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What started with iStockphoto back in 2010, when they announced that they will begin to offer commissions for photographers from as low as 15%, has lead to successive agencies following their lead. After istock, fotolia, dreamstime and now 123rf (did I miss any?) all decided to drop commissions substantially.

I have often said in this blog and elsewhere that 123rf is a fair agency and it has shown tremendous growth recently, whilst still maintaining a fair share for those whose work it hosts. Today all that changed and the inevitable tirade of fury from contributors has begun. The pie never seems to be big enough for agencies as they continually grab more of it, yet genuine growth can be achieved whilst still being fair, a notion which is seemingly very difficult for many businessmen to fathom.

123rf commissions will from January next year start at 30% and most contributors will see a drop from the 50% cut that they receive now. It’s not quite at iStock’s or fotolia’s levels, but these two agencies are in a league of their own when it comes to scr**ing their contributors. So are there any decent agencies left? Um, just give me a few minutes to think. Ok I’ve thought of one, Canstockphoto still give 50% to their contributors and er, wait a minute I’m sure there must be another..um, ok I’m at a loss..aha! how about Yaymicro. I know buyers read this blog too because I get buyer referrals, so next time you consider an agency ask to see what they offer their contributors. You can find a lot of the same work across the agencies, but if you want to continue to see high quality work, the artists need to keep getting decent amounts, otherwise they will no longer find microstock worth their while.

With permission from Pixart here is a great letter written on this thread on msg, which sums up the mood of many of 123rf’s contributors at the moment.

Dear 123rf, on behalf of all microstock photographers – you are very welcome.

You were nothing when we met. I take pride in the fact that I made you who you are today. I told all my friends about you and they grew to love and trust you, and now I look like a fool. Because of my faith in you, you earned a share of the market that grows day by day while notable competitors exhibit signs of self-destruction. We did this together — you and me. I invested a significant amount of money into my tools to supply you with a perfect collection that you boast as your own.

Today I am hurt and confused. What have I done wrong? Why don’t you love me any more? Has success made you arrogant and caused us to drift apart? Do you need a salary raise at my expense? Do you need a new boat? Tell me what is going on, we are partners. I made a commitment to you. What exactly do you intend to do with MORE. You haven’t explained.

It would hurt to part ways, but face it – I don’t need you to survive.

Can you survive without me?

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6 thoughts on “123rf follows other agencies by dropping commissions

  1. At my next payout I’m deleting my accounts at both 123rf and Fotolia. I’m a professional and it is insulting every time I get one of their stupid emails “Fotolia is pleased to announce” that one of my images has sold, and then I see 23 cents or 27 cents. PTUI! And I got two ELs there for $4!!!! I mean are they kidding me? They can both bite me. I’d like to see a day where all pros leave these agencies. Let them be stuck with all the hobbyists who are so thrilled to see their work in use that they put up with it.

    1. I hear ya Leslie, often the amounts are tiny. Microstock did start out with contributors receiving 5 cents a download and that was all they could get at the time. Now there are all sorts of different amounts, up until now the highest amount I’ve received for one of my files being licensed via a microstock agency is $43 (EL), and I’ve had standard downloads of $4 and more, which really puts fotolia’s $4 ELs as beyond the pale. Volume though is still the key word in this industry and unless you have thousands (maybe hundreds are enough for vectors) of marketable images online with at least the major agencies, it probably doesn’t matter how good your images are as you won’t be making enough to think it’s worthwhile.

      What rattles my cage though is that agencies can even contemplate taking more than 50% from each and every file they license on our behalf. They didn’t create the work, they market and distribute, and if somehow I’m supposed to believe that they can’t turn a decent profit on a 50% cut, then I could say they entered the wrong business. They own the storefront though and can change the rules whenever they want, so for any contributor it really is risky to spend so much time on supplying an agency at conditions they agree with, when a few years down the road the agency can say those rules are gone now and now this is what you get. Much worse for exclusive contributors who really are at the mercy.

      The more popular an agency becomes with buyers, the more brazen the agency becomes in taking a larger cut from the sellers. And they call it free enterprise, which unfortunately so often means free to screw.

  2. I think it’s a bit unfair to compare 123 to fotolia and istock!
    The 30% baseline is still more generous or the same as all of the other top selling agencies. double what istock has on offer. They have given us 10+ months advance notice of the change

    What i don’t really understand is all that confusing stuff about grand-farthing old accounts with 150 images etc, only applying to new accounts and then backtracking on that. I guess that broke us in gently to that fact commissions were changing…

    1. I wrote in the blog.. “123rf commissions will from January next year start at 30% and most contributors will see a drop from the 50% cut that they receive now. It’s not quite at iStock’s or fotolia’s levels, but..”

      However, the comparison between 123rf and the other sites is not so much about the amount they decided to lower commissions to, but more that they decided to increase their revenue by simply taking from our share (the same like the others), rather than increasing their own efforts with further hard work and ingenuity. Hey, we all want an easy life, but getting richer is so much more satisfying when you know you didn’t tread on anyone. Or is it just me who’s mad? 🙂 123rf has followed the lead of istock and fotolia, they have witnessed what they did and have done the same.

      When they originally announced that there would be a new commission rate for new photographers (and those with less than 150 images) and the existing photographers’ rate of 50% would remain the same, I also expressed my dissatisfaction about this on msg, even though I wasn’t going to be affected. Within a matter of weeks of that announcement, they then said nah we’ll just cut commissions (effectively for most contributors) regardless of how long you have been with us. If that isn’t policy ‘on the fly’, I don’t know what is. For them, I think this whole thing is embarrassing, but it’s embarrassment they’re willing to take. I guess people do a lot more embarrassing things for money.

      1. The reason they’ve done the same is that they see we will all put up with it. As to the days when they got 5 cents, well they were cleaning out their hard drives. Today, the quality bar has been raised so high that you can no longer see any difference between RF and RM. If they want to demand this degree of quality, they should pay commensurately for it.

        123rf gave a buyer a REFUND on one of my sales! I wrote to them to say you can’t do that with downloadable items because now the guy has my image and they took away my money. I hate them now. They can bite me. I wrote them that if they want to give a refund they can, but I DO NOT give refunds when they already have my image, and 123rf should have left the money in my account.

  3. Folks……I’ve heard this same song and dance since I started 2 years ago.
    Of course agencies will take as much as they can….as long as they still attract eager contributers who are willing to sell their work for %30 commission, %20 commission…..%10 commission…..

    The answer is so simple.

    WE. Collectively. Start our own agency. We collectively sell exclusively to our own agency. Union? Solidarity Forever? Damn rights! It’s inevitable. It’s how all unions are formed and its the only way you’re ever going to see a fair return for your work.

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