Today, June 1st 2020, Shutterstock effected a new royalty structure for their contributors. I do not want to go into details as those can be read, well, everywhere. Suffice to say that there are three main components: a) the contributor will receive a royalty share between 15% and 40% (depending on sales volume in the current year) of the amount paid by the customer, b) subscription slots paid but not used by the customer shall not be subject to any royalty but retained by Shutterstock, and c) the floor price for any reimbursed download will be lowered from 0.38 US$ (for contributors in the highest tier) to 0.10 US$.
Yes, you read that right: 0.10 US$. Even if the picture has 12 people in it all of whom you had to pay as models. 0.10 US$.
There used to be a kind of Gentlemen’s agreement, a covenant if you will, between the major microstock agencies and their contributors, that no download shall bear less than 0.35 US$. If you think that is a low number: it is. But at least it was something to calculate with. 0.10 US$ is not sustainable. Not even in “the East” (I produce there, so I know). There is no way a quality shoot can be done with that kind of reimbursement in mind. It is just not possible.
To make things worse, Shutterstock sells mainly subscriptions to its customers. Thus far, we contributors could not see how many subscriptions were being sold at which price point. It was all masked by the 0.38 US$ floor price.
Now we see. And a brutal sight it is. Virtually all the remunerations I got in the last two or so hours were between 0.10 and 0.17 US$. I cannot tell right now how much my income will suffer as this just started and is statistically not reliable. But suffer I will.
Shutterstock is not just any microstock agency but one of the remaining relevant two. In a sense, unless you are very specialized and thus have a highly specialized agency, there are only two agencies: Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. A rather large number of contributors make most of their earnings on Shutterstock, even the others a very substantial part.
I am glad I switched back to being a lawyer a while ago and built back my client base. Microstock, for me, holds no future other than that of a nice side-gig. And looking at my numbers I still am among the “better” 0.5% of contributors. Worldwide.
The other 99,5%? Not sure what they can do other than starve.