We are proud to present an exclusive interview with the exclusive A.V Phibes. Ms. Phibes talks about art, licensing, and how you can make money
JLeavitt5 (4:58:55 PM): Darling Ms Phibes
avphibes (4:59:01 PM): sir!
JLeavitt5 (4:59:18 PM): How do you do?
avphibes (4:59:27 PM): I may, at any moment, be called upon to carry furniture up from downstairs, so if I am silent for awhile, that is probably why
JLeavitt5 (4:59:44 PM): Crazy life you artists have
JLeavitt5 (5:00:13 PM): Lets get this going, Question 1: name Rank and Serial Number?
avphibes (5:00:31 PM): A.V. Phibes, Commander in Chief. 7
avphibes (5:00:57 PM): I am actually 7 out of a limited edition of 10.
JLeavitt5 (5:01:13 PM): Now, you no longer do illustrations anymore, correct?
avphibes (5:01:20 PM): For the most part
avphibes (5:01:44 PM): Every now and then a friend twists my arm, but I’m mostly freelance-free
JLeavitt5 (5:01:44 PM): What do you do now?
avphibes (5:02:03 PM): I’m living off of licensing royalties
avphibes (5:02:19 PM): mostly from “mobile content” aka cel-phone wallpapers
JLeavitt5 (5:02:29 PM): Could you explain for our audience what licensing is how you got into it?
avphibes (5:03:24 PM): Licensing for artists is basically allowing a manufacturer/distributor of other goods to use your artwork for their goods in exchange for a small percentage of their profits.
avphibes (5:03:42 PM): it’s a great situation for artists. It gets your images “out there” without you really having to invest a ton of overhead
avphibes (5:04:56 PM): and the beauty is, the more your art is “out there,” the more money you make, so it’s win-win.
JLeavitt5 (5:04:54 PM): How does one grab on to this crazy licensing bandwagon?
avphibes (5:05:21 PM): I’ve done so by exhibiting at the Licensing International show at the Javitz center for the past four years
avphibes (5:05:31 PM): it is the biggest industry event for these things
JLeavitt5 (5:05:44 PM): What does that entail? Fees, tables, ect?
avphibes (5:05:49 PM): although I know other artists who get most of their contacts from the Stationery show or Surtex
avphibes (5:05:59 PM): Fees and tables, indeed!
JLeavitt5 (5:06:12 PM): Any advice for getting a good start at these shows?
avphibes (5:06:23 PM): Basically, an artist has to invest a few grand and a bit of toil to do these shows
JLeavitt5 (5:06:29 PM): Having samples of how great that devil girl will look on a T-shirt?
avphibes (5:06:58 PM): My biggest piece of advice is that an artist should attend a show before they decide to exhibit.
avphibes (5:07:14 PM): That way they can see what sort of art is being show and how it is being shown and promoted
avphibes (5:07:24 PM): and that makes it easier to plot your own approach
JLeavitt5 (5:07:26 PM): Steal other people’s clever ideas ?
avphibes (5:07:32 PM): exactly!
JLeavitt5 (5:08:08 PM): Now these shows sound like a huge investment, espically for someone just starting out. Is there anything else, something smaller that could give the would-be licencee a leg up?
avphibes (5:08:10 PM): especially in regards to display and promotion
avphibes (5:08:44 PM): well, they can read trade publications. License! magazine is one of the better ones and I believe you can get a subscription for free
avphibes (5:09:14 PM): or just visit their website: www.licensemag.com
JLeavitt5 (5:09:31 PM): Can you contract manfactuerers or companies yourself, or is that a faux-pas?
avphibes (5:09:40 PM): not all of it is pertinent to lone artists, since a lot of licensing is big brands and entertainment
avphibes (5:09:46 PM): but it gives a good industry overview
avphibes (5:09:54 PM): I imagine that one could
avphibes (5:10:10 PM): but I’ve never tried approaching a company cold, without a specific contact or lead
avphibes (5:10:25 PM): There are also agents who can do it for you
avphibes (5:10:41 PM): but most of the agents who work with beginners take huge cuts of your profits
avphibes (5:10:54 PM): like 50% or more
avphibes (5:11:21 PM): the beauty of trade shows is that people come to you.
JLeavitt5 (5:11:35 PM): Okay, lets say you’ve gotten in contact, you’ve attended the shows, you’ve created work that looks great on pins, magents, t-shirts.
JLeavitt5 (5:11:50 PM): What kind of contract or payment cut can you expect?
avphibes (5:12:10 PM): there are a few major factors to consider in contracts
avphibes (5:12:33 PM): such as whether the company has exclusive rights to your work
avphibes (5:12:38 PM): and for how long
avphibes (5:12:48 PM): and which regions they can sell in
avphibes (5:13:01 PM): and which specific images and products
avphibes (5:13:24 PM): the royalty varies depending on product. It’s anywhere from 3-15 percent.
JLeavitt5 (5:13:36 PM): You would not want to sell the rights to all versions of your adorable kitten-with-a-machine-gun to one company for all time, everywhere
avphibes (5:13:49 PM): not unless they made you a really good deal
avphibes (5:13:52 PM): that is another thing:
avphibes (5:14:10 PM): many contracts will provide you an “advance” of a designated amount of money
avphibes (5:14:12 PM): but not all do
avphibes (5:15:02 PM): starting out, it ‘s more likely that you’ll be offered no-advance contracts
avphibes (5:15:34 PM): but I’ve found that if an advance is offered, that usually shows the licensees confidence that they can sell a lot of your stuff
avphibes (5:15:53 PM): so you are more likely to make more money off of a company that offers an advance
JLeavitt5 (5:15:57 PM): Interesting. Who are the big names to shoot for? Who have you worked for?
avphibes (5:16:30 PM): I’m not sure if I’ve worked with “big names” yet, haha
avphibes (5:16:45 PM): but a question I always ask to licensees is who they sell to
avphibes (5:17:16 PM): if they tell me large store chains like Spencer Gifts, Hot Topic and Urban Outfitter, that’s usually a good thing
JLeavitt5 (5:17:30 PM): Not, Corner Bodgea Inc.
avphibes (5:17:42 PM): if they sell to HUGE chains like Target, Wal-Mart, etc. then you can make bank
avphibes (5:18:00 PM): although my art doesn’t really suit that market so much
avphibes (5:18:35 PM): yeah, well, if they sell here and there to little boutiques, vs. big chains, you’re looking at a few hundred dollars vs. a few thousand dollars.
avphibes (5:18:49 PM): because, remember, you’re making a small percentage of their wholesale sales
JLeavitt5 (5:19:02 PM): 10% off a 3 dollar lunchbox
JLeavitt5 (5:18:42 PM): Now to get personal. How much would you say you make off licensing alone?
avphibes (5:19:04 PM): I will probably make close to six figures this year
avphibes (5:19:16 PM): although I’ve definitely built up to that
avphibes (5:19:25 PM): my first year I only made a few thousand
avphibes (5:19:50 PM): and much of it is just the luck of coming into the mobile content market right now
JLeavitt5 (5:19:42 PM): How much work was invovled in that first few thousand?
avphibes (5:20:25 PM): well, the first year, I don’t think I broke even, as far as the promotion costs vs. profits
avphibes (5:20:33 PM): but by the second year I was getting ahead
avphibes (5:21:03 PM): the third year things were rolling
avphibes (5:21:10 PM): and now things are going quite well
JLeavitt5 (5:21:23 PM): You can afford that soild gold toilet brush, finally
JLeavitt5 (5:21:13 PM): Any more advice for those looking to get into licensing. things to avoid?
avphibes (5:21:28 PM):
avphibes (5:22:15 PM): People who want to get into licensing just need to really think about what demographic their artwork will appeal to and figure out how to package it appealingly for that demographic
avphibes (5:22:34 PM): because licensees are not big risk takers
avphibes (5:23:49 PM): If you are making things that will appeal to midwestern housewives, then show them in such a way that people who sell to stores that sell to midwestern housewives will say “that’s exactly what we want!”
avphibes (5:24:11 PM): or in my case, my customer is usually younger, female and veering to the “alternative” side
avphibes (5:25:03 PM): and so I try to make all my promos consistent to that aesthetic
avphibes (5:25:18 PM): even though the people I’m showing the promos to are NOT that demographic
JLeavitt5 (5:25:11 PM): So, remember your product and remember your audience. And who said artists can’t be businessmen?
avphibes (5:25:25 PM): yes!
JLeavitt5 (5:26:30 PM): So, This has been the lovely, lovely Ms. Phibes. her work can be seen at www.avphibes.com and her twisted comics at www.evilkid.com
JLeavitt5 (5:27:06 PM): It’s been a charming time. One last question Ms. Phibes. Is NY times editorial art director Steve Heller a horrible little troll?
avphibes (5:27:19 PM): haha
avphibes (5:27:21 PM): I wouldn’t know
JLeavitt5 (5:27:39 PM): He wrote a really bad book on Illustration
JLeavitt5 (5:27:49 PM): and covers up that he used to work at Screw
avphibes (5:27:43 PM): I don’t have to deal with his kind anymore
JLeavitt5 (5:27:56 PM): and for that, you’ll be the better person.
Illustrae Spotlight: A.V Phibes