Who Are Macrostock Sellers

Posted on 6/11/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

A reader asked, “In the article written by Martin Lisius (Microstock-The Dark Side Of Image Licensing) he refers to non micro agencies as a possible answer to the low prices that photographers receive. When I search under the heading of macro stock on your site about the only name that comes up is Getty.  Do I understand this correctly?”

Good question. By way of background, macrostock is a marketing system that started out pricing all images based on the specific planned usage. This strategy came to to be known as Rights Managed (RM). In the early 1990s this was the only way images were licensed. In the later 90s Royalty Free (RF) pricing was introduced. With RF the customer was allowed to use any image purchased in a broad range of different ways (eventually expanding to virtually unlimited) for a single price.

Some of the prices for RF images started out very low, but eventually stabilized by the middle of the 2000s (roughly 2003 to 2008) at about half of what it cost to license a RM image. At that time the average for RF price was in the range of $200 to $250 while the average for RM was $450 to $550. During that period Getty tended to license about twice as many RF uses annually as RM so it tended not to make a lot of difference which licensing strategy the photographer chose to use.

Occasionally, RM images were licensed for much higher prices, but such sales were rare. Images that commanded high prices were generally used for major advertising campaigns. Sometimes RM images were licensed for very small uses for prices even lower than RF.

Then came Microstock. The theory behind microstock was to license each image multiple times for very low prices. In each case the customer received an RF license so they could use the image anyway they choose, unlimited times, forever for the one single price. Subscription pricing was also introduced allowing the customer to download a fixed number of images for a fixed price per-month. The price per-image could be very cheap, if the customer could use all they were allowed in a given month. However, most customers only used a small percentage of what they were allowed. At one point I calculated that the average customer was using about 25% of what they were allowed to use. Even then prices were still very cheap compared to macrostock prices.

In the last 10 to 15 years more and more customers have been able to find everything they need from the microstock sellers. Fewer and fewer customers even bother to look at what the macrostock sellers are offering. In addition, more and more of what the macrostock companies are offering are RF images rather than RM. (Check out this story about what has been happening at Getty.)

And on top of this, in order to compete the macrostock sellers have been forced to drop their prices dramatically. Again, take a look at this story to get an idea of how much macrostock prices have fallen in the last decade.

Today Getty is by far the largest macrostock seller. Alamy is probably second. In addition, a number of other smaller, mostly specialized collections around the world still use traditional macrostock strategies when licensing images. A huge number of smaller firms that used the RM strategy for licensing have gone out of business.

I’ve attached a list below of some of the companies that still use the macrostock model. When most of the companies in the first part of the list started their businesses they tended to license everything as RM. Now, nearly all license some of their collection as RF as well. Some specialize in a particular type of imagery and others market primarily in a specific region.

The bottom 8 companies on the list use the RF strategy exclusively to license the images in their collections, but they tend to get much higher prices for each use. However, they also tend to make many fewer sales than the collections with images available at lower prices.

All in all, it is difficult to determine which strategy – macrostock or microstock – might generate the most revenue today. I know a few microstock sellers (see this story) with huge collections who earn significant annual revenue. Given their obvious productions costs (see the Wavebreak Media collections in the above story) it is hard to estimate how much profit is involved.

On the other hand, you can have great images in a macrostock RM collection, but if no one looks at them you aren’t going to make many sales. And then you have to keep in mind that Getty is licensing a huge percentage of RM images for prices less than $5.00 (don’t be deceived by the list prices on the Getty site. They almost never get those prices.) Finally, most photographers who are licensing their work as macrostock are seeing steadily declining royalty statements, even when they are adding lots of new images.

Last of all, keep in mind that Martin Lisius was talking about footage, not still images. There is less oversupply of footage than there is for still images and the average prices for a video clip are much higher than the average prices for still images. This could make a big difference.

AFP Creative https://www.afp.com/en
AGE footstock https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/
akg-images https://www.akg-images.co.uk
Alamy https://www.alamy.com/
Amana images https://amanaimages.com/home.aspx
ArabianEye https://www.alamy.com/category/arabianeye.html
Bridgeman Images https://www.bridgemanimages.com/en-US/
BSIP https://www.bsip.com/?idPageWeb=94&idLangue=2
Danita Delimont Stock Photography https://www.danitadelimont.com/
Dpa picture alliance https://www.picture-alliance.com/content/
Everett Collection https://everettcollection.com/#/home
Greatstock http://www.greatstock.co.za/
Imaginechina http://www.imaginechina.com/
Imago https://www.imago-images.de/?visitfromold=1
Johner Bildbyra https://www.johner.com/
Mint Images http://mintimages.com/
Nature Picture Library https://www.naturepl.com/blog/
Oxford Scientific http://www.oxfordscientificfilms.tv/
plainpicture https://www.plainpicture.com/de
Pond5 https://www.pond5.com/
Robert Harding https://www.robertharding.com/
Science Photo Library https://www.sciencephoto.com/
Science Source https://www.sciencesource.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=Home
StockFood https://usa.stockfood.com/
Tetra Images https://www.tetraimages.com/
TopFoto http://www.topfoto.co.uk/
Universal Image Group https://universalimagesgroup.com/
View Stock http://www.viewstock.com/
WaterFrame https://water-frame.com/
Westend61 GmbH https://www.westend61.de/
Zumapress http://www.zumapress.com/index.html?cktst=1?cktst=1
AdobeStock Premium Collection https://stock.adobe.com/premium
Hero Images https://heroimages.com/
iStock Signature Collection https://www.istockphoto.com/
Mauritius images https://www.offset.com/agency/Mauritius+Images
National Geographic https://www.offset.com/agency/National+Geographic
Offset https://www.offset.com/
Panther Media https://stockagency.panthermedia.net/
Stocksy https://www.stocksy.com/

Copyright © 2019 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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