Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Jewellery design royalties


#1

My topic ( Clare, Aug. 15) “jewellery vs art” has gotten lumped in
with the “Method and discipline using…” discussion. I had not been
following this and on reviewing it found my eyes rapidly glazing
over. I would like to start again, hopefully to a wider audience.

How does a jewellery designer get his idea from prototype stage to a
major retailer? Graphic artists have art licensing agents to find and
arrange contracts. In a nutshell, I want someone to produce my work,
market it and pay me “royalties”. See responses to my original
message.

My proposal has two unknowns: The merit of my design and the
"royalty’ expected …The merit in this case means customer response.
What is the “hook”? Will they pay for it?

The “royalty” is negotiable and could be quite small peritem sold if
volume looks promising Seems the safest arrangement for both parties.
This is the only additional cost as compared to the introduction of
any new line. If I’m a major retailer I already have production,
marketing and legal systems operating.

So -" merit" vs “extra cost” equals " risk". What are the advantages
to me, the retailer?. II get to “premiere” an exciting (hopefully) new
product. This keeps my catalogue interesting and off the birdcage
floor. I get a head-start on the copycats and my clout may make them
think twice. I get to hitch my brand onto this product as “the
original”.

I have the experience to assess the potential, calculate the
benefits, factor in the extras and take the plunge- or not…

All seems fairly compatible with capitalism as practiced on this
planet. I’ve never had a free lunch and I don"t expect one now, my
arrangement brings benefit to both parties. I fully understand that
this is not an accepted practice. Perhaps its because we under-value
our ideas and talent and importance.

(These are the ideas and opinions of David who is using his wife’s
(Clare) E- mail address. Apologies to Clare and readers for
confusion) l

(P.S. As this is an international forum, words like “foreign” and “
overseas” are meaningless unless the writer"s location is known. )

David Mathews


#2

Hi David,

I saw your post and was going to respond, but I thought Jo, Jamie
and John Donovan all gave pretty good answers to your question.
Evidently, you need a better explanation, so I’ll give it a go.

How does a jewellery designer get his idea from prototype stage to
a major retailer? 

First, one must make the jewelry. Retail jewelers, especially the
majors are not going to buy anything without holding it in their
hands, not even from a proven designer. Once the line is created, one
must get on the road and get it into as many different hands as
possible. 1 in 10,000 might buy it if you’re lucky, and if you give
them very generous stock balancing options, payment terms, delivery
options, co-op advertising, in-case displays and a name that is
instantly recognizable by at least a quarter of the population.
Without a proven history of doing or providing those things, you
might find it tough sledding.

In a nutshell, I want someone to produce my work, market it and pay
me "royalties". See responses to my original message. 

What exactly in that scenario constitutes your “work”? Not the
production, not the marketing and not the actual selling. What am I
missing? The designs? I want to write a song, get Travis Tritt to
sing it, have it go platinum and then retire on my own private island
near Aruba. You tell me how to do that and you’ll have answered your
own question. I don’t mean to sound harsh or flip, but the two are
almost exactly the same. In my experience “overnight success” usually
takes about 20 years to achieve.

Seriously, as Jo and John pointed out, there are many tradeshops
around that will be happy to do the work for you, but they will
expect to be paid with money, not just promises of future fortune and
fame. The suppliers that you (or they) will need to get the materials
from will also insist on immediate payment. Once you get the line
produced, you can find a marketing firm and/or on-the-road salesmen
to get it out there for you. They too, will insist on being paid.
None of these will share your enthusiasm enough to do their part on
spec. They will see it as work, and will expect you to treat it just
like a plumber or auto mechanic that you hire to do work for you. And
in doing it this way, you will be able to keep the “royalties” all
to yourself.

My proposal has two unknowns: The merit of my design and the
"royalty' expected..The merit in this case means customer
response. What is the "hook"? Will they pay for it? 

That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? The only way to know for sure
is to create it and try to sell it. If it sells wildly, you have a
great product and you will become successful; finding a manufacturer
will be the least of your problems. If it doesn’t, you have a dog and
every dime invested above scrap value is a total loss. Nobody, and I
mean nobody is going to take that risk for you. The ONLY way to find
out the answer to this is to get off your rusty dusty and make some
jewelry, get in the car and drive, stop at every jewelry store you
can find and show it to them. Or you can rent space at some of the
major trade shows (they too will expect payment, a promise of “a
piece of the action once it makes it big” doesn’t carry much weight
with anyone in any business) and hope that retailers will see the
promise of big-time growth.

The "royalty" is negotiable and could be quite small peritem sold
if volume looks promising Seems the safest arrangement for both
parties. 

As a retail jeweler (I own a retail jewelry store so I’m not just
guessing about how this works), royalties are not negotiable, there
is no way I’m paying “royalties” to anyone. I will buy your jewelry
if I think it will sell. If I don’t, I won’t. Period. That’s the way
it works.

So -" merit" vs "extra cost" equals " risk". What are the
advantages to me, the retailer?. II get to "premiere" an exciting
(hopefully) new product. This keeps my catalogue interesting and
off the birdcage floor. I get a head-start on the copycats and my
clout may make them think twice. I get to hitch my brand onto this
product as "the original". 

Doesn’t MCA know how popular my song is going to be? Don’t they know
how much I am going to add to their clout in the music business and
especially to their label? It won’t cost them anything over what they
are already paying to get my chart-topping tome on the radio. They
are missing a tremendous opportunity to hitch their wagon to my
rising star! (I love mixed metaphors!) Unfortunately, recording
executives don’t realize how good they might have it. They don’t seem
to be able to convince their accountants and biz whizzes that
marketing and recording a new album won’t really cost them anything
over what they are already paying out. They seem to have an
old-fashioned notion that my music must be proven before they will
get on-board with it. Moreover, they want to hear it first. The
nerve!

All seems fairly compatible with capitalism as practiced on this
planet. I've never had a free lunch and I don"t expect one now, my
arrangement brings benefit to both parties. 

Again I don’t mean to sound flip, but I think you may have missed an
important day or two of Capitalism 101. It sounds to me like you
are looking for a free lunch. And a nice dinner, tickets to the
show and a horse-drawn carriage ride back to the penthouse. Your
desired arrangement brings benefit to you and you alone, unless it
becomes wildly popular and you expect someone else to take all of the
financial risk against the possibility that it won’t. You seem to
think that your ideas alone are enough of an investment, somebody
else should take all the monetary risk. Sorry, it just doesn’t work
that way. Ideas are easy, implementing them is the hard part.

I fully understand that this is not an accepted practice. Perhaps
its because we under-value our ideas and talent and importance. 

This is not an accepted practice because in capitalism, there is no
reward without putting an investment at risk. What are you going to
lose in your scenario if it flops? You are asking that someone else
do all of the work and assume all of the risk with you investing
nothing but an idea, not even a finished, untried and untested line.
You are putting the cart before the horse. If you want to know
whether it will work or not, you should make your own line, sell more
than you can possibly make and when retailers are burning up the
phone lines trying to talk you into selecting them to be your
exclusive representative, you can start talking about
mass-production and royalties. It doesn’t seem to me that you are
afflicted with the problem of under-valuing your ideas, talents and
importance, I think it may actually be the opposite.

The only way your are going to prove your talent and the
innovativeness of your designs to anyone other than yourself is to
make them, show them and sell them. Anything short of that is a pipe
dream. Sorry for the bad news.

I have the experience to assess the potential, calculate the
benefits, factor in the extras and take the plunge- or not.. 

Then do it! Don’t expect someone else to do it for you! If you wait
for someone else to recognize the opportunity of creating, marketing
and selling your ideas, and then pay you big bucks for being the
"idea man", you likely will be in for a long, long wait. People that
have the money and resources to do what you expect them to do for you
already have more ideas than they can implement. How do you think
they got there?

One of my favorite quotes, one that I live by and one that may serve
you well, David -

“Experience has taught me that there is one chief reason why some
people succeed and others fail. The difference is not one of knowing,
but of doing. The successful man is not so superior in ability as in
action. So far as success can be reduced to a formula, it consists of
this: doing what you know you should do.” - Roger Babson.

Dave Phelps


#3
I fully understand that this is not an accepted practice. 

Well, David, you’re done, then. The way the jewelry business
functions is that a designer sells their designs outright, whether
as an agent or an employee. There is a job called "jewelry designer"
that is usually not a craftsperson, just an artist/designer. There
are also people who design and make jewelry, yes. And the graphic
artists you refer to are generally doing contract work - “We need a
poster for this concert tour”. And most of them aren’t getting
royalites either…Royalites are actually a form of commission
sales. We’ll publish your book, and if you sell more you get more
money. A great many writers get only royalties, not even an advance.
And music has ASCAP. We are jewelry manufacturers, and we don’t want
your design. YOU want your design…That means you get to pay for
it. If we want your design, we’ll contract with you to design it,
and then we’ll pay you for it. That’s just how the industry
functions. like it or not. That doesn’t mean that you can never make
some deal, but I’ve never heard of such a thing, not ever. Just the
accounting is a nightmare.

You are largely not talking about toys, or cars or furniture - things
that make “hits”. You’re talking about grinding away selling 10 units
a week or a year, along side all of the rest of jewelry that’s out
there, over many years. The notion that anybody has some magical
design that’s going to rocket to the top of the world and make
everybody rich overnight is simply bizarre. Sure, it happens - if
anybody could predict that (think "pet rock, always), we wouldn’t be
sitting here in the basement typing away. Even the best designs are
just one of the many in a given line. I’d like to draw some things
and just have checks roll in for the rest of my life, too, but
somehow my mailbox remains empty, alas.


#4
Not the production, not the marketing and not the actual selling.
What am I missing? The designs? I want to write a song, get Travis
Tritt to sing it, have it go platinum and then retire on my own
private island 

I just grabbed one of David’s pitier quotes, and I don’t want to
pound on this, just look on the bright side, I hope. How it really
works is really how everything really works - everything artistic,
that is.

I’ve never met Lowell Ganz, but he’s the nephew of an old friend, so
I know a bit about him. He’s a screenwriter and his bio is here:

Notice how there’s nothing in his bio about sitting around the house
waiting for Godot. The thing is that he’s a writer - he wrote plays,
he wrote a real script that got into the right hands because
somebody knew the right hands to put it into. And nobody hired him
out of sympathy, they hired him because he could write, and write
well. Also note the part about the hard times…

Nowadays, if you write a script and send it to a producer, they will
return it to you unopened, probably with a note that says, “WE
DIDN’T READ THIS!!!” lest you sue them. Ditto for music. The
millions of people who imagine they are scriptwriters aren’t
scriptwriters, they are shoe salesmen or in insurance. If they were
scriptwriters, they’d be writing scripts (for production), you see.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. I know another scriptwriter/producer
who has made one movie. I went to the premiere and then I never
heard of it again. He’s been working on #2 for 5 years, trying to
get it financed, and meantime he’s a house painter. I hope he gets
it done.

So - the first jewelry company I worked for used to lay off
everybody once in a while, to thin the ranks. Every time, the boss
would take me aside and say, "Not you - you come in Monday morning."
Then it becomes, "I’d like you to meet John, our (fill in the blanks

  • jewelry jockey or some such). John, this is Mr. Big. And so it
    goes. You become inside the business and after awhile you are the
    go-to guy and then everybody knows you, or if they don’t they have a
    friend who does. And THEN you are a jewelry designer. Nothing works
    in a vacuum.

I had a friend/collegue years ago who had a partner and they built
up a line. It was somewhat arty - certainly contemporary, and well
made. The did the models, molds, did some production. I helped with
some of it, later on. They also had a small line of bridal. I
thought it was just a fine line, though not the best I ever saw. But
nothing obviously wrong with it. They were hawking it everywhere a
person could hawk. I moved on, literally. Then one day there was a
knock on the door, and it was UPS. I opened the box and there was
the entire line - models, molds, everything but no product (that’s
precious metal). No note, no nothing. Cancelled, didn’t fly, let’s
bug out of this and get into something that pays. I still have it,
though I’ve never sold a single piece of it either.

Like everything worthwhile in this world, nothing is easy. As has
been said many times by several people here - It’s EASY to make
jewelry. Making jewelry that people want to buy is the hard part. And
if (I don’t know …) your designs are some arty, fashion jewelry
sort of thing, then so much the more difficult. Even most jewelry
makers have a tough time making a living at that.

Get a job, get involved, meet some people, get out of the vacuum
(nothing happens there), and little by little maybe you can build
something up. Who knows, maybe you’re the next Schlumberger…He
had a massive jewelry making enterprise behind him, BTW.


#5
How does a jewellery designer get his idea from prototype stage to
a major retailer? Graphic artists have art licensing agents to find
and arrange contracts. In a nutshell, I want someone to produce my
work, market it and pay me "royalties". See responses to my
original message. 

Here’s the first problem - the craftsman - graphic artist - has the
skill to produce the work, but needs help marketing. Can you produce
the original product? Can it actually be made?

My proposal has two unknowns: The merit of my design and the
"royalty' expected..The merit in this case means customer
response. What is the "hook"? Will they pay for it? 

If you have an idea for a dwelling (house/apartment) design, if you
can build the first one, then you can see if it is something others
would want. If you have no building skills, you PAY someone to build
the prototype. If you can’t make the original, YOU pay someone to
make the prototypes.

The "royalty" is negotiable and could be quite small peritem sold
if volume looks promising Seems the safest arrangement for both
parties. This is the only additional cost as compared to the
introduction of any new line. If I'm a major retailer I already
have production, marketing and legal systems operating. 

And if I’m a major retailer, I got there by having great designs,
production capability and marking skills. And I don’t need to pay
anyone a royalty.

So -" merit" vs "extra cost" equals " risk". What are the
advantages to me, the retailer?. II get to "premiere" an exciting
(hopefully) new product. This keeps my catalogue interesting and
off the birdcage floor. I get a head-start on the copycats and my
clout may make them think twice. I get to hitch my brand onto this
product as "the original". 

I have the experience to assess the potential, calculate the
benefits, factor in the extras and take the plunge- or not…

So if you have this experience, and you are so sure that this is a
winner, put your money where your mouth is. Convince someone that you
stand in front of to spend their time, which YOU pay for, to make
this thing.

All seems fairly compatible with capitalism as practiced on this
planet. I've never had a free lunch and I don"t expect one now, my
arrangement brings benefit to both parties. I fully understand
that this is not an accepted practice. Perhaps its because we
under-value 

our ideas and talent and importance.

Perhaps what’s going on is we work on real stuff. Not ideas in the
sky. You can certainly hire (Pay) someone to market this thing. The
risk/reward thing works on both sides. You first.

Judy Hoch


#6

This is an interesting thread so, here comes my 2 cents:

Judy is absolutely correct… if you believe in your idea, put the
money up front; hire someone to make it, line up your production
facility and pound the pavement. But, unless you have marketing
analysis/data to show the appeal, a proven track record of
increasing sales/demand and some objective proof that your product
is worth their valuable floor space… it will be a long hard fight.
There are any number of national and international designers who are
vying for that same floor/counter space and they are already
established with a line or lines.

Btw, stores don’t produce anything… so, the idea that they would
pay you for a design and take on production is slightly naive. Also,
the comparison of jewelry design to graphic design, in my opinion,
is like comparing apples to oranges.

Cameron


#7

My initial entry ( Aug. 13) was deliberately provocative- in
hindsight not an appropriate entry to this type of forum. The first
responder missed an important point in her haste to nail me to my
drawing board… Subsequent writers followed suit. I want to get FROM
prototype to…

I already have the prototype.

I dreamed it up, I drew it, I figured out how to make it and I made
it - all by myself in my little vacuum. I work in real things. I have
a job; I’ve invested time and talent and skill and money. I risk it
all being wasted. Anyone considering my proposal has something to
hold in their hand while deliberating. A lot of “ink” has been wasted
moralizing about the work ethic and free lunches I’m not a starry
eyed dreamer with delusions of grandeur I don"t think that i have “
the next big thing that will rocket me to fame and make me rich
overnight.”

What I do have is something that satisfies a universal human need,
which is poorly served at present. New customers appear everyday and
will continue to appear. This is not fad or fashion trivia. I’ve
already heard the lecture that goes" All the good stuff’s already
been done and besides there are thousands of guys better than you.
(Homer Simpson)

Some of you have been very helpful and are obviously very
knowledgeable. Thank you. But the whole discourse has been tainted.

David Mathews