Art Licensing Trade Shows

Interested in licensing your art? Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to meet potential customers.


Surtex floor


Art licensing can be a lucrative business for an artist. It’s a way to leverage your studio work, contracting with manufacturers and others to reproduce your images on products of all types. After manufacture, these products are wholesaled to retailers around the country. Payment to the artists for images that are licensed usually comes in the form of royalties, which are paid quarterly.

Although Surtex is the biggest trade show for this industry, there are others, such as The Licensing Expo, Printsource and the Craft and Hobby Association show.

What happens at a licensing trade show? Booth spaces are rented by individual artists, art licensing agencies, and art publishers. They are searching for connections and opportunities to meet and make presentations to manufacturers of all types who are searching for new art and designs to use in the manufacture of their goods.

The purpose of licensing an artist’s images is to sell product for the manufacturer. Thus, potential customers have a pretty good idea of what type of art or design will fit well with their product lines, and they may be walking the show to find just the right new images for their collections.

Once a licensing agreement is struck, the artist (who is the licensor in the contract) must be flexible and willing to work with the licensee to make adjustments and revisions. It’s not unusual for artists to have numerous licensing contracts. In fact, to make a living in this industry, having multiple contracts is a necessary.

Other activities take place at licensing trade shows as well:

  • Lots of networking. Artist exhibitors can meet each other, talk about the industry, and share opportunities.
  • Artists may meet with licensing agents, who could be a good match for representation.
  • Artists who are potential exhibitors may come to the show to walk the aisles and get a preview of the experience.
  • Educational seminars about the business, trends and topics of interest to the licensing industry are presented.
  • Often, new artists are debuted, and students who have been awarded for surface design get exposure at the show.
  • The press comes to these trade shows, often picking up press kits, or interviewing artists for publicity in blogs and publications.

Trade shows can be expensive, and it behooves any artist considering getting into the business to do their research, and walk a show if possible before making a final decision and applying.

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