Just returned from 3 days of Paca international conference in Sin city. How appropriate to have held the yearly convention in a gambling town full of hard core, die hard risk takers. Our industry, the photo industry is very similar in its model.
When we take images for stock, we purchase lottery tickets. we invest our time and money into a series of images that we hope we will license, over and over, for millions of dollars. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t . A bit like a poker game, we have some idea if we have a winning hand but we never know what the competition is holding, and if they might bankrupt you.
Furthermore, when we negotiate pricing for an RM image, we try to find out how badly an image buyer wants an image and price it accordingly. Of course, they might pass and move on to another image to satisfy their needs. So we gamble with ours quote, not completely informed of what set of card the opponent carries.
Finally, Las Vegas teaches us that to make money, you have to spend money. As I very shyly approached the slot machines, I only used the ones with one quarter. My losses where minimal but so where my gains. I lost a few quarters. The second day, I boldly tried the one dollar machines and my success rate was a little better. I came out even. I gambled $5 dollars, I won five dollars back. Mmm..what is the point of that, I asked myself. The last night, I went all out and started inserting 20 dollar bills . Things got much more exciting. At some point I was down to maybe a dollar, but all in all, I started winning 65 dollars here, and 50 there. I left with double of what I had played, extremely satisfied.
The photo business is the same. The less you invest, the less your return. You have to be a risk taker and go out boldly, both in spending and in creative investment.
It appears, and some image buyers on a panel confirmed this, that more of the same images are being offered. it is not a saturation of offer that we are seeing, but a saturation of similitude . Everyone copies each other, thanks to the visibility of everyone’s content on each others website, creating a pool of identical thus boring images.
As much as this industry is a business, it is also a labor of love, a pool of creativity. The winners are the risk takers, those who are not afraid to gamble big in order to receive big. Those who do not follow change, but created it.
The PACA Congress was overall interesting, even if the panels where maybe not very exciting in their content. I was part of one, so I can safely say this. On a question by Ron Rovtar of the Stock Asylum during our panel, who asked who was making more money than last year, the vast majority raised their hands. The others where making the same.
The marketing hub, where some companies had tables a la CEPIC, was extremely busy with intense business negotiation , and the hallways where buzzing with incessant networking, impromptu meetings, and extensive conversations.
It would be great to see next year, in New York, a panel, or even a room, entirely reserved to technology companies that can improve photo agencie’s life . To reach out to other businesses that have comprehensive solutions and ideas that will enhance this industry. Have photographers come and talk about their experiences and challenges. Have slide shows or exhibits. Invite editorial photo agencies to connect the bridge between the two very similar worlds. In a word, to open up these congress to the outside world and break wide open the doors of this little private club. Bring in some fresh thinking.
In a word, see PACA gamble.