biz chat: the costs of doing licensing shows

the cost of doing licensing shows

I mentioned at the beginning of this year a friend asked if I was going to do roller derby rec-league (since the league I was skating with broke up in January), and I told her “I can’t afford it”, my response was met with a perplexed look. The reason I couldn’t afford it was because we were cutting back on selling spring shows, had just made our last 1K payment for Surtex, and still had to pay for a hotel in NY for a week and two plane tickets. Exhibiting at Surtex cost us 4k, that’s cheap because we were exhibiting with Cultivate Art Collective, had we done it alone, our numbers would have looked more like this.

In April we added exhibiting at Licensing Expo (meaning we were now cutting out our major summer selling shows). Licensing Expo cost us 6K, and that’s cheap because we exhibited in the Launchpad area, where the booths were only 2k. We were advised to remove the majority of our tees online, so that we can license the designs instead, lessening our online income. November 1st we have to pay for a local art show that’s almost two weeks long, and the cost for that is around 3k (not including cost of goods, and could be higher depending on how much the costs of displays will actually be). To have more time for building up our portfolio we stopped accepting web/design clients, in fact, we’re closing our web/design business next month (there goes another revenue stream!). Between now and April we will be paying for the 3k local art show, smaller holiday show fees, exhibiting fees for Printsource in January, Surtex in May, a full booth at Licensing Expo in June which will cost around 10k, and BLE in October. We’re looking at a minimum of 20k in booth fees a year, over double what we normally spend on booth fees.

Robo Roku Licensing Expo Launchpad Booth
Robo Roku Licensing Expo Launchpad Booth

I now tell people “I’m broke”. The reason I’m “broke” is because we made the leap from “selling shows” to “licensing shows” without having a big enough cushion. With licensing it can take up to a year and a half to start getting paid. The licensee (company licensing our work) needs time to produce the products, sell the products, then we start getting paid (normally quarterly). I’m not living off instant noodles or anything, I just have a strict budget; my budgets always includes a “fun money” category, I just don’t have as much fun money as I’d like. I cut back on that category to reallocate the funds toward booth fees. When I was adding up the expenses for Licensing Expo, I had a moment when I thought “there are so many other cool things I could do with this money!”, but to make money, you gotta spend money, so that’s what we’re doing. I don’t regret making the transition to focus more on licensing, maybe just wish I’d planned it out better. I just didn’t want to wait another year to “do it right” I wanted to dive in and get started.

Soon enough (and I mean soon) we’ll have new stuff online for sale which will get us closer to our normal income level. I’m excited to share with you the things we’ve been working on this summer. We normally do big launches for a year, and then sprinkle in smaller batches of new stuff here and there. In order to be structured better for all the licensing shows, we’ll be switching to releasing collections, like the fashion industry does. Very soon we’ll release our A/W (autumn/winter) collection and then our holiday collections, which will be released at least a month before the holiday. I’m excited to get on this schedule, I am such a lover of routines.

I wanted to share all this info with you so you can have an idea of what doing trade shows can do to your bank account (and maybe your lifestyle). I love what I do, and maybe this year I don’t have as much money to spend on fun stuff, but in a few months things will start leveling out. Ah, the things we do for what we love. If you’re interested in going the same way, I highly recommend looking into Make Art That Sells by Lilla Rogers for getting your art prepared, and learning from Tara Reed to make sure you understand the business side. If you have any questions about shows, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.



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renee