By Ted Larkins, Global Head of Licensing at Brainbase
The Licensing Industry and Technology: A Perfect Pair
As a licensing agent for most of my career, I never thought I’d work for a tech startup, especially one without any founders from the licensing industry.
In my days as a licensing agent, technology was just never a priority. I’d negotiate deals, make sure deliverables were met, and ensure royalties were collected. I didn’t give any thought as to how these processes could be improved and automated by tech. But now it’s 2021, and my mind is truly blown by the technology available to make our jobs easier.
My job as a licensing agent had its challenges (which aren’t unlike the same ones I face in my job today). Previously, I represented Paramount Pictures, Sony, MGM Studios, and DreamWorks. I worked with Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Jack Nicklaus. I was the SVP of Licensing based in Hollywood for DHX Media, representing Teletubbies, Inspector Gadget, Peanuts, Space Invaders and Felix the Cat.
What kept me up at night as a licensing agent was trying to keep all of the various communications smooth and on track. The lack of technology to do so was definitely an obstacle. Today, I still have to use my powers of persuasion to manage projects smoothly and keep communications flowing with customers. The difference is, this time around, I have the best technology at my fingertips to make my job easier.
Industry Challenges, and How Tech Can Help
What are the issues most licensors, licensees, and agents face today? How could they be solved with the latest technology? Brainbase recently hosted a webinar to discuss the future of licensing technology in 2021, and we received even more questions and comments than we’d anticipated. The overwhelming response reminded me yet again how crucial the right technology is when it comes to solving challenges faced by the licensing industry in 2021.
Some of the key issues participants voiced included:
- Collecting revenues faster and easier
- Tracking discounts, allowances, promos and returns
- The ability to manage only specific properties on a platform as an agent, rather than your full portfolio
- Editing and redlining contracts more efficiently
- Allowing licensees to seamlessly view all of your brand guidelines and creative assets
What’s amazing about technology today is that there are already solutions for all of these issues – and more. Working at Brainbase taught me that technology is your ultimate friend if you work in the licensing industry. This is especially true in our new normal of remotely working and collaborating.
There’s No Better Time to Embrace Licensing Tech for Long-Term Success
In the coming year and beyond, look out for products that incorporate AI and machine learning. I’ll admit, even as an industry veteran, these terms seemed a bit intimidating at first. But once I dove into the details and learned how they’ll shape the future, I could barely contain my excitement about them. I can’t wait to see how companies in licensing will flourish with these technologies. Who knows, maybe soon, we’ll even start paying royalties in Bitcoin!
Some words of advice to my fellow peers and colleagues: Don’t wait for the “right time” to find the right tools for your licensing team. The right time is now.
Think about how we had to suddenly embrace technology to overcome the challenges of working remotely during the pandemic. Working remotely is tough – I was doing it even before the pandemic began. (I’m based in Florida, and the Brainbase headquarters are in Los Angeles.) But of course, we all managed to adapt with the help of video conferencing platforms and communication tools like Zoom and Slack. If we apply the same thinking to adopting these technological tools within licensing, our industry will be even more connected and set up for long-term success.
As a former licensing agent who used to do things “old school,” it’s so refreshing to join the “new school” way of unifying your job. And it’s all thanks to technology.
Ted Larkins is the Global Head of Licensing at Brainbase, and over the last 30 years has worked domestically and in Japan with companies such as Paramount Pictures, MGM Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Sony Pictures. Ted worked with Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, and Jack Nicklaus and was the Senior Vice President of DHX Media/CPLG (now Wildbrain) in Hollywood.