Survey: Stock Income per Licensing Model

Posted on 10/16/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Stock photography is licensed in several ways. Of 238 respondents to the recent Selling Stock survey, 179 licensed some work as rights-managed, and 37 licensed under Getty Images’ rights-ready model. Stock income reported was usually less than the respondents’ total income, because many photographers earned some revenue from sources other than stock.

[Ed: Figures corrected October 16th, 2008, 2:15PM EST]

REVENUE BY STOCK-LICENSING MODEL
Stock-licensing model Number of respondents using model Total photography revenue of respondent group (all services) Stock-only revenue of respondent group
Gross Net All licensing models This licensing model
Total Average Total Average Total Average
RM 179 23,592,367 131,801 14,625,689 81,708 13,625,631 9,968,287 55,689
RR 37 12,280,467 331,905 8,933,290 241,440 9,760,034 1,678,618 45,368
RF 67 16,255,890 242,625 10,508,435 156,842 13,513,092 6,882,652 102,726
Subscription 2 13,830 6,915 10,530 5,265 13,830 4,043 2,022
Microstock 20 1,690,695 84,535 678,005 33,900 1,580,458 1,267,457 63,373
Not applicable 16 1,621,300 101,331 957,700 59,856 463,625 461,025 28,814

The fact that 65 respondents produce royalty-free images is not a surprise. An increasing number of rights-managed shooters have ventured into royalty-free production in recent years. One respondent reported uncharacteristically high royalty-free revenues, earning substantially more than many stock agencies. Thus, to get a more realistic picture of average income for this licensing model, the adjusted revenues table excludes his numbers. The adjusted table also excludes the revenues of a photographer who shoots some traditional royalty-free images but specializes in microstock and generates extremely high revenues, thus pushing microstock-revenue averages up disproportionately.

[Ed: Figures corrected October 16th, 2008, 2:15PM EST]

ADJUSTED REVENUE BY STOCK-LICENSING MODEL
Stock-licensing model Number of respondents using model Total photography revenue of respondent group (all services) Stock-only revenue of respondent group
Gross Net All licensing models This licensing model
Total Average Total Average Total Average
RM 179 23,592,367 131,801 14,625,689 81,708 13,625,631 9,968,287 55,689
RR 37 8,080,467 218,391 8,933,290 145,494 5,560,034 1,258,618 34,017
RF 65 10,955,890 168,552 10,508,435 103,976 8,213,092 3,080,652 47,395
Subscription 2 13,830 6,915 10,530 5,265 13,830 4,043 2,022
Microstock 19 590,695 31,089 678,005 25,158 480,458 189,457 9,971
Not applicable 16 1,621,300 101,331 957,700 59,856 463,625 461,025 28,814

Before making these adjustments, royalty-free shooters appeared to earn nearly twice as much from this licensing model as rights-managed shooters earn from rights-managed stock: on average, $102,726 vs. $55,689, respectively. Even the adjusted numbers still show a substantial difference in favor of royalty-free earnings, which exceed rights-managed by close to 18% ($55,689 vs. $47,395).

This can be explained by the fact that those who ventured into royalty-free production were largely the most successful rights-managed shooters who have been very aggressive in producing royalty-free images. This difference can also be the result of human error in responding to the survey: There were 16 respondents who selected “not applicable” among licensing-model choices. How they license their work is unclear. They may be making direct sales, but if they establish prices based on usage, most of those sales should have fallen into the rights-managed category.

The microstock-revenue average of $9,971 is somewhat realistic but is not a true average for all microstock shooters. Certainly, there are some microstocker’s doing very well. iStockphoto has 264 photographers who have had more than 25,000 downloads, and the current average fee per download is $4 to $5. On the other hand, Selling Stock’s small sample included a disproportionate share of the more successful microstock producers. The true average of all people shooting microstock is likely to be much lower.

The survey did not generate enough responses to offer a realistic perspective on income from subscription products.


Copyright © 2008 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 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

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