deals right there on the floor.  It felt a little like the show "Entourage" with a ton of good-looking, fashionable people talking about entertainment deals.  Everyone was on their i-phone and/or computers.  The vibe was very fast paced and business oriented.  It was pretty neat.

After that I picked up a bunch of literature and free publications and headed out to get lunch.  I didn't really have a reason to go back so I am glad that I booked my trip for only one day.  It was definitely worth it because now I have a better understanding of agencies and what they are looking for.  I also was able to take note of all the agencies and even made some contacts to follow up with.  Now I can't wait to build a portfolio and get my licensing show on the road.
My Advice For Walking A Show:
  • Get there early so you can talk to people before they have their business appointments scheduled
  • Bring a folder and a notebook/pen so you can take notes and stash away all the cards you pick up
  • Be prepared with a short pitch about who you are and what kind of art you do.  I was asked to describe my art about a dozen times and I wish I had had a more succinct speech.   
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions but definitely excuse yourself if an exhibitor looks like they need to be tending to something else
  • Have a couple of good questions prepared 
  • Dress professionally
  • Try to pick up as many free publications as possible because they contain all the exhibitors names as well as great licensing info
What I Heard From The Artists and Agencies:
  • Agencies are always looking for new work and new artists to review
  • Licensing is a great way to go if you want to make money as an artist
  • It's a tough job and requires a lot of hard work and tenacity
  • Definitely consult a lawyer before getting into any agreement
  • Times are tough right now and the industry is changing somewhat
I would definitely suggest going to a show like this if you have the time and there is a show relatively close by.  If you have any more questions about my experience or have advice to add, please comment or email me.



Tara Reed said...

Great job Elisabeth! Thank you for the very detailed report - I've been wondering how everything was going wishing I was there. But here I sit, in my studio, still happily swamped with follow-up from SURTEX.

Best of luck with your portfolio!

Tara Reed

Chris G. said...

I've been reading about Art Licensing, but I'm just starting to explore the idea. Now I know about a couple of the trade shows and have an inside scoop on one of them. Thanks a lot for the report!

Carmen B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carmen B said...

Thanks for sharing such valuable advice. I am new to art licensing as well and have "a long row to hoe" as we say in SC. I will add you to my blog faves so that I can keep up with your progress. I have been to a few shows in Atlanta(Americas Mart), but really want to see Surtex and the Licensing Expo. They seem like such great opportunities. I really enjoyed going to Atlanta, for one, it is very close to me and two, it is a great place to see art on product. I am so excited about this adventure that I am traveling and I am so amazed at how many artist are on this same road. I am working on a few collections for my portfolio, but I really want to have several before I step out. Again, Thanks for sharing. I hope in the near future I will be able to share some of my experiences with you, as well.

Christine said...


Thanks for the post about attending the licensing show. It's good to hear how a fellow "Multiple Streams" e-course member is doing after the course. I would like to attend a licensing show, it sounds like fun and a very informative place to find out more about the licensing industry.

Joan said...

Interesting... a lot of talented artists looking into licensing can benefit from your experience and advice.

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