Few topics generate as much heated debate in the small world of stock footage videography user forums as pricing. I'm just going to skip all debate for the moment! If you want to weigh in or read about the feisty controversy – feel free to do so in the comments area at the end of the topic or search the Pond5.com user forum on "Pricing".
When I first started out, I puzzled over each clip and thought, “What's a fair price for this clip?” Now, after some experience I consider this a bad strategy. I want to stress, what you think is fair or not fair has little to do with your investment of time and energy, your level of experience, education or your monthly electrical bill. These clips are commodities. Put thinking like that aside. Prices live in a world of their own. There is a marketplace you are operating inside of and it has its own mechanics. Your clip has its own life in the market. You'll need to do some hard thinking and active comparison based on sales, views, and theme, to determine how you price. Now I ask myself these questions:
How competitive is my clip is when ranked against similar others in production value?
How competitive is my clip ranked against similar others in price?
How unique or mundane is my clip?
Let's start by looking at a typical search page on Pond5. The page below is searched with the keywords Apple Orchard with the search “sort by” setting on “sales” and searched by HD video only.
In short, you want to maximize the sales generating price of your clips. The doesn't mean you want them to be high-priced – it is easy to price yourself out of the market. I see stock footage submitters doing this all the time. It doesn't mean you want them to be low-priced either. It means you want to actively find the “sweet spot” where your footage is priced to be purchased as often as possible – at a maximum high or minimum low price. Just how do you determine that? I do it by breaking down the results of a search by price, downloads and keywords using the search box on any stock footage agency website.
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At the time of writing there are 366 clips and 8 pages of results for "apple orchard". Most of these are redundant shots of apple blossoms and trees and have never had a sale. The clips in the first two rows of the first several pages are the most interesting.
The first two shots are by the same artist and feature very sale-able shots of hands picking apples, a crane shot and apples being dumped into a bin. They are unique shots and stand out in the category. They sell for around $70 and have had 5 to 3 downloads each.
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The next shot is a legacy shot from 2007 and has had several downloads - probably because it was there first. It's priced at $49, but I doubt he is going to get any more sales. There is too much competition of better quality priced well below it which have been submitted since then.
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The next shot, priced at $10 dollars is more recent and has sold on both price and quality. It's a good shot, it's priced painfully competitively and this is probably why we see in the first row of search results (sorted by either price, downloads or default).
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With these results and your clip in mind you can begin to gauge it's selling price.
Don't be discouraged by deflating (in your mind) the price you think your footage should sell at. Keep in mind, small continuous sales are certainly better than no sales. They do add up! If you can make your clips sell by pricing them competitively – it's your option to do it. It maybe the only option your have in competing with footage of the same subject and in the same range, or higher, of production values. If the footage is selling well, it may be under-priced and could generate more revenue even at a higher price without affecting sales. Time to price up! How do you know? In general, non-unique footage of typical shots in categories filled with lots of similar shots, need to be priced competitively. Price them to sell. Footage with high production value or scarcity (crane shots, jib shots, tracking footage, aerials, unique editorial footage of social and historical events, etc.) can be priced at whatever the market will bear.
At this point, I price ALL MY FOOTAGE at the low end of the price range as it comes online in a strategy to jump-start sales and page rank. I don't want footage not selling if it is overpriced. (Do you have a clip with lots of views but no sales? That may be a signal it is over-priced.) I am too lazy, I admit, to conduct a clip-by-clip appraisal of each new clip. It's more efficient for me to just price them low rather than high initially and then adjust the price. What is my rational for this?
I conducted a pricing experiment recently. It yielded some interesting results. I had been aware the majority of the shots in my portfolio on different sites were what I term “non-performing” clips. They didn't sell - ever. Most of them had few views by potential buyers either. Since these clips were not really doing me any good, I made a decision to down price them to the lowest price I could stomach. Why not? It was worth a try as they were just, sitting there.
After a very short while I noticed an increase in sales of previously non-performing clips. Now, the fact that these clips also had not been viewed by potential buyers previous to repricing meant the initial search from the buyers end must have been on price and keyword. Buyers hadn't even seen my clips because they were searching for cheaper clips right off the bat. The goal is to be in front of the buyers eyes and attractive to the buyer in some way. If the buyer is searching on price and finds another clip well before yours, you are not even in the game.
When these low priced clips sell, I do an active comparison of existing clips on the site just like it and attempt to gauge the “sweet spot” where the price upwards does not inhibit sales. Admittedly, this is more an art than a science. Again, each time a clip sells for the first time, I compare it to other clips from other sellers and re-price it. Don't simply price them low and leave them low priced. Each individual re-price I ask myself: Is my clip competitive in production value? Is my clip competitive on price? Sometimes, the only advantage you may have in the marketplace over other sellers is price. Sometimes, the advantage you have is having a clip which is not easy to generate or reproduce and you can price upwards.
* If you contrast footage selling on sites where pricing is fixed, you can also get a measure of how they compete in the land of flat pricing.
It's important to understand how the search engines inside the various sites work. Clips are ranked – that is they appear in order – by their keyword accuracy or relevancy and number of sales per views and possibly the initial ranking of the staff at Revostock or Pond5 (as well as hidden metrics). Your sales history and / or the ratio of sales to submissions may also be factored. Clips relevant to the search and deemed sale-able (because they racked up previous sales) are positioned in ranked order on each page first. That is page one starts with the best selling most relevant juicy clips and page two also. As you descend into the proffered pages, you can observe the relevancy and the number of views and sales decrease. Your goal is to be in row one of the first page. Good luck! *
Note: iStockphoto and Shutterstock have fixed-tiered pricing and don't allow contributors to price submitted footage. Two of the major sites I recommend allow you to price your own footage - Revostock.com and Pond5.com. Of the two sites, most likely Pond5 will be the most important for you in sales.
The bulk pricing database on Pond5.com.
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Drop me a line - I answer all questions. Good luck!