IT’s not the money you earn, but what you leave behind.
Traditionally, RM pricing has been about covering the perceived value of an image during its life by estimating its exposure.
Let me explain : RM pricing is based on usage. The more an image has a chance to be viewed, the higher the fee. The thinking behind this is that an image has an overall shelf life : how many times it can be viewed by how many people, before everyone gets bored and no one wants to see it again. in other words, each time an image is licensed, it erodes its value. Until no one wants to license it anymore because it has been seen too much. Let’s call it “visual erosion”.
So you can sell an image to a small magazine for less because less people read it, leaving you lots of opportunities to license it again to different publications with also small contained readerships.
However, if you sell it for the cover of let’s say Time magazine you can be sure a lot of people will see it. Time magazine had to pay extra to cover the faster erosion of the images value due to the much larger amount of viewers they exposed the image to.
Thus negotiating an RM price was all about estimating the total value of an image ( how much money it could bring in by being licensed many, many times) and dividing by it by the estimated exposure it got from its license. Of course, additional factor came in, like the exclusivity of the image or whether it was use to sell a product or service.
Complicated? Not really. Mostly an intuition game to which you got better after many years of experience.
Today, thanks to corpocrates, this process has been analyzed, quantified, Excelized and built into online calculators that more or less do the calculation for you.
Problem is : the internet.
Now, as soon as an image is published, it is quickly replicated on multiple sites. In fact, sites that properly license your images have buttons that practically begs its users to copy that image everywhere else, like twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr etc. Your clients are in fact telling their users, go ahead, take that image and run.
However, You, as the licensor, have only factored in for one publication, not those endless republication or sharing.
Thus, once an image is sold, it quickly become seen by everyone and thus cannot be sold anymore.
For example, you license an image to a small blog for a few dollars, but soon, it is everywhere and you have lost any chance to license it again. It has quickly become visually eroded.
Thus, even if you get a few thousand dollars, it still will never cover the fees you could have collected if you had been paid for all these republications, how ever small they are.
Think of the money you deserve and leave behind. In fact, there is probably more revenue potentially generated by these unauthorized publication then with your initial license fee. If Amazon has taught anything is that there is much more revenue in thousands of little sales than one big one. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that all these replication of your images for which you charge nothing is the “long tail” of photography. That their is much more revenue to be made with thousands of little sales than one big one. With the internet, things add up pretty quickly. And yet, besides waving you arms in despair and grumbling on numerous forums ( Facebook included), you do nothing.
If you think Royalty Free is better, it is not. RF has only factored in the visual erosion by image size, assuming that the larger an image is used, the more people will sees it. Exactly like RM, however, there is no financial provision for republication.
Sure, you can go ahead an pursue every instance of image usage and try to collect but it is certainly not a efficient use of your time.
Thus currently, photo licensing is just about charging some people for a fraction of how many times your image will be viewed and chasing others in the hopes of being compensated for another small fraction of the additional views.
In other words, the current licensing models is antiquated, obsolete and inefficient.
The good news is that there are solutions. Those require that you can get a revenue every time your image is seen. Isn’t that, after all, the core of image licensing ?
One view, one payment . Since the technology is there that allows to precisely measure how many people actually see your images, why not use it ? Companies like Stipple function that way. Instead of charging one publisher once for an vastly under estimated amount of view, every viewer triggers a transaction for which you are the beneficiary. Exactly the way RM licensing should work. The more the views of your image, the more money, regardless of where the image sits or if it has be copied a thousand time. The best part of all is throughout this process, you remain in control.
Thus you can continue to license your images once, the old tired way, grumbling and bitching about all these people stealing your images, or you can actually offer people to steal your image while getting revenue for each view (and no more need for bitching).
The way people use your images has changed, isn’t it time you do to ?
You can sign up for Stipple, for free, here.