Shutterstock Shakes up Contributors Royalties on the back of Falling Profits

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This is huge! Any changes to royalties by a microstock agency usually results in the majority of contributors losing out and I doubt things will be different here.

Shutterstock announced a massive restructuring of contributors royalties on Tuesday, just 6 days before its implementation. I guess they figured there would be a lot of disgruntled contributors so better to hit them hard and fast.

Undoubtedly the cruellest thing about the changes is that every contributor will have their royalties set back to the lowest rate on the 1st of January every year. Wow, I wonder which sadistic Shutterstock employee came up with that idea. Until now contributors can climb up the royalty ranks as they sell more images over time, and with each level they get paid more per download. So those who have been working hard to climb up the ladder for years will see their levels wiped out over night.

So what is the level of payment we will all be on every January the 1st? The answer is 15% of the sale price. This percentage will apply to subscription payments also with a minimum of 10 cents. Shutterstock must have noticed that so many contributors accept this royalty amount over at iStock and figured contributors must be thirsty for more of the same. Yes it’s true, contributors actions or inaction can affect the way a microstock agency make their decisions.

Unlike iStock’s D-Day (Deactivation Day) protest in 2013 where a number of contributors deactivated their images one by one, Shutterstock currently gives contributors the ability to deactivate their entire portfolio with a simple setting change in the dashboard. Did they overlook this? Or have they gone as far as to think that owners of huge portfolios will never deactivate their images anyway, just like they didn’t on D-Day, in fact the same like many of the smaller contributors didn’t do also.

There are a few threads on Microstock Group about this hot news. This is probably the best one, Shutterstock just became iStock 2.0 and below are a few quotes from the thread.


Wow, pretty breaking news and utterly sad that even SS has to go that low.

Will everyone zero at the beginning of each year (start on 15% and have to rise up the ranks fresh)? that seems insane.

Subscription payouts will be percentages of actual cash received with a minimum of 10 cents (they added another clarification to their forum announcement)

Wow … I can hear the corks popping at Adobe from here!

All I’m asking is a steady revenue with some growth, but Shutterstock is like your annoying big brother trampling all over your sandcastle.

I can’t think of another industry that consistently reduces people pay. Weird, anyone who has a job, nearly always gets an increase at some point.

Jon was done as CEO on April 1.  Covid-19 must have set them back a couple months, I’m surprized it took them 2 months to kick us in the knees.

Crazy idea to decrease people’s earnings just after Christmas, when many have a big bill to pay. I left iStock, might as well go back now.

As to Shutterstock’s falling profits, Shutterstock reported a Q1 2020 revenue of $161.3 million compared to $163.3 million in Q1 2019 and down from $166.4 million the previous quarter. You can read more about this here.

Read Also  Shutterstock makes a $75 million bet that the future of photography won’t always involve cameras

Below are details of the new royalty structure for images, the first column is the Image Levels, the second column is Total licenses for the year and the third column is the Pay Rate.


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5 thoughts on “Shutterstock Shakes up Contributors Royalties on the back of Falling Profits

  1. Too bad they didn’t first try not accepting every OOF grainy snapshot-quality image submitted by anyone off the street before doing this. They used to be the hardest to get in to. Now they have a library bloated with terrible images of low quality. I heard they’ve at least been trying to get rid of some of those. But what a shame, and what a kick in the teeth.

  2. The first blow from Shutterstock is its recent poor Review System. Now, the major blow to contributors is this Royalty System. Very bad news from Shutterstock.

  3. I suggest the CEO and the entire management team take their own medicine and every January first have their salaries reset to an absolute minimum monthly value.

    Then, as the revenue starts to grow over time, their salaries can slowly claw themselves back into the regular contract pay value.

    And of course just a few months later, they happily start again at the bottom with every new year.

    How „motivating and fair“ will this compensation system be for themselves and any employees??

    The reset to zero value for all portfolios at New Year is exactly this…completely hypocritical and destructive and in the times of corona just cruel.

    For many artists the regular income from SS is an essential part of their income, that pays the running costs for studio rent, software and all production.

    Our rent, our insurance costs etc do not vanish in January. They are the same as they are in December.

    I hope the new CEO does not make the mistake many new people make, believing that 1.2 million contributors makes individual contributors insignificant.

    „Crowd sourced“ does not mean equal production value evenly distributed across the entire community.

    It means an open plattforms where individuals can easily rise to the top.

    And all contributors are deeply networked and will not simply accept to have their income crashed every January for accounting tricks of new management.

    Maybe read up on what happened with Hyperstock and DPC from Fotolia.

    The Upload streams of relevant content are pretty frickle, SS is not alone in this world.

    So I hope they understand that contributors are equal and essential business partners in a crazy world and not robot upload units with no soul or a calculator…


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