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Average Licensing Executive Salary Drops by $5,000 in 2019; Few Expect Raises, Bonus in 2020 as Working Conditions Stagnate

Where Licensing Executives are Based, by Region, U.S., 2020
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The licensing professionals behind the multi-million-dollar global licensing industry are overwhelmingly experienced, satisfied with their work, and willing to put in the hours, according to TLL’s 2019–2020 Salary Survey.

Demographics of the Licensing Business

Responses to this year’s survey are evenly distributed among licensors (43%); licensees (33%); licensing agents (11%); and consultants, retailers, distributors, and others (12%).

Last year’s survey was slightly over-represented by licensors (46%), followed by agents (28%), licensees (20%), and consultants and other professionals (6%).

As a cohort, licensing agents and consultants tend to be under-represented in this survey because most of these professionals do not draw a pre-determined salary but instead work on a commission basis, making year-to-year comparisons difficult.

Over 83% of respondents are based in the U.S. and 13% were based in Western Europe. Response data from other territories, such as Asia and Latin America, was insufficient to generate salary trends.

According to TLL’s Licensing Sourcebook Online, two-thirds of licensing executives are based in the U.S. (66%), followed by the U.K. (9%), Canada (4%), Japan (2%), Australia (2%), and China (2%).

Over two-thirds of Western European respondents indicated that they worked in the U.K., with the remainder based in Italy, Sweden, and Cyprus. In comparison, just over half of Sourcebook listings for the European Union are in the U.K. (55% of current EU listings), followed by Germany (10%), Italy (8%), Spain (6%), and France (6%).

Bucking a years-long trend, the greatest share of American respondents hailed from the Southeast region (30%), followed by The Midwest (23%), West Coast (22%), Mid-Atlantic (17%), and the Southwest/Rocky Mountain and New England regions (4% share each). No responses were recorded for the South-Central region. In comparison, most respondents from last year’s survey worked in the Mid-Atlantic (35%) and the West Coast (31%) regions. Previous iterations of the survey had similar response rates.

According to Sourcebook listings, there has not been a significant movement in where licensing executives are based. The most popular region is the West Coast (31% share of listings in 2020 versus 30% in 2018), followed closely by the Mid-Atlantic (30% versus 31%) and rounded off by the Southeast (unchanged at 13%), Midwest (12% versus 13%), New England (unchanged at 6%), Southwest/Rocky Mountain (unchanged at 4%), and South-Central (unchanged at 3%).

Where Licensing Executives are Based, by Region, U.S., 2020

As in previous years, American executives are primarily clustered in coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Outside of the U.S., the most popular cities to work in are London, Tokyo, and Toronto.

The Mid-Atlantic region commands some of the highest executive base salaries, but is also home to some of the lowest rates of mid- and lower-level employee compensation. On the other hand, professionals based in the Southeast command the highest bonuses.

Top Cities Where Licensing Executives are Based,
U.S. versus International, 2020
Note: Based on current listings in TLL’s Licensing Sourcebook Online, May 2020.
Rank U.S. International
1 New York London
2 Los Angeles Tokyo
3 San Francisco Toronto
4 Santa Monica Richmond
5 Chicago Seoul
6 Atlanta Moscow
7 Beverly Hills Milan
8 San Diego Paris
9 Irvine Singapore
10 El Segundo Beijing
11 Las Vegas Sao Paulo
12 Burbank Montreal
13 Brooklyn Madrid
14 Miami Shanghai
15 Seattle Dubai
16 Dallas Munich
17 Indianapolis Barcelona
18 Washington DC Melbourne

Regions of the U.S.

Mid-Atlantic — New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

Midwest — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

New England — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

South-Central — Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas

Southeast — Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia

Southwest/Rocky Mountain — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming

West Coast — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

Comparing salary and bonus data among smaller companies/divisions with 1–5 employees involved in licensing, the gaps tighten slightly. The Mid-Atlantic region has the highest income disparities for licensing professionals across different role levels, with executives paid almost 10 times as much as lower-level employees.

Note that most of the following demographic data applies to mid- and executive-level rather than lower-level licensing professionals. This is because only 11% of respondents had what we would consider a lower-level title; most salary and bonus data for the cohort was sourced from the remaining 89% of mid- and executive-level respondents who additionally provided such data for their subordinate employees.

Licensing Executive Salary and Bonus, by Region, U.S., 2019
Notes: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. *Among those who received bonuses; some respondents specified that they were not paid a bonus.
Figures in USD
Role Mid-Atlantic West Coast Southeast
Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus*
Executive $420,000 $6,500 $123,000 $28,000 $197,000 $62,500
Mid-level $89,000 $1,700 $117,000 $10,500 $100,000 $8,500
Lower-level $42,000 $500 $48,000 $2,900 $45,000
Total Average $205,000 $3,000 $80,500 $12,000 $113,000 $30,000

Licensing Executive Salary and Bonus in Small Companies/Divisions with 1–5 Employees Directly Involved in Licensing, by Region, U.S., 2019
Notes: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. Employee count includes full-time as well as part-time employees. *Among those who received bonuses; some respondents specified that they were not paid a bonus.
Figures in USD
Role Mid-Atlantic West Coast Southeast
Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus*
Executive $480,000 $5,000 $115,000 $20,000 $136,000 $46,000
Mid-level $89,000 $1,700 $128,000 $2,800 $96,000 $8,500
Lower-level $42,000 $500 $48,000 $2,800 $45,000
Total Average $202,000 $2,100 $74,000 $7,600 $103,000 $21,000

Educational Attainment Steady; Over 80% Hold a Higher Degree

Licensing executives are well-educated, with at 84% of all respondents holding at least a bachelor degree.

In the U.S., the highest level of educational attainment for over half of respondents was the bachelor degree (61%), followed by the MBA (12%), associate degree (12%), a master degree other than an MBA (10%), high school diploma/GED (6%), JD (2%), and PhD (2%).

Higher educational attainment is not necessarily an indicator of financial success at the highest levels, but attaining a degree still pays off for lower- and mid-level licensing professionals. In particular, mid-level respondents holding an MBA reported almost $30,000 more in annual salary than their counterparts with a bachelor degree, while lower-level respondents reported $45,000 more.

The story was more nuanced for executive-level professionals. Executives with an associate degree or lesser attainment reported an average annual salary of $100,000; a bachelor degree $265,000; an MBA $200,000; and some other master degree $300,000.

Licensing Executive Salary and Bonus, by Educational Attainment, 2019
Notes: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. *Among those who received bonuses; some respondents specified that they were not paid a bonus.
Figures in USD
Role Mid-Atlantic West Coast Southeast
Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus*
Executive $265,000 $84,000 $200,000 $20,000 $300,000 $50,000
Mid-level $105,000 $8,000 $134,000 $46,000 $90,000 $12,500
Lower-level $40,000  $85,000  $65,500
Total Average $155,000 $31,000 $156,000 $30,500 $97,000 $25,000

Americans Slightly More Diverse With 90% Self-Identifying as White

The overwhelming majority of U.S. respondents self-identified as white (90%), albeit a slightly smaller share than in the previous two years’ worth of surveys (92%).

There was insufficient data to track any potential differences in compensation by race or ethnicity.

Women Outnumber Men; Some Gaps Apparent in Compensation

Almost three-fifths of survey respondents were women (59%), with men comprising 41% of the total.

Men and women are educated at roughly the same rates, with 69% of all men and 53% of all women holding a bachelor degree and 23% of men and 25% of women holding a master degree (MBA or other) as their highest level of educational attainment.

Looking at the numbers from another angle, women hold 51% of all bachelor degrees, 71% of MBAs, and 50% of other master degrees.

Despite these similarities, men who work in a mid-level position with a bachelor degree pull in an average of $18,000 more in annual salary and $800 in bonus than their similarly educated female peers. Adjusting for differences in hours worked, men made $3 an hour more during normal workweeks and $9 per hour more during “busy” weeks (for those with unpaid overtime). There were no statistically significant differences in age, experience, supervisory responsibilities, or geographic location for this cohort. Similar analysis for different levels of educational attainment or titles for this year was not possible due to insufficient data.

In TLL’s 2017–2018 Salary Survey, we reported a slightly larger pay gap between men and women, with mid-level executives reporting a difference of $3,400 in annual salary and $12,500 in bonus for 2017 (funnily enough, mid-level executive women were actually paid $6 an hour more than their male counterparts after adjusting for hours worked in a typical workweek).

Last year’s 2018–2019 survey found no statistically significant difference in pay or bonus by gender after adjusting for educational attainment, experience, age, and location.

All in all, men and women reported similar levels of job satisfaction and support in their roles as well as identical levels of satisfaction with their monetary compensation (average 3.2 on a scale of 1–5, where 1 equals “not satisfied” and 5 equals “extremely satisfied”).

While an equally likely share of men and women reported that they had low stress about the effects of Covid-19 (17% of men and 14% of women; 1 or 2 on a scale of 5), women were slightly more likely to be very stressed (58% indicated 4 or 5 on a scale of 5) while men were more likely to be “somewhat” stressed (43% indicated 3 on a scale of 5).

Licensing Executives Prove Experienced in Both Life and Career

Compared to previous years, this year’s survey respondents skewed slightly older than in previous years.

No respondent indicated that they were 26 years-old or younger (a first TLL’s Salary Survey) while 13% said that they were 22–35 years-old, 24% that they were 36–44 years-old, 32% that they were 45–53 years-old, 25% that they were 54–65 years-old, and 6% that they were 66 years-old or older.

Over two-thirds of licensing executives have been involved in licensing for 10 or more years (68%), with 17% working in the business for 5–10 years, 12% for 3–5 years, and only 4% for two years or less.

A whopping 88% of executive-level respondents have been involved in the business for 10 or more years, 8% for 5–10 years and the remaining 4% for 3–5 years. Among mid-level professionals, 63% have been working for 10 or more years, 23% for 5–10 years, and the remaining 13% for 3–5 years.

Roughly a third of all respondents have been in their current position for 10 years or more (32%) or 5–10 years (30%), with the remainder working for 3–5 years (25%), 1–2 years (6%), and less than one year (6%).

Somewhat surprisingly, salary and bonus neatly correlate with both age and experience. Interestingly, those aged 45–53 years-old generate slightly less base salary and bonus relative to their older and younger peers.

Share of Licensing Executives, by Age Range, Worldwide, 2019
Notes: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
Role 27–35 years-old 36–44 years-old 45–53 years-old 54–65 years-old 66 years-old and up
Executive 4% 20% 36% 28% 12%
Mid-level 16% 29% 32% 23% 0%
Lower-level 29% 14% 14% 29% 14%
Total 13% 24% 32% 25% 6%

Licensing Executive Salary and Bonus, by Age Range, Worldwide, 2019
Notes: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. *Among those who received bonuses; some respondents specified that they were not paid a bonus. †Average for 66 years-old and older not included due to insufficient data. ‡Total average calculated including lower-level titles (not broken out separately due to insufficient data).
Figures in USD
Role 27–35 years-old 36–44 years-old 45–53 years-old 54–65 years-old 66 years-old and up
Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus* Salary Bonus*
Executive $146,000 $40,000 $200,000 $30,000 $219,000 $105,000 $360,000 $500
Mid-level† $100,000 $2,700 $96,000 $17,000 $106,000 $8,000 $113,000 $15,000
Total Average‡  $120,000 $17,500 $113,000 $22,000  $99,000 $17,000  $215,000 $78,000  $115,000 $21,500

Working Environment: Small Businesses Dominate the Licensing Landscape

The majority of respondents to this year’s survey work in smaller companies or licensing divisions with 1–5 full-time or full-time equivalent employees (69%), followed by those who work with 6–20 peers (16%), 21–50 peers (10%), 51–100 peers (2%), and 101 or more peers (2%).

When asked about how many part-time or part-time equivalent employees at their company or division are directly involved with licensing, just under half of respondents indicated that there were 1–5 such employees (48%) and 10% that there were 6–20, with the remaining 41% not indicated that any such employees existed.

Breaking down listings data from TLL’s Licensing Sourcebook, most licensing executives work at companies with under 10 employees (69%), making this year’s survey respondents a roughly representative group of the business. A third work in companies or divisions with 1–3 employees (33%), 36% with 4–9 employees, 15% with 10–24 employees, 7% with 25–49 employees, 3% with 50–99 employees, and 6% with 100 or more employees.

On average, respondents to the 2019–2020 Salary Survey oversee 3.5 employees who report to them directly. Executive-level managers handle an average of 3.6 subordinates, while mid-level professionals handle an average of 3.4 subordinates.

American executives have slightly less managerial responsibilities compared to their Western European peers, with an average of 2.9 employees compared to 3.8 employees. American mid-level managers bring down the average, with only 1.9 employees per respondent compared to an average of 3.7 charges for executives.

While men and women oversee roughly the same number of employees on average, 3.2 and 3.6 employees, respectively, male executive-level respondents have fewer charges than their female counterparts (2.7 and 4.4 employees, respectively). At the mid-level rungs, men have slightly more subordinates than women, with an average of 4.0 and 3.2 employees, respectively.

When asked how the headcount of employees with licensing-related responsibilities has changed over the last year, 59% of respondents indicated that there were no changes. A quarter of respondents indicated that there were new hirings (24%), while 19% said that their company had downsized over the last year. For those who indicated an upward trend in headcount, an average of 1.5 full-time employees were hired. Meanwhile, an average of 3.7 employees were laid off or furloughed over the last year at companies that saw a negative trend.

Despite working at smaller companies, licensing professionals generate overwhelming value in terms of licensed sales. According to Sourcebook data, 63% of licensing executives worldwide work in licensing companies or divisions that generate $3 million or more in annual licensed retail sales. Of the rest, 17% have under $500,000 in licensed sales, 9% have between $500,000 and $1 million, 7% have $1–2 million, and 3% have $2–3 million in sales.

Size of Companies/Divisions, Based on Number of Employees Directly Involved in Licensing, Worldwide, 2020

Half of Licensing Executives Got a Raise Last Year; Only One-Fifth Expect a Raise This Year

Just under half of all respondents indicated that they received a raise in this last year (48%), with an average percentage gain in pay bump of 6.0% (or roughly $7,600). Thirty-seven percent of licensing executives indicated that it has been more than a year since they last saw a raise, and 15% said that they have never received a raise.

Of those who had received a raise from their current employer (even if more than 1 year ago), just 19% of respondents indicated that it was connected to a change in title. American licensing professionals based in the West Coast and Southeast regions were more likely to see an increase in compensation connected with a raise.

Just 23% of all respondents worldwide anticipate receiving a raise this year. For those who think they’ll get a raise, they anticipate an average 4.8% boost (almost $5,300). Americans anticipate a more generous raise, with an average 5.4% bump in pay (or $7,000), while Western Europeans anticipate a 2.1% bump (or $1,500).

Seventy percent all licensing executives agree—it’s hard to ask for a raise. When asked if they agreed with the statement, “It is hard to ask for more compensation,” just 16% of respondents disagreed and 14% expressed that they were neutral or not sure. On a scale of 1–5, where 1 is disagree and 5 is agree, the average response was 3.2 for all professionals.

When asked what was keeping them from asking for a raise, the most common responses were that the current economic climate was poor, there is not enough budget, previous rejections, unreceptive or hostile leadership, and complex or opaque processes.

On the flip side, the most common reasons as to why executives were not worried about asking for a raise were good advocates in form of superiors, or the fact that certain respondents lead their own company and are their own boss.

Amount of Time Since Last Raise, by Territory, 2020

Two-Thirds Received a Bonus Last Year, But Only One-Third Expect a Bonus in 2020

This last year, 66% of survey respondents worldwide received a bonus on top of their annual base salary.

American executive-level professionals were the most likely cohort to receive a bonus (88%). On average, this group received a $50,000 bonus in 2019. Of the 65% of mid-level Americans who received a bonus,the average amount was $11,000.

In Western Europe, the 67% of executive-level professionals who received a bonus got an average payout of $29,000, while 75% of mid-level respondents saw an average bonus of $7,600 last year.

A third of all licensing professionals expect to receive a bonus this coming year (33%).

Western Europeans are slightly more likely to anticipate receiving a bonus than their counterparts across the pond, with 40% and 30% of licensing professionals expecting a bonus, respectively.

American executives are far more likely to receive a bonus compared to mid-level and lower-level professionals, with 42% expecting a bonus this year. The picture is flipped in Western Europe, where only a quarter of executive-level professionals expect to see a bonus yet half of all mid-level respondents do.

The most important factors in calculating bonus were company performance, overall personal performance, the amount of royalties generated, the amount of new business generated, sales performance of licensed lines, and a predetermined amount of bonus unrelated to the factors above (such as flat bonuses determined contractually).

Other factors included the amount of hours worked as well as respondent’s uncertainty as to the existence of any factors at all.

Share of Licensing Executives Who Received a Bonus Last Year, by Territory, 2020

Most Important Factors in Calculating Bonus, Worldwide, 2020

Full-Time Professionals Spend 49.3 Hours a Week on the Job, Up to 55.4 Hours During Peak “Busy” Weeks

Licensing professionals who work full-time (40 hours a week or longer) spend an average 49.3 hours on the job during a typical workweek.

Respondents who work part-time, or under 40 hours a week, spend an average 32.9 hours on the job.

Americans work just a little longer than their peers in Western Europe, with an average full-time workweek of 49.7 hours versus 45.5 hours, respectively.

Surprisingly, when asked to put in more hours during “busy periods“ when licensing professionals around the world put in the same amount of hours regardless of territory—55.3 hours a week.

Americans put in an average of 10.4 extra hours a week to make up the difference, while Western Europeans add 10.2 hours to their original workweek.

Within the U.S., licensing professionals based in the Southeast work the longest full-time with a whopping 50.5 hours clocked in during typical workweeks, and 56.4 hours during busy periods.

On the other hand, executives based in the Mid-Atlantic region work the shortest weeks at 48.8 hours, while those on the West Coast work 49.2 normally. When they have to work overtime, those in the Mid-Atlantic punch in 53.5 hours and week and those in the West Coast 55.4 hours.

Only 3% of respondents in the U.S. get paid for working overtime, and just 20% in Western Europe can say the same.

Average Hours Worked in a Typical Full-time Workweek, by Territory, 2020

Licensing Executives Are Largely Satisfied With Their Jobs, Compensation

When asked about their level of job satisfaction in general, 81% of licensing executives had some level of positive feelings, 10% negative, and 8% neutral. On a scale of 1–10 where 1 is “not satisfied” and 10 is “extremely satisfied”, the average value was 7.5 among all respondents.

Americans were more likely to have strong feelings regarding their job, with 36% reporting high levels of satisfaction (9 or 10 out of 10) and 11% some level of dissatisfaction ranging from 1–4 (versus 18% and 9% of Western Europeans, respectively). On the other hand, Western European executives were more than twice as likely to report neutral feelings (18% versus 7% of Americans).

Within the U.S., no executive based in the Southeast reported negative feelings towards their job with 54% stating that they were satisfied (6–8 out of 10) and 38% that they were extremely satisfied (9 or 10). Those in the Mid-Atlantic were the most likely to be unsatisfied to some degree (33%), while executives on the West Coast were the most likely to be neutral (22%).

Agents were the happiest cohort, with 100% of respondents indicated positive feelings (6–10 out of 10) towards their work. On the flip side, 19% of licensees said they were unhappy with their job, the highest proportion out of any group.

Focusing on monetary compensation exclusively, 47% of respondents had some level of positive feelings, 26% negative, and 27% neutral. On a scale of 1–5 where where 1 is “not satisfied” and 10 is “extremely satisfied”, the average value was 3.2 among all respondents. Executives were the most satisfied with their compensation (averaging 3.6 on a scale of 1–5) compared to lower- (3.2) and mid-level (3.0) professionals.

Those who were unsatisfied largely listed high levels of responsibility, high added value, and skills incommensurate with the current salary they were receiving.

Americans were slightly more satisfied than their Western European counterparts, with an average satisfaction level of 3.3 versus 2.8, respectively. Within the U.S., respondents based in the Southeast were happiest with their monetary compensation (3.3) compared to those in the West Coast (3.2) and Mid-Atlantic (2.9) regions.

When asked to elaborate on any job concerns, 70% of respondents indicated that they felt no opportunity to advance further in their company compared to 30% who felt they had sufficient opportunity for promotion and job development.

Soft Compensation Schemes Slightly Improve, Most Executives Satisfied

Over half of all licensing executives stated that they were satisfied with their company’s soft compensation scheme (58%), while 33% were not satisfied, and 8% were neutral or not sure.

When asked if their company had instituted any ways (new or old) to compensate its employees in lieu of raises, 39% of respondents responded in the negative.

The most common soft compensation methods were allowing employees to work from home, instituting flexible time schedules, increasing vacation time, reducing working hours as part of an incentive scheme, adding allowances for travel or cell phones, instituting a shorter workweek, generous maternity/maternity leave, education reimbursement, employee discounts, and stock options.

Breaking Down Monetary Compensation by Job Title/Role

The titles with the greatest amount of responses were director (29%), manager (21%), coordinator (13%), and vice president (VP, 8%). These are the only job titles for which the number of responses is sufficient to generate salary and bonus data.

Other notable job titles included in the data under a larger role category and total average calculations are owner/partner (7%), CEO (3%), president (3%), EVP (3%), associate (3%), SVP (2%), and assistant (2%).

Even limited to these job titles, however, titles are not used consistently in licensing. For example, a director in a very large company could be equivalent to a VP at a smaller one. But size isn’t the only differentiator.

Unlike in other industries, titles for licensing professionals don’t always correlate with responsibilities. The range of responses in compensation is one indicator—e.g., $40,000–$1,000,000 for executive-level titles and $40,000–$187,000 for what TLL considers mid-level titles.

In the case of mid-level executives, the low end of that salary range would likely be a coordinator or assistant at some companies, but may be suitable for a junior director at others. The extreme range seen with executive-level titles is largely a function of respondent makeup—most run smaller shops, draw lower base salaries, and pay out large bonuses when business is good (e.g., several indicated that they gave themselves a bonus of $1 million or more in 2019). On the other hand, VPs tended to hail from larger companies.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents stated that their primary responsibility is licensing, followed by sales (9%), business development (9%), marketing (6%), product development (6%), merchandising (1%), advertising (1%), and management (1%).

The average base compensation for American licensing professionals was $120,000 a year, an even $5,000 decline from the previous year (when average salary fell $10,000). The rich got richer over the last year, as the average base salary for an executive-level title jumped from just $200,000 a year to $224,000 a year in 2019. On the other hand, mid-level professionals saw an average drop of $9,000 a year to reach $102,000 in 2019. Lower-level titles shrank by $1,000 to reach $52,000 a year.

Bonuses declined dramatically this year in comparison to previous years, with the 64% of Americans who are paid a bonus only collecting an average of $23,500 in 2019. Last year, the average bonus paid out across all titles was a whopping $105,000—executive-level titles collected $208,000, mid-level titles $52,000, and lower-level titles $3,000 in bonus. In TLL’s 2018 Salary Survey tracking 2017 data, executives collected $123,000, mid-levels $15,000, and lower-levels $1,700 in bonus.

Average Salary and Bonus, by Job Title/Role, U.S., 2019

There was insufficient data to draw statistically significant conclusions on salary and bonus for specific job titles held by Western European licensing professionals this year. The overall average base compensation actually jumped this year, with an average $125,000 salary for executive-level titles (compared to $103,000 last year) and $95,000 salary for mid-level professionals (compared to $70,000 last year). Surprisingly, bonus amounts for Western European respondents also shrank compared to last year’s survey. The average executive collected $29,000 bonus in 2019, a drop of $9,000, and the average mid-level title commanded $300 less in 2019 for a total average of $7,700 in bonus.

Average Salary and Bonus, by Job Title/Role, Western Europe, 2019


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