ARTiSTORY’s Natasha Dyson on the future of the art and culture licensing space

ARTiSTORY, a licensing super group (The Crosby, Stills, and Nash or the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of the industry perhaps?) comprised of Natasha Dyson, Dave Collins, and Tamara Dixon, couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the art and culture sector.

Alongside the arts and the hospitality industries, the cultural sector has been one of the hardest hit by the events of the past nine months, with venues and organisations forced to close or cope under the financial pressures drawn out of large decreases in footfall and visitor numbers all at the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, licensing has become the beacon of light and a means for the sector to continue to reach its audiences across the globe in the meaningful ways that resonate with the public, while developing the much-needed incremental resources for themselves. And, made up of a team of ‘pioneers in the art and cultural IP licensing sector,’ this is just what ARTiSTORY is setting out to achieve.

The question is: just how big an impact is the coronavirus pandemic likely to have on the future of the art and cultural sector, how has it shaped new means of consumer and fan engagement within it, and what will licensing now have to achieve or adapt to in order to ensure those meaningful experiences are maintained?

Licensing.biz catches up with Natasha Dyson, co-founder and licensing director of ARTiSTORY to talk all this and more.

Hello Natasha, it’s nice to catch up. Just to kick us off, and to recap, what is ARTiSTORY, what is it bringing to the licensing space and what is your role in the new venture?

A new venture specialising in working in the art and culture sector, ARTiSTORY acts as a master licensee to IP by helping them to launch design led licensing programmes across Europe and North America.

ARTiSTORY merges art and culture with our daily lives through exceptional consumer goods, engaging storytelling and interactive shopping experiences.

My main focus is on developing the licensing programme on behalf of our clients. Though as you can imagine, as a new company we all wear many hats at the moment in order to get everything done.

Why is now the right time to be launching ARTiSTORY? How is this reflective of the way the licensing industry or consumer tastes have changed? 

The founding members of ARTiSTORY have been working in licensing for many years. As a team we are pioneers in the art and cultural IP licensing sector, and in the past have developed and launched numerous award-winning licensing programmes. As an example, the founding members have worked with the MET, Natural History Museum, V&A and British Museum, just to name a few, and we’ve worked with global top consumer brands and retailers, such as LVMH, P&G, Nestle, Miss Sixty, Amazon and Uniqlo.

COVID-19 has forced closures across various art and cultural organisations which has led to more demand within the art and cultural sector to continue to reach their audience in meaningful way while still developing incremental revenue sources. We see this is the perfect moment for us to bring our expertise and resources under one roof by setting up ARTiSTORY, so from a start, ARTiSTORY is an industry leader in driving the global development of art and cultural IP licensing.

ARTiSTORY is very much tapping into the heritage and cultural space – why is this such a strong sector for licensing?

The world of art, cultural and science IP is very unique in many ways. Firstly, it has literally countless precious artifacts and objects, ranging from Pottery of ancient Greece, to master paintings from Renaissance, from Kimono collection from Japan, to contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol. Each piece of these artifacts and objects offer ARTiSTORY wonderful sources of design inspiration and elements for storytelling which we then license as a package to our licensees.

Secondly, art and culture are universally cherished by consumers worldwide, regardless of their age, language and professions. Many consumer brands and retailers with whom the founding members have worked are all impressed by the scale of the impact, the effectiveness of new user acquisitions that art and culture IP has delivered. As an example, a recent market report released by Alibaba Group in 2019 indicates that art and cultural IP licensees reported an average rate of 70% customers are first time customers to them, thanks to the art and cultural IP. In a world where the costs of user acquisitions are so high, licensing has proven to be a great and cost-effective marketing tool.

How will you approach this space, and what will be at the heart of the partnership’s you guys forge here?

With a track record of success in the art and culture sector we are confident that we can convert our strong existing relationships into new partnerships. ARTiSTORY is an appealing proposition to IP, retailers and brands alike as there is no other company that come close to what we have achieved in our former roles in this sector.

ARTiSTORY offers consumer brands and retailers the possibility to elevate their product designs, acquire more customers and charge a premium price.

How are you guys looking to push the envelope of innovation in this space? What sort of partnerships will be top of your list?

Past success and research tell us that we need to look beyond the traditional audience for this sector and reach out to a younger audience. As well as looking to work with brands and retailers that already appeal to this age group, we will be targeting those that don’t as this is where we can really add value to their businesses and drive customers to their stores.

To appeal to the younger audience ARTiSTORY will invest in content development including social media postings, videos, documentaries, live streaming, talk shows, workshops and more. Equipped with high quality content, we will launch various marketing campaigns to promote our licensed products and our IP partners.

How do you think the current situation will evolve the heritage and cultural space overall – i.e virtual tours – will they be a part of the future of the space? – and how can licensing tap into this evolution?

In the era of pandemics, cultural institutions remain closed or are expecting lower levels of visitors – which result inevitably greater revenue shortfalls. How to stay financially sustainable is a key question that cultural organisations need to solve in order to keep their missions alive.

Licensing, as proven in many world’s leading museums such as British Museum, The MET and V&A, is an effective practice that not only allows cultural organisations to enjoy incremental revenue but also enable them to extend their reach to tens of millions of audiences globally.

We see digital tools such as virtual tours and live streaming to be an integral component of future licensing programmes. This is something we plan to implement for our clients having seen first-hand how successful it has been in other markets. We hope to build loyal fans of art and culture products through interacting with audiences around the world.

What are the key trends you guys are seeing in licensing at the moment, and how will ARTiSTORY be tapping into these?

Obviously the last few months have been very strange for everyone and there has been huge shift in the way consumers buy products, and also the products they are buying.

Online has become such an important channel over the last few months and now many people have switched to online purchasing they will continue to shop in this way. Brands and retailers that have an online presence are appealing to us due to their accessibility and the fact that our target consumer primarily shops online.

Whether online or in-store we are seeing an increase in customer experience spending. ARTiSTORY can help retailers and brands bring customers back into their stores through developing innovative store experiences.

A trend that is becoming increasingly important to consumers is the desire to purchase sustainable products and buy from brands and retailers that they know are sustainable. ARTiSTORY will be working with IP that has preserved history for thousands of years. It’s now our responsibility as an industry to preserve the planet for future generations. Material, packaging and reusability will make up part of the selection criteria determining our partners.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent some six years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobHutchins3 if ranting is your thing...

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