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Microstock Pricing and Download History

Microstocks can save you and your client money while delivering quality. The microstock revolution sprang from designer-to-designer cooperation and image sharing. It has evolved to provide the imaging equivalent of cheap music downloads but with a key difference in that this is business to business and not business to consumer.

The clients of the microstock image libraries are people just like us, looking to buy good images at a good price—and what an incredible choice there now is! More recently, market awareness has increased, and now more designers can name at least one microstock library, without necessarily realizing just how huge and varied the market has become.

Readmore: Evolutionary Development of Microstocks Libraries

If you think microstocks sound great so far, a word of caution—not everyone is happy with them. They have faced a barrage of criticism from some with vested interests in the traditional libraries. Criticisms you may hear include (and I paraphrase but, hopefully, have captured the essence of the most common complaints):
“You can’t make money from net commissions as low as $0.20 per download.”

The low sale price of microstock images means an inevitably reduced per-image commission for photographers. This is, in theory (and, in my experience, in practice also), compensated for by greatly increased sales, so that you can indeed make money from microstock, despite the low per-image commission. It is more satisfying, perhaps, to sell one image once for $100 than to sell one image 200 times for a $0.50 average commission.

But do the math; the net result is the same—$100 net commission. Provides anecdotal evidence that their earnings from the microstocks are comparable with all but the best returns from traditional libraries.

The traditional libraries have, in my view, been too slow to react to the new market reality, as outlined above. However, they are beginning to catch up, either by joining in the fun and acquiring microstock libraries, as happened with Getty buying iStockphoto and Jupiter Images acquiring Stockxpert, or in starting their own from scratch—as has happened with Corbis establishing SnapVillage in mid-2007.

Readmore: Start Selling Audio Files As Microstock

Microstock pricing is subject to much criticism. Many artists with large portfolios on traditional libraries are understandably concerned that the microstocks will undermine their livelihood. So far, the evidence seems to suggest that this is not the case and that the microstocks are largely selling to new markets that previously did not have access to high-quality, affordable imagery, markets to some extent ignored by the traditional image libraries. However, it is of course true that the microstocks are making some inroads into markets dominated by the traditional libraries. Is that a criticism? I do not think it can be. Businesses compete, and in a free market economy, the fi ttest will survive. Also, an increasing number of professionals are using the microstocks to sell their work, so there isn’t an “us and them” world being created.

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