Decline In Licensing Fees At Getty

Posted on 12/12/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

I’ve been asked, “What’s the average price that stock images are being licensed for today?” Most RM and traditional RF image contributors would agree that on average fees have been steadily declining over the last few years. The question is how much. In the last few weeks I have gathered sales data from a few of Getty’s Image Partners and major individual contributors. While this survey is in no way scientific, I believe I can draw some reasonable conclusions about the degree of the decline.

Historical Numbers  

First, some historical numbers. In the fourth quarter of 2006 -- the last time we were getting good granular data from Getty Images -- the average price of an RM license was $506 and the average price for an RM license was $240. In the first quarter of 2006 RM had been as high as $546 and RF was at $256.

In 2006 there were 607,947 licenses of RM images and 1,053,751 licenses of RF images. For more details of this period check out Getty 2006 and 2007 Statistics.

At the time Getty was being sold to Hellman & Friedman Goldman Sacks provided details of actual 2007 sales. They predicted that revenue for the Creative Stills division of Getty Images would decline from $560.94 million in 2007 to $348 million in 2012.

Earlier this year when Getty was in the process of being sold to Carlyle Group Standard & Poors and Moody’s reported that gross sales of Getty Images in 2011 was $945 million. Based on this information and other available data, I estimated that the Creatives Stills division of Getty had gross sales of $185 million in 2011.

Recent Discussions With Contributors

In recent discussions with a few image partners and major photographers I learned that about 25% of the Getty Images licenses have been for gross fees of $25 or less (contributors receive a percentage of this amount). Some have reported that as much as 40% of their sales are at this level in some months. Another 30% of revenue, on average, has been for fees that ranged between $25 and $100. These percentages vary month to month, and from seller to seller, but this is an average estimate. Some sellers that license all their work as RM had months when as few as 16% of their licenses were for fees under $25. However, in these cases they tended to have a lot more licenses for fees between $25 and $100. In nearly all cases total licenses under $100 tended top be more than 50% of all sales.

For these contributors the average gross fee per RF image licensed was about $160. Averages ranged from $142 to $186 on a monthly basis. For RM image the average fee was about $300. For most the range was from $260 to $330. However, one RM seller reported that his average fees were just over $100.

Using these averages -- $300 for RM and of $160 for RF -- and assuming that Getty licensed the same number of images in 2011 as in 2006 (607,947 licenses for RM and 1,053,751 for RF) we would get the following numbers for gross Creative Stills revenue:

  Num. Images Avg. Fee Gross Sales
RM 607,947 $300 $182,384,100
RF 1,053,751 $160 $168,600,160
Total     $350,984,260

Can Average Revenue Be This High?

While this number matches nicely with Goldman Sachs 2007 estimates for Creative Stills, Goldman Sachs also predicted that the total 2012 revenue for Getty Images would be $200 million higher than it is actually likely to be. In addition, I believe Goldman greatly underestimated the growth of iStockphoto.

To get into the right range for an average we need to consider three things.
        1- It seems clear that the people I have been talking to are among the most successful contributors and their figures are far above the average. Thus, lets assume the real averages are quite a bit lower at $260 for RM and $130 for RF.
        2 – I may have underestimated the Creative Stills contribution to the revenue. It may actually be much higher. Lets assume it was $50 million higher. That would mean iStock and Getty’s editorial collections generated significantly less revenue than I estimated which I don’t believe was the case.
        3 – Getty may be licensing a lot fewer images than they were in 2006. That is probably true because even with lower prices microstock is cannibalizing some of their potential sales. On the other hand, most of the top sellers are not reporting a big drop off units licensed, just a decline in prices. Lets assume the number of units licensed have declined 20% from 2006 levels. Thus, in 2011 there would have been 486,356 RM images licensed and 843,000 RF.
  Num. Images Avg. Fee Gross Sales
RM 486,356 $260 $125,452,560
RF 843,000 $130 $109,590,000
Total     $235,042,560

This is probably as close as we can come. Units licensed may have declined more than 20% since 2006. That could mean that average per image licensed would be higher.

Getty could be licensing a higher percentage of RM than they have in the past, but I don’t think that has had a major effect. Getty has always licensed about twice as many RF images as RM. That ratio may have changed a little in favor of RM. Based on the figures I have had access to I believe they are currently licensing about 160 to 170 RF uses for every 100 RM.

Copyright © 2012 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Todd Klassy Posted Dec 12, 2012
    Is the Flickr portfolio factored into these figures? If so, I guarantee the average fee for those photos is much, much lower.

  • Gerard Fritz Posted Dec 13, 2012
    I have been contacted by businesses about my Flickr images. So far they have all expected to use images for free.

  • Todd Klassy Posted Dec 13, 2012
    Then you're not negotiating with the correctly. I too am approached all of the time by businesses wanting to use my Flickr images. Flickr is my #1 source of income.

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