Selling 1,000 Portraits And Building A Ton Of Goodwill Not Good Business?

from the seems-fine-to-me dept

Michel Gondry spoke at SXSW to a packed house; it was fantastic to see one of my favorite directors speak about his creative process. During the talk, he mentioned a project he did where fans could buy portraits of themselves, sketched by Gondry himself, for only $20. He did about 1,000 of these portraits before he ended the deal, saying that while some portraits took only 2 minutes, he started getting fancier and fancier as time progressed, and eventually he didn’t think that was a good business to continue it. When he said that, a collective, sad sigh was felt across the conference room, since I’m sure I was not the only one in the room who wanted a hand-drawn Michel Gondry portrait — and if $20 wasn’t the right price to make sense, business-wise, surely there was an appropriate price point that would make sense (and, in looking at his site, it appears that he raised the price to $99.95 with a copy of his DVD). Now, while it is true that Gondry is a famous movie director, surely a few hundred dollars for minutes of work is enough to get him interested, especially when he considers that this portrait further serves to endear him more to his most passionate fans, who are incredibly appreciative that he would ever even think to offer such a deal:

It’s amazing enough that Michel has the time to draw thousands of portraits a week amidst his incredibly busy schedule and his “Green Hornet” workload. Hopefully this commitment will urge other filmmakers to devote similar generosity towards their fanbases…

So, contrary to what Gondry thought, his portrait offer most certainly made good business sense and was a great example of an RtB deal, since it was soaked in his charmingly quirky artistic personality. Then again, perhaps another example of Gondry’s unique understanding of the business world is with this strange notice that he sent out to the purchasers of the portraits, sometimes well after they had purchased the image, telling them they could not resell the image ever.

“By placing your sketch order, you hereby acknowledge… that the sketch is for your personal use only and you shall not have the right to sell the sketch for any commercial purpose whatsoever.”

To ask this of his truest fans (especially after they have commissioned a sketch) is not only most likely unenforceable legally (case law here is still a bit messy, but courts have said that you can’t just give up your right of first sale based on one side’s declaration), it also serves to sour the goodwill and affection that Gondry’s true fans have bestowed upon him. Now, that’s bad business.

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Comments on “Selling 1,000 Portraits And Building A Ton Of Goodwill Not Good Business?”

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zellamayzao says:

If I paid you for a product....

then you cant tell me what I can and cant do with it after our transaction (me give you money…you give me portrait) is complete. I paid you to draw myself not tell me what Im allowed to do with it. I can understand him stopping the offer if it was too much for him to handle or didnt think he could complete enough to satisfy whatever

Im a automotive painter by trade and that would be like me painting a car for someone but saying since Im the one painting it you arent allowed to sell your car afterward because I own the rights to that paint job. Like it said, you have right of first sale, for now and one side of the party should not be able to dictate how the transaction works unless the other person is a complete sucker.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: If I paid you for a product....

How about if your work can be easily replicated?

Who the frick cares if the caricatures he drew can be easily replicated? Does that take away the $20 he received for doing them in the first place? Nope. He still got his twenty. And who is going to want a photocopy of someone else’s caricature, it’s not like there’s a huge market for that.

lets say, you put a lot of effort into designing your painting

The nimrod admitted spending only two fricken minutes on the portraits. Painting a car is much more work than that.

I am not saying what he is doing is right, but just that your situation is not comparable to his.

Did I miss something? You did nothing of the sort.

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re: If I paid you for a product....

I get your point, but I think he was hypothesizing a scenario other than the relevant one that might involve an extensive amount of effort for a single work that could then be easily replicated – thus providing generality.

However, the same principles apply; since when did the amount of work an individual put into an effort grant them the right to limit what others can do with their own property? Whether he spent two minutes or two years, the fact that it can be easily replicated (in two-dimensional image form, anyway) is completely irrelevant. Find some way to leverage it into further profit, don’t profit, or don’t sell it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh legalese, how you continue to bankrupt our culture. What does “any commercial purpose” mean?

So I could sell it for any non-commercial purpose? But it’s an image of me? What about my rights? To my personal image!

So he gets to exploit my image but I can’t sell the actual sketch, for any commercial purpose?

Seems fair.

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