Shutterstock’s New Tiered Royalty Structure Sparks Photographer Fury Upon Contact with the Internet

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As David Bowie once sang: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Don't want to be a richer man.”

woman looking at folders Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
from Pexels.

And that last part might be ringing a little too true for some long time contributors to Shutterstock who were largely blindsided by the release of a new “tiered” structure for compensation.
The new 6-level system rewards photographers who have had the most licenses sold during the current year. Prior to this, the royalty structure was a bit more muddled but based upon “lifetime earnings” whereas the new structure shifts annually. Starting June 1st, each contributor to Shutterstock will be evaluated based upon how many licenses have sold thus far this year. This tally will then qualify them for one of six levels with royalty percentages ranging from 15% on the low end to 40% on the upper end of the spectrum.
When describing the new system Shutterstock wrote in a press release, “The new structure is designed to address market changes while creating fair opportunities for all contributors. It rewards content creators for producing quality work that is fresh, relevant and currently in-demand by our customers…By resetting the royalty levels each year, we aim to provide an avenue for contributors to be fairly rewarded for content that is performing well at the current time and offers greater earnings potential.”
With regard to the new structure, Shutterstock’s VP Content Operations Paul Brennan told PetaPixel:
“Our contributor community is essential to our business and this change impacts everyone differently. Some will earn less due to low downloads of their content and others will have new opportunities to earn more – especially given the two additional levels that offer higher percentage earnings (35% and 40%). The new earnings structure is designed to address both changes in the global market for creative content and reward contributors for producing quality work that is fresh, relevant and currently in-demand by our customers. We thoughtfully considered this change and explored multiple models before determining the best approach for both our business and contributor community.”
Many people were initially confused by the new structure’s rollout because they thought all contributors would be reduced to level 1. This isn’t the case in subsequent clarifications from the company.
What do you think of Shutterstock’s new royalty structure? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below if you like.
Don’t forget to check out our other photography news articles on Light Stalking by clicking here.
[PetaPixel]

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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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