In their August 2009 eNews newsletter, Wacom, the maker of very nice graphics tablets and other products (I’ve owned a 12×12 tablet for over 10 years), has promoted Eclipse Digital, a company that licenses artwork for placement in TV shows and films. However, the offer by Eclipse Digital (and supported by Wacom) is not to license your work and pay you for the use, but for you to give your work to them for free so they can license it to production companies and make money for themselves.
The teaser? On the Eclipse Digital website is the question: “How much more would all of artwork be worth once you have been seen on TV?” Other than the poor grammar, this question seems to hint that just by the placement of your artwork, however brief, out of focus in the background, or shown large and in charge, in a cheesy sitcom or blockbuster, this exposure is bound to make you famous and increase the value of your work. Sounds like an infomercial to me. Wacom corrects the grammar in their newsletter with “How much more would your art be worth once it has been seen in a film or on TV?” A better, catchier, statement, for sure.
As we read further, Eclipse Digital puts the proverbial foot in their mouth by stating “Our placement clients pay us up to $10,000 per month for this service.” However, since emerging artists can’t afford that “or any fee” they’re being generous and offering us the same service for free.
Let’s see. Those placement clients paying $10,000 per month to put their products in a TV show or film? Coke, Tide, Mentos, Skittles…..It’s called Advertising. When a production company puts a photo or other artwork into a scene it’s because it sets a mood, fits a character’s background or interests, or just needs to fill a blank spot on a wall. There may be specific instances when a particular artwork was searched for and used, but I believe that’s an uncommon occurrence. The only “artwork” I remember that helped the creator were the Coogi sweaters worn by Bill Cosby in the Cosby Show. Why? Because they were placed front and center in each episode, including the opening credits. Even artists whose prints were used on that show may have gained some benefit (I do remember some were even discussed specifically on an episode or two). There may be other examples in other shows since then, but I don’t know of any. Perhaps you all can post that info if you have it. I’d be interested to find out, plus if any of those art placements were free. I suspect they were.
Back to Eclipse, though. Further in the “benefits” they say “We recognize that these works are your key assets, and you don’t want just anybody downloading and printing them.” Yes, that’s true. We hope our “key assets” are just that, money makers, because that’s how we roll. The process is you upload high resolution files (as many as you want, there’s no limit of course) at 10MB – 100MB in size @ 300dpi. The production company then downloads the file and prints it at the size they want on a “photo-quality ink-jet printer” for the show or film.
“They [the production companies] will license from Eclipse Digital for a single TV episode or film, a full season of a TV production, or for the life of the show. No uses beyond that are permitted [thank God].” I wonder what the license fee is that Eclipse Digital charges for the use of the photos I upload? Let’s see, what do I get?
“Each quarter you get an email report showing which pieces were downloaded for which productions. Then you can set your TiVo and watch those shows for your work [and other product placements, er, advertisements]. However, “since the service is free to you, we cannot monitor every show and identify every aired placement.” But, when your work does appear in that next blockbuster TV or film “you can say things like ‘As seen on…’ in your marketing materials.”
Ever watch TV? When there’s artwork in the shot, particularly in ‘reality’ shows, it’s typically blurred out. Why? Because nobody paid for it to appear in the show, it’s not been released or licensed, and they know if it’s shown and recognizable by the artist they’re going to want payment. So, why would you give yours up for free to a market that clearly knows what it’s doing, understands the value of your work, yet charms you into giving it up for nothing?
Ok, you say, you talk a mean streak, but what am I really missing out on? What’s wrong with trying to grab a bit of glory and bragging rights? Glad you asked. Professionals use their own experience and those of their peers [how? by asking them], various pricing guides and estimators, and other variables, along with negotiating with the client [hopefully] to determine a license fee. One popular estimator is Cradoc Software’s FotoQuote, which covers a multitude of photographic uses.
I looked up one possible use for your free photo; a minor prop in a prime time TV show. Here’s what I got as a possible license fee range:
1 episode $301 – $603
1 season $603 – $1207
2 seasons $905 – $1810
See what your photograph is worth to a production company wanting to use it in their TV show? You can eat pretty well on $301. What can you buy for “As seen on…?”
Remember, too, for you to be able to print “As seen on…” in your marketing materials (postcards, brochures, fliers, posters, newsletter, even a website), you’re probably going to have to pay someone. That $301 would come in handy now, wouldn’t it. And, you can still use that snappy slogan. I’d say that’s a win-win, wouldn’t you?
There are instances when ‘donating’ your work is useful, beneficial, maybe even necessary. It’s up to you to decide when it’s appropriate. If this is something that appeals to you, go for it. You never know. But, be very sure what you’re giving away. You’re playing the long odds. There are a lot of “deals” like this out there. Be careful.
Oh yeah. Wacom. Not a good move. I think you should distance yourself from these “hey, give us your stuff for free” companies. You’ve done this before. We, your customers who buy your products, we “emerging artists” and established professionals are watching you. You should stick to making a great product and lose the reputation-staining associations. You really don’t need it and as “hip” as you might think it makes you with the Flickr and Facebook crowd, those aren’t the folks who can afford to buy your products – ’cause they’re not making any money off giving away their “assets” for nothing.
Trust me. When I see this crap, I think twice about the next upgrade. And, if I’m thinking that….