In our industry, its common that most artists have to deal with uncertainty. Hence you will never know when you will be laid off.
Is this the end of our dreams? Is there a future for the artists? Could you let your art build a future for you? The principle behind is actually the same as how a company creates and markets its own IP (Intellectual Property). And slowly establishing a brand. The only difference is that now you are doing it at a smaller scale. But the same principle applies.
These are the basic steps:
1)Build an IP and a Brand.
2)Find ways to promote and expand your fans through social media and ways to interact with your fans in person.
3)Learn how to protect your IP and Brand.
4)Learn how to monetize it through licensing and merchandising.
Creating an IP and brand does not mean that you have to create an animated feature film or animated TV series. It all starts from a concept and a brand. An IP can be illustrations, comics etc to start with. Besides creating an IP, you also need to build a fan base around it. Once you have a fan base, it can then spin-off to an animated feature film, animated TV series, merchandise, games, apps and many other commercial stuff to meet your fans needs.
In today’s world, your fans is your greatest asset. With the growth of the new social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, YouTube, Instagram and many more, you no longer need to depend on traditional media (TV, Newspapers and Magazines etc) alone to build your fans. However building your fans via social media platform is not enough. You need to engage them in person. So participating in arts conventions (Comic Con, CTN Expo etc), seminars, exhibitions, workshops etc will allow you to meet and interact with your fans. I know several great artists have been doing that. Once they have enough fans, they can start looking at licensing and merchandising (toys, posters, books etc) opportunities.
Both Pascal and Dominic are good friends of mine. Hope what they do gives you an idea of the basic principle above I am trying to illustrate.
(A) CASE STUDY ONE: PASCAL CAMPION
Day Job: Visual Story / Concept Development for major studios like Illumination Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks Animation Etc.
During his free time: He dedicates 30 mins a day to paint a beautiful picture that tells a story. The theme of each picture connects to his audience. He then shares them on his Facebook daily. Currently Pascal has more than 200k likes on his Facebook. Overtime, he accumulates enough paintings to launch his books.
Above is a Kickstarter campaign he launched to raise funds to print his book. Crowdfunding platform like Kickstarters not only helps you to raise funds but also serves as a good way to grow your fans further. When he is free, he will travel overseas to run master classes for his fans and participate at CTN Expo. With a strong fans support, he is able to look at licensing and merchandising later.
Day Job: Creature & Character Artist, Senior Cinematic Artist at Blizzard Entertainment.
Once it is done, he sent them for 3d print and then sell them online. A fan base is built over his Facebook Page to support this. In order to further grow his fans, he also shares his work and experience through books and tutorials. From time to time, he also gives professional talks overseas. All these activities continue the effort in growing his pool of fans which supports his IP and brand.
From the above 2 examples, you can see that as an individual artist, you can also create your own IP or brand during your free time. For this case, Pascal Campion and Dominic Qwek becomes a brand. Their work can be a series of IP.
While you are still working and have a stable income, you should start doing it. Once you lose your job, your priority is to find money to keep yourself alive. Hence you cannot concentrate in building an IP and a brand. Especially building your fans to support the brand takes time.
In the past, all these are not possible. With the new social media platforms and with the increasing number of smart phones/tablets users, all these are made possible now.
I hope this article serves as a wake up call for artists. Don’t take your current employment for granted. Start building your own future now. Start building your brand and IP. The beauty of licensing and merchandising is that the art will continue to work for you even if you stop working. Especially in Asia, once you have lost your job when you are above 40, it is going to be hard to find a job again. Who knows, this could just be your retirement plan. 🙂 Give a thought about it. Hope it helps you in a long run.