Friday, January 6, 2017
Spotlight on All Art Licensing, J’net Smith
First tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Salem, Oregon. It was a wonderful childhood full of 4-H, beach combing, boating and fishing with my Dad and brother, and crafting and painting with my mother. I graduated with a combined B.S. in journalism and marketing. After a few years at a Seattle ad agency, I moved without a job to NYC to expand my horizons and see what I could do with my life. I worked for a major travel publisher for the first five years and travelled the world, usually taking 10-12 international trips a year. It was a blast! When I went to work for the president of Macmillan Publishing, I began licensing an English as a Second Language television course in conjunction with the USIA (United States Information Agency). This is where I learned about the global power of licensing.
I pursued a job at United Media (the licensing division of United Feature Syndicate), where all the licensing for Peanuts was done at the time. After being hired, I was asked to work on all the lesser known characters, including Nancy and Sluggo, Marmaduke, Over the Hedge and Dilbert. I built the Dilbert business from its infancy into the first corporate global icon, generating more than $200 million a year in sales in more than 45 countries.
After seven years at United Media, three years as Vice President Licensing, I decided to start my own business and moved back to the West Coast, where I also started my family. My husband, Ric, and I have a son who just turned 12. At first I worked under the name J’net Smith Inc. and in 2006, I created All Art Licensing.
Would you please summarize all that you do!
All Art Licensing has two divisions, the ABC School of Licensing, which is currently still in development and includes all of our video and audio products, live classes, eBooks, templates and other educational elements, and our personal services which fall primarily into 3 categories – coaching (I help you decide what needs to be done and teach you how to do it yourself, often providing contacts and information), consulting (I do the work for you) and agenting (I occasionally still represent artists, cartoonists, brands, authors and other creatives to market their work to manufacturers, producers, retailers and others in the position to license their work).
I am first and foremost a brand developer. With all clients, whether artists, cartoonists, authors and other creators, I help them envision the big picture and then find the most efficient pathway to generate money with their creativity and IP (intellectual property). I can also help them do it. A lot of what I do is eliminate hours of unnecessary work with information, knowledge and connections. I love working with artists and getting them ready for the million-dollar deal, also helping them learn how to become less vulnerable and realize that they have the power to do anything they want!
Do you have employees/help?
Yes. I have a number of people I work with on a daily basis, both in my office and through virtual connections. In addition, I have strategic partnerships with designers, cartoonists, manufacturers, retailers, publishers, producers, attorneys, videographers, specialized agents, publicist, webmasters and other experts in their fields, whom I call on for all types of projects. No one is an island, you need relationships and the right connections to get the job done.
How does Agenting and or Consulting/Coaching work if an artist comes to you for help? What do you look for in an artist/character/brand?
When a creator comes to me they usually have an idea of how they want to work. If they are looking for an agent, they say so up front. Agents work on a percentage of the licensing revenue that they bring in for a client and the commission share can vary widely. I try to be very reasonable, and I take on only a few clients at a time. For consulting work, the client usually comes with an idea of what they are looking for and ask if X number of hours will do the job. I guide them, so that they get the most bang for the buck. Often what they think they need/want is different from what they actually need/want. We work through that in the most economical way possible.
The difference between consulting and coaching is that in consulting I do the work for the client, whereas in coaching I teach and guide the creator so that they can save money and do a lot of it themselves. Honestly, people have talents they aren’t even aware of...and I like to drill down to see what and how much they can do, and want to do. With the right guidance at those critical junctures, many people can do far more than they ever imagined! I have many clients who have been with me for years. They often come once or twice a year for direction and guidance, or for a specific purpose, such as advice on a contract or to prepare for a negotiation. Whatever help they request and need, that’s what I do.
Artists sometimes come to me for coaching, but if I see they need basic licensing education before entering into the licensing arena, this is why I am developing the ABC School of Licensing courses. The video courses and eBooks provide very detailed industry knowledge and ‘how to’ information at a price-point that the average artist can afford. I wouldn’t want to steer an artist toward investing in personal coaching, if they can get the information in a more economical format.
What I look for in an artist/character/brand varies greatly. I am very interested in artists and designers with a specific style and bent, especially those who are on the cutting edge of trends or those who cover a multitude of themes in their work. It’s really exciting to find prolific creators, who also have technical skills. For characters. I look for a well-thought-out concept that has a unique niche. Whether art or characters, knowing your target audience is key. And, of course, I love finding those creators with pure raw talent.
How has the Art Licensing business changed over the years?
Oh, it’s changed quite a bit since I started.
First of all, there is a lot more information available to artists wanting to get into this business. But I find that creators need more help than ever sorting through the information, identifying what’s valuable (will make money) and making sense of it all. A coaching session 1-2x a year can help a great deal, especially when you have decided to market yourself and not utilize the services of an agent. Or to help you find the right agent.
Second, there is a lot more competition in the marketplace today with more artists than ever wanting to get into the art licensing industry, while many manufacturers continue to be risk-adverse and scared to try new artists and brands.
Third, the technological advances in the last ten years have made a huge impact on what you can do as an artist. From being able to create your own website and product store to print-on-demand manufacturing opportunities and the ability to broadcast art, cartoons and all types of content to the world platform vs. a local stage. Again, literally, mind-bogglingly amazing! It creates a huge playing field, as never experienced before. For those who are up to the challenges, it’s incredibly exciting.
What sort of resources do you offer?
I think one of the biggest resources All Art Licensing offers, in addition to our training, strategic planning, brand development, contract advice and negotiation services—to name a few—is our eighty free Minicourses available on our website. Each one is a question I answer, from artists around the world – a kind of bite-size class available all day, every day for everyone. Scroll through the questions and I’m sure you will find something of interest that you can learn from. I find many creators, that are new to licensing, don’t even know what questions to ask and which questions and answers will be most valuable. The Minicourses give you a fantastic place to start and everyone can get a feel for the quality and type of information and advice I provide. We are also offering a great deal of information through our social media platforms.
Any great news you would like to share?
Yes, as a matter of fact, All Art Licensing is creating more training courses and will have more products available in more different learning modes than ever (streaming, video, audio, chat, conferences, etc.), under our new moniker of ABC School of Licensing (A=Art, B=Brands, C=Characters), so please watch as we develop this over the coming year. And I would love to hear from your readers what challenges them and what they want to learn about most.
Any advice or information you would like to share?
I would recommend creators get advice on how to grow their business sooner rather than later…and focus. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you focus, execute and then move on to the next target, rather than taking a shotgun approach and just seeing what you can hit.
Note: J'net will be answering question live on February 9th in my 2nd Thursdays text chat group on ArtLicensingShow.com. ALL paid members of ArtLicensingShow.com are welcome to join us! Send your questions to me, or post then in the comments below. info@AnnGraphics.com