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Author Topic: Breaking exclusivity - is it finally viable?  (Read 3008 times)

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« on: August 23, 2018, 16:41 »
+1
This issue has been bothering me for quite some time. The truth is, I always had the best time doing iStock. Because images used to sell for the longest period and quality mattered more than quantity. Then Getty came and I was cautious but optimistic. Hey it's Getty! Sure it's not RM but RF, but still they were one of my inspirational agencies! I was doing quite well for several years. Then new "improvements" started to go live, one by one, from no-counter to ESP platform and new "exciting" pricing models. It all went downhill for me.

Since Getty is getting microstock sales, cheaper and cheaper as the days go by, I'm wondering if the time has finally come to wave GI/IS exclusivity g'bye?

I used to earn solid four digit numbers every month at is/getty doing lifestyle portraiture. I'm now struggling to reach 1k let alone return to my previous levels.

Buuuuut. There are several caveats:

1. If Getty is doing bad or worse than before, it can also be a sign that other agencies are struggling too.
2. Nobody can firmly say that doing 3-4 agencies will make more money than being exclusive at IS/GI.
3. Most big stock players are still being exclusive to iS/Getty. I know, they are a minority, but still means that exclusivity offer them more than doing other top tier agencies. Some also regretted and eventually came back. Grass do looks greener on the other side, you know.

On the other hand:

1. Working for Getty/IS is getting frustrating and tiresome month after month.
2. Doing briefs, getting S+ nominations doesn't mean much. Is it good? Of course. But ultimately does not guarantee any boost in sales, adding more to the overall frustration level mentioned above.
3. Terrible subscription and "premium" prices, going from few cents to a few dollars and almost NO mid-stock priced sales at GI. The only thing still doing well are the credit sales at iS that are still good but are diminishing in numbers and take like 30% of total sales.

Don't know if Microstock poll results are legit in any way, but I do remember seeing iStock exclusive ratings to be much higher than now.

Anyhow, I'm on the cross-road, trying to see whether to keep going the exclusive path or turn left and go in all sorts of directions... Being exclusive, having editors and briefs by my side do seem more professional and more promising, but those prices... ouch.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 19:44 by Sunnygirl »


Clair Voyant

« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2018, 19:19 »
+4
That is only a decision you can make. I am exclusive and know exactly what you are talking about, but for me I will stay put as such. In my view the whole industry is in free fall and will continue to do so from a contributors point of view. I am not conviced the extra effort it takes to upload to multiple sights outweighs the benefits of being exclusive as you instantly drop in royalty rate at IS and need to make it up elsewhere to break even. I've been shooting stock for 25+ years and the industry is in the worst state I have ever seen it from a sutainability contributor's point of view. The sheer greed of the agencies is killing it for everyone and in my view they are killing off the very talent they need to survive. I say this coming from maintaining a very good career in stock for longer than most.

« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2018, 19:23 »
+5
At least youll sleep better ;).

« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2018, 21:15 »
+3
I did a short stint as an exclusive at iStock but returned to being independent in 2011. Lots has changed since then.

I agree that it's a decision you'll have to make, but I would observe that it isn't clear reading your post whether you're primarily concerned about income, or about a perception of professional treatment, or a worry that the risks of sticking with Getty are now too great. Figuring that out might help in making a decision.

Whatever you decide, it might be prudent to keyword your files from here on out as generally as possible (i.e. not with the Getty CV) so that if you do at some point start uploading elsewhere, the work to get your portfolio live won't be so great.

I also agree with Clair Voyant that it's not a great time anywhere right now - but if you look at Getty's financial situation (debt they were saddled with by the two predatory private equity owners) they're not in a good place.

« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2018, 02:09 »
+2
Like Sean said, you will sleep better.

Yes working with several different companies is hard work. Yes trying to figure how to maximize income by learning which agency is best at selling content, should it be exclusive or not, macro or micro or rm...it takes a lot of time.

I have thousands of files on my hard drives, including new shootings, because I couldnt decide what to place where.

But overall, when I watch my friends at istock and how their income keeps declining, I think I am doing much better. Something always sells somewhere

All agencies mess up at some point, but if you supply many, you just move past your anger and focus on others for a while.

One of my friends, Michael Zwahlen, recouped his istock exclusive income after only 6 months. If you look at his blog, he also writes about his journey. But he was extremly well prepared and is overall a very hard worker.

For others it took more than 2 years, although considering that their istock income would have been dropping, they probably crossed the line to making more earlier than that. The goal was to regain their original income, from when they left.

One friend of mine went indie, but apparently underestimated how much time you need to prepare a large portfolio of over 10 000 files, then upload it and also work your way up on the royalty ladder of many places. After a year, she still had less than 2000 images on new sites, obviously it couldnt replace her old income.

She decided to go back to being exclusive, even though quite a few high end places where interested in working with her.

She is non exclusive for video, so will explore that as a second option.

I hope it works out for her in the end. But I have to admit that with the shrinking market share of gettyimages, I am not that optimistic.

What you can do is go non exclusive with video and illustrations first, then build reliable portfolios on the new sites and once you have 4000 clips or illus online, then make the jump.

But if you go indie, without preparing your port and dont have a very realistic understanding that you have to actively fight your way back to the top, perhaps staying where you are and getting a new day job is better.


« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2018, 02:25 »
+3
I say I'm going to quit exclusivity every month around the 20th  ;D

Same boat, keep adding new work, income keeps dropping now making under a 1/4 from my personal peak in 2010.

I'm uploading via Q-hero, after you upload a batch you can download the batch with the Meta Deta attached to the files, ready to upload elsewhere when the time comes.


« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2018, 13:17 »
0
First of all, thank you all. Lots of interesting and useful insights and observations.

Like Sean said, you will sleep better.

One of my friends, Michael Zwahlen, recouped his istock exclusive income after only 6 months. If you look at his blog, he also writes about his journey. But he was extremly well prepared and is overall a very hard worker.

For others it took more than 2 years, although considering that their istock income would have been dropping, they probably crossed the line to making more earlier than that. The goal was to regain their original income, from when they left.

Yes, I have known Michael Jay for quite some time and followed his blog. I'm fully aware that having all up and running would take time. What I'm the most concerned about is that I have a small portfolio that earned quite a bit of money. The thing is, I'm not a heavy uploader nor do I make thousands of hundreds of images. My portfolio is about 1,6k large or small, depending how you look at it, but it worked for me.

I'm still doing ok as an exclusive (albeit, worse than before), but I find harder and harder to make content with sales being peanuts on mid-stock site and terrible subscription prices on iS. My doubt is whether other agencies like Adobe Stock or SS would "tolerate" my workflow or would demand typical stock images in large amounts in order to sell there.


I hope it works out for her in the end. But I have to admit that with the shrinking market share of gettyimages, I am not that optimistic.

What you can do is go non exclusive with video and illustrations first, then build reliable portfolios on the new sites and once you have 4000 clips or illus online, then make the jump.

But if you go indie, without preparing your port and dont have a very realistic understanding that you have to actively fight your way back to the top, perhaps staying where you are and getting a new day job is better.

Ditching exclusivity for video could be my first goal, yes. I'm not into video that much, but yeah, could take that to my advantage with minimal negative effects on the income. Good luck to your friend btw.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2018, 13:25 by Sunnygirl »

« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2018, 13:31 »
+1
for me, non-exclusive has worked well - my istock sales are no0existent and, while SS has declined (fewer single sales), canva and fotolia have almost made up the difference  (income up 16% in 2017, down %15 so far this year).  so hedging has made the difference - no exclusive arrangement would have made me more $

and, only SS & fotolia require much time for submitting - most time is still spent captioning & tagging w LR

« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2018, 13:49 »
+2
It's some interesting thoughts and I think you ultimately will have to go for your gut feeling.

 
1. Working for Getty/IS is getting frustrating and tiresome month after month.

I don't think you'll find this easier on the other side. I'm pretty sure Getty / IS is one of the agencies offering most communication and help to it's contributors (besides Stocksy United). All other agencies don't really deal with their contributors at all. Even as a very professional contributor it can be tough getting through to them.

Also a thing I would consider if I had to make the jump is that building up a portfolio and getting a "good reputation" at the agencies takes time. If you uploaded all your photos within weeks most of them would probably "drown" because the agencies only expose a certain amount of your content in search results. Search results without any downloads will be downranked over time and people will never find your content. I believe that's one of the big challenges when moving from exclusivity.

But all in all I have no idea where it's best to be. I hope you'll find the right place. :)

« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2018, 19:41 »
+4
I went non-exclusive just over three years ago.  It's been a struggle.  I took the decision to upload to the new agencies gradually over time, picking the seasons etc.  I did a lot of rekeywording, eliminating most of the special words phrases etc used by iStock.  I also reprocessed many older photos.

After three years I'll guess that my income is about the same as it would have been had I stayed exclusive.  Difficult to tell because I know sales and income for most people at iStock have fallen gently over that period.  I am not making the same as I used to make three/four years back as an exclusive, but the overall market has declined/become saturated.

I am happier as a non-exclusive because I used to worry a lot about what was happening at iStock and watching the gradual decline.  Now I don't have all my eggs in that basket.  However, becoming non-exclusive is a very difficult task if done properly.  And if you decide to spread uploads over the seasons, income in that first year will be low.  You need to have a money reserve.

Not easy.  In many ways I am happier but I am disappointed with my income.  I suspect the market will continue to decline over the coming years.

« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2018, 04:31 »
+1
Thanks again guys.

Well, for now I guess I will stick to the exclusivity. However, bear in mind that if some of you left exclusivity 2-3 or more years ago, you did it almost in the prime time of Getty - when they used to pay good mid-stock prices per download and fixed subscriptions.

Getting on your feet then seemed harder than now. Now they are micro. I'm not sure it will be better in the future. The evidence so far shows that $/dl ratio is getting down and there's no rule in the pricings at all. The pricing list is almost obsolete, cosmetic item now. However, there's also a strong possibility that all other agencies are suffering or will suffer too.

I guess I will wait for this year to pass to draw the line.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2018, 04:35 by Sunnygirl »

MxR

« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2018, 05:06 »
+1
Today, starting in shutter or fotolia is very frustrating. The market is obviously declining and saturated. my income in istock represent 10% of the total. There is nothing guaranteed whatever you do but you will need more time to upload.

« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2018, 10:11 »
+2
Market's go in cycles, and tend to be cyclical. Start, go up, way up, plateau, decline, go way down, then start over again.

a) If you mean breaking your contract so you can upload the 1.6k photo to other sites, yeah, not sure if you'd be making a lot of extra work for yourself to maintain the same income. (I.e., dip in %, but increase in sales from other sites).  What types of images do you have? (If you want to PM me, I can look at your porfolio and let you know my thoughts). Depends if it is what is in demand, is your content evergreen, is it unique/difficult for others to duplicate, etc, etc.

b) Second option "risk-free". Become a hard worker (again) - and upload new stuff to the 20-25+ agencies over 6 months. See what kinds of results you get.

While images are of course still in demand (I've purchased licenses myself for various projects),
i) Subscription/inexpensive solutions are very popular. (So less likely to make a $100 usd sale, more like a $1 sale)
ii) Competition is much higher. ("Everyone" has a cellphone and considers themselves a "photographer". Some actually buy a real camera, and then consider themselves "professional"). Plus you are increasingly competing with more and more people from countries where $3 usd/hour is considered a great wage.

So even if your stuff is great, getting found, and getting people to pay high prices will most likely be challenging. Not to say it's not possible - but you need to adapt, figure out what's working *now*, and do that.

« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2018, 02:06 »
+1
"Market's go in cycles, and tend to be cyclical. Start, go up, way up, plateau, decline, go way down, then start over again.". Not those that are technology based which essentially Mstock is. At best you might get some kind of small retro cult...like camera film, vinyl records etc. Anyone waiting for the renaissance of the Mstock market is very optimistic.


 

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