Is it the economy, or are they opportunists taking advantage of the economy?
Is it the result of Royalty Free or is it the result of low pricing models?
Whatever the case, it’s increasingly common to receive licensing inquiries only to discover that the request involves a very low price for a very high usage. A couple examples from the past two weeks:
- A division of a major publishing company, contacted me regarding using an image for the audio book. I had previously licensed an image for use in the printed book only. (This alone is a lesson why to write detailed licenses. Had I not, the division might have used the image for the audio book without contacting me). After the standard back-and-forth whereby I asked how the image was to be used, it became clear immediately that the owner of production company wished to have unrestricted use of the image for advertising, marketing, package printing, etc. Once he made that clear via email, I wrote the license for such, warning in advance that unrestricted, perpetual use of an image in any known or unknown formats would
significantly increase the price. The reply to the quote was that the company could offer a very low fee (by industry standards) but had to have the unrestricted rights. In fairness, the person I dealt with was very kind and respectful, yet asked for a license that was worth way more than they were offering. This is increasingly the case these days.
- A health care company contacted me for licensing an image. The caller identified himself as working for a “start up” company. Now, I can’t say for sure, but a company that went into business in 2006 likely no longer qualifies as a “start up,” but it’s increasingly common to have that slipped into the conversation these days. Obviously, the implication is that they have no real budget to work with. The company was interested in using an image as a trade show panel to help sell their appointment management services and software presumably to ER’s, doctor’s offices and health care clinics. The owner also mentioned that he’s previously dealt with Corbis and is used to paying “a couple hundred dollars” to use the image as much as he wants. That led to a amiable discussion and time spent preparing a fair market quote.
Both scenarios resulted in no license. That’s part of the business, but I’ve seen a continual rise over the past year or two of requests for unrestricted or multiple use licenses for fees more in line with small, restricted single use. I’m sure there are a myriad of factors at play driving such requests, but among them are surely the rock bottom pricing driven by the large stock houses like Getty and Corbis as well as the proliferation of photographer’s who regularly sign away their copyright and licensing options.
One other factor that has reared it’s ugly head is the demands by publishers to receive “preferred vendor” status and, thus, receive steeply discounted licenses in exchange for volume purchases over prescribed periods of time. This seems to be a standard agreement between stock agencies and publishers these days. The result, however, is trickling down to us little guys who don’t license hundreds of images per month but are still expected to deeply discount the licenses.
Keeping in mind that not every customer who walks into the proverbial “store” will walk out having bought something, it’s worth noting that market trends don’t typically shift overnight and the continual drive downward in pricing is alarming.