14 May 2008 Shutterstock Raise 2008

Few events are as eagerly anticipated or create as much talk in the market as the commission raise at Shutterstock. In what is becoming an annual event, this year Shutterstock have increased the number of tiers in their commission schedule with new commissions ranging from 25 cents to 38 cents.

The Raise

Lifetime Earnings Old Commission
New Commission Increase
Less than $500 $0.25 $0.25 0%
$500 to $3,000 $0.30 $0.33 10%
$3,000 to $10,000 $0.30 $0.36 20%
Over $10,000 $0.30 $0.38 27%

Extended license sales have risen from $20 to $28 (40%). Footage, backup CD and referral fees remain unchanged. More details on the Shutterstock forum.

The raise took effect within a couple of hours of the announcement.

The Reaction

Reaction from contributors has been mostly negative, stating the raise is insufficient and that smaller contributors miss out entirely. Speculation of raise details was fast and furious since the announcement back in February, so a common complaint has been the amount of build up Shutterstock gave the raise announcement. More so because the announcement stated that contributors would be “pleasantly surprised” at the size of the raise.

Other common complaints included comparisons of the 50% rise in subscription fees to the 10-27% rise in commissions, and comparisons to the commission rates at other agencies. In fact the 50% price rise figure quoted so many times is a fallacy as prices only rose 26%. Many complaints were worded strongly and contributors threatened to upload less and leave to contribute exclusively at other agencies.

In Context

Not all comments were negative. Some contributors noted that Shutterstock likely lost a portion of buyers after the price rise, which helps to explain why the commission raise was proportionately lower. Others cited hard work as the missing ingredient for those who didn’t get the high 27% raise.

A recipient of the highest raise, Sean Nell, offered explanation for the heavily tiered structure by way of the 10 million uploaded files that have been rejected since Shutterstock opened. “Have you considered what it takes to pay reviewers to have to “educate” submitters who is still learning what it takes to make it in microstock?”

Others defended the criticism of low per-sale commissions by citing Shutterstock as being among their top earning agencies, delivering a large portion of their microstock earnings at the end of each month. Additionally, the price rise didn’t take effect for subscribers until they renewed, which could be up to 15 months if they auto-renew.

In the Market

iStockphoto has stolen some of the attention from Shutterstock this year by announcing its subscription service which is structured so that contributors stand to earn more per sale than they currently do with credit based sales – effectively a raise in commissions. This move represents an opportunity for iStockphoto to gain some business from Shutterstock who still convincingly dominate the microstock subscription market and in doing so attract more contributors into their exclusivity program. The widespread disappointment with Shutterstock’s raise can only serve to further push more contributors that way.

  • Bob Davies
    Posted at 12:02h, 14 May Reply

    I can see the issue here, however I’d have to agree with this change, it seems to be favouring contributor loyalty and competence, which is something I’d heartily agree with.
    Yes, it pays off the larger contributers with an extra slice of the pie, why should people who have not earned so much for ShutterStock be seeing any extra return.

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 13:57h, 14 May Reply

    Well you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth but I was hoping for something along the lines of a minimum increase of $0.35 for the $500 tier.

    On the positive side, if many contributors leave, then there’ll be less competition for me 🙂

  • Mike McDonald
    Posted at 11:09h, 16 May Reply

    The issue as I saw it prior to the raise was that there seemed to be trend among contributors of SS making up a smaller and smaller percentage of monthly earnings. This was expressed in forums, by members on all ends of the spectrum. From people who make a few bucks a month up to guys like Yuri, there has been a flattening or declining of sales at SS for several months now. The raise had to be significant to make up this difference and keep SS in the top 2 or 3 positions for most contributors. I doubt that this raise will accomplish that, and seems to be more of an appeasement raise than a real “help the contributors” raise.

    I think this level of raise is about what I expected, but in the back of my mind I was hoping that SS would do more and make a statement with the raise. Over $0.40 would have said to contributors that they do want to keep them around, they do give a crap, and they do have an interest in growing the overall quality level at SS. This raise doesn’t say any of those things to me, and it will only slightly delay the decline in growth that contributors are seeing. 6 months from now, expect to hear more grumbling in the forums about slowing sales, possibly even some people jumping ship and going exclusive at istock as earnings there increase at a much higher rate than SS.

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 13:36h, 16 May Reply

    I’m very tempted to go exclusive at IS. However, seeing what happened to LO, I’m very reluctant to put all my eggs in the same basket. I’m not saying that IS would ever shut down (it’s highly unlikely) but anything is possible.

  • salle
    Posted at 11:38h, 10 June Reply

    You can try the midstock site Mostphotos. We will pay you 50 % of 25 euros as we believe that the microstoch sites are not in favor of the photographs. Mostphotos was started by two photographers from Sweden, and have now been up and running for 8 month and have alreadey more then 250.000 images. The selling have started to catch up and for photographers who want to be paid in US dollars the get 17 dollars for each sold image.

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