This week, thanks to the honest reply of a photographer in the microstock agencies, I got my first real life look at some ‘average to better than average” returns, and I must say, the glimpse was quite “enlightening”.
Last month, this photographer made jsut shy of $300 from approx 300 images each on a handful of microagents. Playing the straight numbers game, that’s a dollar an image per month, or $12.00 per image per year. On the surface, that seems like a good return; in fact it’s better than the same traditional calculations from regular agencies a decade ago; before ‘traditional’ RF, and long before Micro RF. But this has always been the crux of the commoditization thought process vs. the fair value based on use sales models. And in fact, if we stop the calculationsÂ right there, then it’s easy to see the attraction for photographers to dive right into this market.
But that’s not what opened my eyes and caught my attention. What got me was that to make that $300.00, he had to have his images downloaded approx. 750 times. Now let’s consider each download as a new “Client” – andÂ since clients are rarely likely to buy more than a couple images from any given photographer at a time; that’s almost 750 new Clients he made that month; and combined, those 750 clients paid him $300.00. But that’s still not what gets me….
He has now given 750 new clients the unlimited rights to exploit the commercial use of an image forever. This means that each one of these clients can now take their image and use it in:
- 10 double page ads in MARTHAS MONTHLY PRISON JOURNAL or MY HOT ROD IS COOLER THAN YOUR HOT ROD Magazines, where the client happily pays $10,000.00+ per ad.
- 1.5 Million catalogs that the client has paid $48,000 to produce.
- Â 39 Billboards in downtownÂ Tokyo for a year, for X-bazzillion Yen.
- A full years of Tradeshow Booth Displays where in the year, the client stantds to make $12 Million dollars in sales and new contracts.Â Â …. Yada yada yada year after year after year after year.
Now granted, Most clients may not exploit an image like that, but the point is, that THEY COULD. From my observations, it seems as if most photographers in the RF or MICRO agencies simply don’t understand or care about how a commercial client uses images to attract customers to their business so they can make more sales and earn more money. And these types of clients pay lots of money to lots of people to get that type of attention and sales. But they don’t give any of that money to the photographers because the photographers don’t ask for it, or dont care about getting it.
In our example here, our photographer – And I respect him for his choices and honesty and forthrightness – has given each of those 750 clients, all of the above rights and so much more, for about $0.39 per client. Next month, another 750 new clients will also get all of those same rights for $0.39. each.
For the record, I think there’s a place in the market for both RF and microstock. But I don’t thinkÂ a microstock saleÂ should include all those commercial rights. If a company can pay to print 60,000 magazines, or run a full page ad, or pay to be at an industry tradeshow, that they should be able to benefit from what our images do for them, for more thanÂ $0.39. If they can pay thousands of dollars to everyone else, why can they get away with not paying more to the photographers? Answer: Because photographer have let them. They know we’re mostly a bunch of suckers, and they’re happy as clams in a sea of brine shrimp to take full advantage of our choices.
There has to be a middle ground in the market. For my own self, I know there’s a number where I’d let a client have unlimited non-exclusive commercial use for 6 months, a year, 2 years etc. – kinda like renting a Blockbuster movie, and watching it as many times and places as you want, but your rental fee varies based on how long you want to keep the movie. But whatever that number is, it’s not going to be $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, $25.00, $50.00, $100.00, or even $500.00 per year. (Do I hear $501.00?) That type of use should be worth more. Simple. Wanna use an image of mine for your personal blog, a family invitation, or a small run of locally distributedÂ brochures, fine. But if you can afford to spend a few thousand dollars or more on what your making or using our images for, then by golly – why shouldn’t we care enough about the value of our work to ask for some of that larger pie. To me, That seems like “Good Business” beyond the pure numbers game.
Years ago, when ‘traditional’ RF first appeared, I had an (ex-)friend that hopped on board early on in the RF game. IÂ felt like I could have bashed my head against the wall tellling him “Ask for More” – but he just didn’t get it or didn’t care. It was about easy and numbers. But now, along with the traditional RF crowd, the newly named “crowdsourcing” onslaught is teaching everyone new lessons. What we all learn as a group, and as a profession has yet to be flushed out in full.
As more amateurs enter the “crowdsourced”Â micro market, they’re going to get the taste of money, and they’ll learn a bit of the ropes, and they’ll get hungry for more money, and that’s fine. The Micros can certainly be seen as a good entry ground to the business, especially for people whoseÂ shooting skills may not be up to commercial standards, or fully ‘professional’ quality. But as theÂ market opening gold-rushÂ mentality draws in moreÂ of those “professional shooters”Â who start filling out their ranks, and as the quality of images goes up, the people that started selling in this market will start losing sales to those who make better images and are happy to get their $0.39 slice of pie.
The bottom line now is that we can ALL make lots MORE MONEY – if we just learn to ask for it. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe that one source for flushing out the middle ground will be the PLUS Coalition, and their efforts to bring a streamlined, easy, and renewable licensing format into the market place, one that even mom & pop businesspersons and teenage myspacers can understand and benefit from.
Â So – I guess I should be asking: Who doesn’t want MORE MONEY?
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