There was a lot of speculation about a stock agency Shutterstock sales capping. Most of them were just an observation instinct because of strange sales patterns. But now we have a clear proof that sales capping is a thing.
We’ve been uploading to Shutterstock since the beginning of 2013. Till 2015 we’ve uploaded about 6 thousands of stock footage files. Sales weren’t that great but were just enough to keep going. Since 2016 the sales improved and we were more confident about income growth. Until the end of 2017. We noticed that growth stopped even if we continued uploading new stock footage, and much better footage than before. In 2018 mid-year results we started to calculate everything we have available to recognize the problem. What we figured out completely unguarded was that Shutterstock doesn’t exactly cap the incomes of a contributor, but the number of sales he makes per year. One month can be a blast, then a few next months will be bad. Or one of them a complete disaster. Why? Because they cap the average monthly sales per year.
Shutterstock capping your yearly number of sales
We calculated our number of sales per year between 2016 and 2017, which were already very close to each other (only 4 sales apart). Then we calculated also sales till end of July and divided with a number of months till now. What we got was disturbing. All three years have almost identical (only 2018 stand out by only 2 sales less till now) monthly average sales. Two years in a row might be a lucky coincidence, but three?
In our calculation, we only included video footage. We also had subtracted the $1.50 sales which somehow aren’t in the capping system. Same as the images which are in a completely different sales pattern. In 2017 we had strange sales anomaly because of the uploaded images. Which we deleted them all in the end of March 2017.
Capping system has been triggered something between the 2015 and 2016. In 2015 and before the average sales were much lower and the low number of files could be the reason. We didn’t earn that bad in 2015, and even now we aren’t even doubling those incomes. Even though we doubled the number of stock footage, and tripled the quality. That makes us wonder the reason for capping sales for the last three years.
Factors of capping a contributor sales
Because there are many contributors that don’t notice the capping anomaly, we are questioning ourselves where have things go wrong. Maybe Shutterstock doesn’t like our many complaints, negative attitude on forums and spoiling such capping “theories” to the public. We don’t like being a sheep in this industry where there were many thieves (remember Revostock, ladies) and duchbags (istock/getty). We don’t even like our footage being dumped by agencies such as Videoblocks/Storyblocks. We love to spread out bad business practices and wrongdoings. If this was the case, then Shutterstock is no different then those mentioned before.
The other reason might be that the capping factor is regulated depending on the number of “best-sellers” the contributor has in a ratio of a number of files uploaded. So, if we had only 1 best-seller and 10,000 average files, we would fall into the worst capping ratio. While if we had 5000 best sellers and 1000 averages, we would fall into the best capping ratio. This is just a thought we have which could be the case. It is true that we don’t have hundreds of best sellers, because we shoot a lot of niche themes which also sell in few numbers. Many clips need months or even a year or more before it gets traction in sales. But then it gets sales for many years. Not as good as best-sellers.
A third reason could be a very coincidental Shutterstock massive growth of files which effects contributors exposure. In our case, it is pushing us back no matter how good our new files are. But, three years in a row?