If you’re working with assets (documents, files, images, videos) digital asset management should be an essential part of your workflow. With DAM, you can look for assets faster, never lose them, and repurpose and share them with ease.
The question is, however: how much should you pay for DAM and why does one cost $10,000 while the other costs $500? In today’s article, we’ll discuss what goes into digital asset management software pricing and how to pick the best one for your team.
Let’s dig in.
- The average DAM pricing is quite high - more than $50,000 per year. However, that average is skewed by some enterprise-centric DAMs that demand a high price. The reality is that you can find a respectable DAM for as little as $150 per month.
- DAM’s pricing is affected by a few key factors. The feature set, amount of seats, and amount of storage (and its type) have the biggest impact on the price.
- Perpetual license is being completely phased out as a pricing model for DAMs. The majority of popular solutions use the software as a service model, meaning that you pay a flat monthly/annual subscription rate to use the product.
- When shopping for DAM, pay attention to hidden costs. Baseline features packed into addons, paid onboarding, and on-demand quality support as a premium may catch you unawares.
- To determine the best price-to-ratio DAM offering consider seat numbers that you’ll need and essential features that you’ll be using daily. To help with the latter, consider contacting the provider’s support team to schedule a call where they’ll help you figure out your workflow.
Average Cost of a Digital Asset Management System: Market Overview
The issue with estimating the average cost of a digital asset management system are vendors’ different plans. Every popular vendor on the market has multiple digital asset management prices, with more expensive ones having expanded functionality.
It would be one thing if functionality per dollar was standardized across the vendors. That is: you pay 100$ monthly and you get access to API, watermarking, etc. Yet, each DAM puts a different value on every element of the expanded functionality. Some providers also hide their prices completely, only available if you contact their sales team. All in all, giving an honest assessment can be challenging.
Thankfully, Ralph Windsor of DAM News did some number crunching already so we don’t have to. Thank you, Ralph!
Windsor did an anonymous survey of DAM vendors across the niche to determine the average cost of an annual DAM subscription. Overall, average DAM pricing came down to:
That’s quite a sum! Windsor does point out that there’s a notable range between the highest and lowest options though and we confirm it through experience.
But does more expensive necessarily mean better? Well, I won’t lie that if you’re paying 5 figures for a product, it will feel more premium with its bells and whistles but its basic functionality of, well, looking for assets and managing metadata will be similar across the board.
Windsor speculates that high pricing can be a part of marketing or branding strategy where it costs more because large companies can afford it. Of course, some features will justify the price - like advanced face recognition - but it’s not required for the majority of organizations that would actually benefit from DAM’s baseline.
Starting price for our most popular plan - Micro subscription - costs $1500 annually. For that sum, you get to invite 15 users to your team and almost everything you need to get started with DAM minus some premium, niche features.
Players oriented more towards the enterprise market - Canto, Brandfolder, and alike - don’t reveal their pricing whatsoever, so I will refrain from doing guesswork here. Still, some articles suggest that Brandfolder used to charge at least $1,600 per feature set, so if anyone is responsible for that high average provided by Ralph Windsor, those DAM providers probably have something to do with it.
Key Factors Affecting DAM Pricing
Obfuscated pricing and differentiation aside, there is unifying internal logic for pricing across the board. Let’s look at some key factors that dictate digital asset management pricing
Features, perhaps, affect the pricing the most out of all things. No, I am not trying to say that if you buy the cheapest plan, you won’t get to use basic DAM functionality like metadata tagging and sharing. Regardless of DAM system's cost, it will have all basic tools you need.
So, what features cost extra? In Pics.io’s case, things like branding, 2FA, and custom watermarking are available only from the Small plan and higher. Single sign-on is exclusive to enterprises.
In most cases, these features are a necessity only for large teams that have 50+ users for improved security and simplicity. With 10 to 15 people, the teams tend to be quite close-knitted so you can make sure that nothing slips through the cracks without watermarks or two-factor authentication.
As team size grows and you don’t always personally know people, these automatized security features can help you avoid 5-6 digit lawsuits.
Number of Users
The more users you have, the more you have to pay. Quite straightforward. Traditionally, each plan has a concrete number of users that come out of the box. As I’ve mentioned above, for Pics.io it’s 15 users for Micro pan, 50 users for Small plan, etc.
No one likes to lose business on some technicalities, though, so there’s a certain degree of flexibility. If you need 16-17 users, asking you to buy a plan that costs 4 times as much wouldn’t make sense, so you can reach an agreement to buy a few more seats.
Like with users, each plan tends to come with a certain amount of storage and you can buy more for the additional notch on your monthly bill. Although it is still a factor that dictates the pricing, it doesn’t affect the total cost as much as user seats. After all, cloud hosted storage is quite cheap and, as we’ve found out, you don’t need as much storage space as you think. So, most of the time, the amount that you receive with a specific plan more than covers the needs of your team.
Another option is to use your storage like Amazon S3 or Google Drive. In that scenario, you don’t buy the DAM provider’s storage and can keep your assets in full control.
Haven’t checked out Amazon S3 or G Drive yet? Read our article where we compare their pricing options and learn which one would work best for your organization.
For obvious reasons, most DAM providers don’t offer that option as it increases churn. In plain speak, it’s easier to ditch DAM if you don’t have to bother with transferring all your assets (and their metadata) somewhere else. By selling their own storage, DAM providers try to lock you in their ecosystem making it less likely that you will switch providers.
To my knowledge, Pics.io is the only DAM on the market that fully integrates with Amazon S3 and Google Drive both. In this case, Pics.io acts as a wrapper around your storage while your assets remain in your full control.
Hosted vs. Non-Hosted
This factor is quite similar to the one above but not entirely. Hosted is when DAM provider … well … hosts DAM software and storage on their infrastructure which you access remotely via the cloud.
Non hosted is when all of that happens on the dedicated servers that you have to upkeep and maintain. So it’s not quite the convenience of just using Google Drive but a similar level of control.
Sounds enticing (and cheaper) but you have to think about hidden costs. If you don’t have anything yet, you have to buy servers, and hire IT folks to set everything up and maintain them, which can be quite a headache. In the last decade, cloud based hosting became secure and stable enough to the point that many small to medium-sized organizations opt to ditch on-site hosting relying on tech giants to do the busy work.
If you’re still curious about how on-site compares with cloud, check out our breakdown in NAS vs Cloud article.
Open source vs Proprietary
Open source software has freely accessible code that anyone can work on. If you know your way around coding, this can save you a lot of money. Have a good baseline open-source DAM that lacks watermarking? Just create a branch that supports watermarking or look around on community forums for existing solutions.
Open source tends to be cheaper but its features are often found wanting. If something breaks or if you are confused about this or that part, it’s usually on you to figure things out as these projects usually don’t have an incentive to maintain an in-house customer support team.
The majority of popular DAM solutions on the market don't reveal their source code and are more expensive than their counterparts. Yet, like with hosted vs. non-hosted, you have to account for the hidden costs. The time and resources that you would spend figuring out open source software is the time you could have spent being actually productive. Given that DAM’s entire purpose is to save your time these meddlings seem counterintuitive.
Plus, even if DAM isn’t open source it doesn’t mean that you cannot modify or expand software for the specific needs of your organization. Pics.io, for instance, offers API access at plans starting with Small so you can create custom functionality that Pics.io inherently lacks.
Learn more about pros and cons of open source digital asset management
The Most Popular Pricing Models
One time payment model. You pay an upfront sum and get to use the software indefinitely. The product starting price tends to be higher than with the subscription model. The upside is that it can be cheaper in the long run but you’d also be missing out on extra features and updates.
If any additional features come out, you’d probably need to buy a new version (think old Adobe pricing where you would buy Photoshop 5 and then Photoshop 6 comes out) or buy some sort of an expansion pack for your existing license.
Software as a service model
The most popular pricing model for DAMs is a monthly or annual subscription plan. The commonly expressed concern with this pricing model is that you don’t really “own” the product. As soon as you stop paying, you can say goodbye to the product’s features.
The upside is that you don’t have to worry about virtually anything besides the payment proper. Any new features, updates, bug fixes, and whatnot you’ll get as soon as the feature goes out live. And with monthly plans, you can try the product for 1-2 months to get a feel of it. With upfront licenses, after spending a month with a product and realizing it’s not for you, you would have to wrestle with refund policies to recoup the substantial sum.
Possible Hidden Costs You Need to Know
Reputable vendors tend to avoid hidden digital asset management software cost as damage to a brand’s reputation outweighs nicking and diming your user base. Nonetheless, doesn’t hurt to double-check by looking out for these practices
Features That Shouldn’t Be Addons But Are
You buy a subscription only to discover that things that you thought should be a part of baseline dam functionality somehow must be bought as add-ons. Integrations with other tools in your software stack, bulk sharing of assets, etc.
Pics.io’s DAM software pricing page shows everything that you get with each pricing plan so there are no surprises here.
With sharing, for instance, each plan gets an unlimited amount of branded portals (that we call Websites) that clients can create. The only thing we ask is that you adhere to the fair use policy. In other words: please don’t pump petabytes of data through our servers, they would very much not enjoy it.
File migration, installation, and training
I bundled these together because all of them are essentially set-up and onboarding costs. It often happens that you’re not new to the DMA market and just looking to migrate from another vendor. Some vendors may surprise you with a migration fee to move your assets from here to there.
Others, meanwhile, can say that a curated onboarding experience must be paid for so you’ll be on your own if you don’t fully understand the intricacies of the product from the get-go.
In Pics.io’s case, both migration, set-up, and training are free to use.
One of the main reasons that people actually commit to a subscription-based model is the expectation that support will be always there to answer any questions that may arise. Unfortunately, some DAM vendors may consider this a premium feature, meaning that you’ll have to pay extra to receive a dedicated support specialist.
Tips to Choose the Right Pricing Strategy for Your Business Goals and Save Budget
To choose the right billing plan you'll have to consider a few select factors. The most straightforward is the number of seats that you need. If you need 50 users in your DAM, your only option would be the plan that allows that many users, regardless of your need to use other features.
If your wants are more flexible, then you need to ask yourself: what exactly am I planning to do with DAM? Imagination can be the best friend but also the enemy. As you’re shopping for DAM and reading vendors’ descriptions of all the awesome things that you can do, you get the idea that you need everything. Watermarking, branding, single sign-on, and whatnot.
So you buy the expensive plan, and then realize that 90% of the time you are just tagging and looking for assets in your library.
In our experience, the best way to understand what you actually need is to book a demo with us where our experts will answer all of your questions. Don’t worry, the demo is completely free and you can supplement it with a 7-day free trial to actually tinker with the product as you see fit.
Did you enjoy this article? Give Pics.io a try — or book a demo with us, and we'll be happy to answer any of your questions.
How much does Pics.io cost?
Pics.io has a few pricing plans. The most popular are Micro ($150 monthly) and PAYG ($18 per user monthly). Each plan includes a specific number of seats and additional features. You can learn more in our Pics.io pricing guide. Free version is available on a trial basis for 7 days.
What is the price of a digital asset management system cost?
To learn how much does a digital asset management system cost, we'd need to look at averages. Prices for DAM range wildly - from $150 to $50,000 monthly so any average won’t give you a proper impression of the average because it’ll be heavily skewed. The other factor that complicates this query is that many DAM vendors reveal their pricing only on demand. Creating a digital asset management cost comparison is thus quite a challenge. So, you’ll have to either check them one-by-one or look for a vendor that offers transparent pricing like Pics.io