Becker-Leckrone Comments on Blend Success

Posted on 12/14/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

One of the leading thinkers in today’s stock photo industry is Rick Becker-Leckrone, the chief executive officer, principle founder and chief architect of Blend Images, one of the world’s more successful stock production companies. In April 2009, photographer John Lund conducted an in-depth interview with Becker-Leckrone.

Blend Images is five years old. It is owned by its 23 founding member photographers and does $6 million in sales annually. Initially, the images the company produced were only marketed through distributors, with no direct sales to customers. In recent years, Blend has begun to market through its own Web site, but a high percentage of revenue generated still comes from distributors. As a result, the gross revenue customers actually pay to use the images of these photographers is much higher than $6 million.

In 2004, Becker-Leckrone recognized that there was a dearth of high-quality, non-stereotypical, multi-ethnic business and lifestyle content and he set out to build a production company that would fill that void. The idea was not to just shoot a few African-American images, but to really “do it right” and put together a collection with breadth and depth designed to meet the needs of the advertising community worldwide.

Becker-Leckrone and his friend Jack Hollingsworth put together a list of some of the world’s best stock photographers who they thought might be intrigued with the idea. Becker-Leckrone invited them to “come to Las Vegas and bring your checkbook,” saying “I’ve got a thought.” They all came, wrote checks, committed to shoot, and Blend was born. Today, the company has about 80,000 images. Initially, only the 23 owners were allowed to contribute images, but in recent years they have added a select group of “contributing photographers” and now have a total over 70 photographers producing images for the company. Anyone interested in learning more about the company can pbagnpg perngvir qverpgbe Fnenu Svk.

Initially, all the images created were licensed as royalty-free, but recently Blend began offering rights-managed stock as well. Becker-Leckrone points out, “The bottom line is that RM imagery simply has much less exposure than RF imagery. RM shots might sell a few times a year; micro shots might sell hundreds of times a year. Most folks license RM pictures because, well, they like the picture¾not that it’s RM. We sell RM on our site every day. We sell RF on our site everyday. Often, the price point is the same.” 

Lund asked Becker-Leckrone to list three things that have made Blend successful. Becker-Leckrone said:

“1. Our photographers and their photographs. We only brought in top-selling stock shooters to start Blend, and we’re really choosy with whom we offer contracts to shoot for Blend. We have a small staff and we simply don’t have the ability to ‘hand-hold’ shooters who are just getting started (but always happy to help photographers find a good home for their work.)  I believe in experience when it comes to stock. We have 23 owners/investors who founded Blend. Only one of the founding investors is under 40. Why? Experience counts. I’m all for new blood, new techniques, hip, cool, pix. But understanding the concepts that sell and those who have survived, and indeed thrived throughout the ups and downs and changes in the stock world are folks I want on my team. We had such a strong roster coming out of the gate that we signed many of our distributors without showing them a single photo. They got it. And they wanted to be a part of it. 

“2. Our staff. We have a small staff of only about 9 full-time employees. But each, in his or her own right, is an entrepreneur. They all have the ability to do jobs outside of their main discipline. In fact, we just hired a new employee to handle our royalty accounting. But, true to form, she was one of the first employees at Photodisc and has done everything from creative to sales. Training took about three hours. She’s up and running. We all take the trash out; we all do windows. I only hire people who have their own ‘deep bench’ in terms of skills. 

“3. Timing. We got lucky to start the company when we did. Everything came together at the right time.” 

The full Becker-Leckrone interview and other Lund interviews with stock-industry notables are available on his Web site.


Copyright © 2009 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 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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