I’ve noticed a trend in the past few weeks where many stock agencies are offering steep discounts to buyers with a kind message that they want to help them get through the current Coronavirus / Covid-19 epidemic.
That’s sweet of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these discounts will come at the expense of contributor earnings (will see in the next months’ earnings reports). The question I ask myself is: aren’t contributors also running a self-employed business that may also be struggling / will struggle?
In this post I’ll discuss which agencies are engaging in such practices, by how much and the duration.
Race to the bottom continues (but now there’s an excuse, at least)
As a general rule, stock businesses will (almost) always be looking out for their best-interests first, then the clients and lastly, the contributors. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to veteran contributors and newbies need to quickly face the facts.
Since I’ve started contributing in 2012 I’ve pretty much seen it all…generally lower earnings and loosening of licensing terms, with the worst offender being iStockphoto / Getty and their notorious 2cent sales, for instance.
However, these are extraordinary times…
Not my intention to come across as petty
Putting things into perspective, in the grand scheme of things, other industries aren’t so fortunate as ours. At least in the stock world much of the work was being remotely anyway, both from contributor and corporate side. The same can’t be said about the most severely affected: tourism / hospitality.
Some sectors are being completely decimated / severely disrupted, including: hospitality, aviation, oil & gas, retail (physical). There will need massive bailouts. Standards of living will drop, unemployment is shooting up and there will inevitably be social unrest. Will make this Brexit nonsense look like a joke. More discussion on this in another post and how we can look for opportunities.
Staying on topic
However, sticking with the stock content industry, it should remain relatively resilient in the long-run owning that most are already were already working remotely. We’ll, however, probably see an acceleration of the cannibalization of the smaller agencies.
Most of us have day-jobs, including myself (i’m within one of the above-mentioned affected industries) and don’t rely on this gig as a full-time income. However, for a small percentage of contributors that rely heavily on stock income to make ends meet, this post and the wider trend towards lower prices is extremely relevant.
Now that I have got the caveats out of the way, the following agencies, in alphabetical order, are offering the following discounts:
Note: Quite surprised that iStockphoto/Getty images, so far, hasn’t started offering discounts as I’m sure they’re dying to devalue our work even further.
It’s not what you say but how you say it…
Now, offering temporary discounts to buyers is a standard business practice and happens even in the best of times. In the worst of times an argument can be made that a 25% discounted sale is better than no sale at all.
But I suppose what goes to the heart of this post is the attitude that we have known all along, which is agencies don’t really care much about contributors.
In fact, my corporate bullshit detection dial goes off the scales and it’s time to call them out individually.
Calling out Alamy
Now, I love Alamy and they’ve been quite good to me…in fact last month I had an excellent result with them at 16 sales for $308 net, but after an effective 20% drop in contributor earnings (from 50% to 40%) in 2019, this would be a further blow. Taking these two discounts into account, from year ago to the present our assets at Alamy are being licensed by some 45% less. Sure, the offer may expire on May 31st but, who says it won’t be extended?
Calling out Shutterstock
Shutterstock has also been good to me, as the most consistent of all agencies, with a strong last month yielding $414 from 445 downloads.
Following the trend, they’ll also be offering our content for cheaper during these troubled times for businesses (rolling eyes). Some of the discounts are also 25% on footage clips and image packs, in addition to 10 free images/month when selecting the yearly plan.
HD/4K Footage Subscription price-drop!
Update: However, worst of all is they’ve introduced insultingly-low subscription prices for HD/4K videos, which equal about $3 net royalties for HD and $5 net for 4K videos.
Understandably, some contributors are up in arms with this insult to our quality work and some are opting out and even going as far as pulling their ports. Some discussion on the MSG Forum on the matter and here.By digging at bit deeper into their T&C’s for the video subscription plan, it appears it covers the Standard Footage Licence only:
“Standard permissions do not include:
Television Distribution – The standard Shutterstock footage license does not permit for any usage in television shows or commercials. Usage is also prohibited for distribution over any broadcast, cable or satellite.
Movie Theater Distribution – Distribution in movie theaters is not permitted with the standard footage license.
Over the Top (OTT) Video Distribution – Over the top video distribution, or streaming services such as Netflix is not permitted by the standard footage license.”
The more level-headed contributors are debating whether it is now the time to go exclusive with Pond5.
Half-calling out Dreamstime
Dreamstime is offering a nightmarish (from a contributor’s perspective) discount worth 40%, also until May 31st. However, the good news is that 5% of all purchases to WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Why not give away the $ to a Coronavirus charity?
As already mentioned but important to repeat, this “supporting businesses” reeks of corporate-bullshit, with questionable timing when many stock contributors were struggling long before this crisis even happen and this will only worsen the situation.
Why not build up some genuine goodwill by proposing that 25% of the sale price goes to a local Coronavirus charity, or a selection of a few that buyers may select. I’m sure many would be in favour of this practice, if agencies were to ask.
Anyway enough about this, but it’s a worrying trend…but something to keep an eye on if they “accidentally” forget to cancel this discount after May.
Now, what’s next on the Brutally Honest blog…
Crisis = Opportunities Discussion
I’m planning to discuss how we, as stock contributors, can take advantage of this Brave New World in a new post. In fact, there are huge opportunities out there, so stay tuned. These will be quite detailed and length pieces, where I’ll be discussing some upcoming concepts that should be in-demand.
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Portugal (fled Madrid to escape the brunt of this nasty Coronavirus), on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when thing sgo back to normal. I’ve devoted seven years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet!). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography
Argh- I think I cursed it, I’ve been spending this self-iso time getting back into the stock game! Oh well.
Looking forward to those upcoming opportunities you mentioned at the end! I’ll keep my eyes peeled
Many not even being reviewed on a timely basis / correctly anyway!
Interesting thoughts Alex. I think we always knew we were in third place! And the agencies have millions of images already. It wouldn’t harm them much if they lost all current contributors!
Hi Alex, excellent reflection. I really thought that at this stage the agencies would do “something for the Self-employed contributors”, however you are right when you say that we appear in third place. As Steve Heap says: the agencies already have a lot of our work …
Keep walking and STAY SAFE!
If the buyers go bust then microstock agencies go bust, then contributors go bust. As simple as that. The agencies are pro active. They mind their business, and in kind they mind ours.
I think they will do what they find fit, to survive. Those who won’t, won’t make it beyond the oncoming crisis.
Some buyers will survive, some agencies will, and so will some contributors.
Our port does not even make enough to justify the cameras, laptops and broadband. Let alone my shooting time. But hey, I live in Europe. Crop of the cream of the privileged population. I even have cold fresh potable water here, and good education, and countless alternative opportunities.
But perhaps the money the agencies pay is good enough for someone in Asia or Africa, who has a different reference point. And no doubt people there make as beautiful and useful images as anybody else who has some talent and a basic camera.
Hard luck. We will get hit. All of us. Time to adapt, adjust and survive, or time to go.