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Commission change - James West comments

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50 minutes ago, Calum Dickson said:

Hello James,

It appears that you have added a few new “tools” to the Alamy website as a precursor to the commission decrease announcement. You are now asking contributors to market their own work through “Your Alamy Portfolio” and in return for this investment of time and effort you will take another 10% of their commission?

 

You are also providing a tool to let people know what to shoot, and in return your business model is to sell these images as IQ sales over 5-year terms, thereby cutting of future revenue stream for 5 years all the while giving the contributor a nett amount which adds up to about the cost of a cup of coffee?

 

You talk about improving customer experience and yet you persist with a stack it high sell it cheap mentality. Do you really need 315,823 images of lions? Is that really going to provide a great customer experience sifting through that lot? Why not curate the library and focus on quality over quantity? Does Quality not always command a higher price?

 

What are Alamy’s notable innovations? “Personal Use Licences”? Perhaps we should call them by the name the contributors know them by “A licence to infringe”?

 

What is your success rate with pursuing infringements James and is the fee you charge really a deterrent or does it just encourage it?

 

The real problem James is that you are just following the larger competitors and not leading them. You are just matching them turn for turn. You are doing nothing to innovate and what you do is done half-heartedly (like the recent tools).

 

Do you really want to do something radical James – give guaranteed rates for “what to shoot” and let the contributors decide if it is a valid investment. Or be really bold, turn everything on its head and let the contributors set their own prices, and let the market decide if it is willing to pay.

 

You say “If things continue to be flat, which I think is the base case scenario, then revenues to our contributors will either stay flat or worse, start to fall.” No James if you are taking another 10% they are definitely going to fall.

 

Lastly James your video last night was simply not good enough, you are the CEO and the face of Alamy. You need to smarten up your appearance and stop rambling.

 

 

The video was not at all convincing, almost seemed as if the CEO was unprepared for what he wanted to say.

 

Rambling and not looking at the camera should be avoided

 

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53 minutes ago, Calum Dickson said:

Hello James,

It appears that you have added a few new “tools” to the Alamy website as a precursor to the commission decrease announcement. You are now asking contributors to market their own work through “Your Alamy Portfolio” and in return for this investment of time and effort you will take another 10% of their commission?

 

You are also providing a tool to let people know what to shoot, and in return your business model is to sell these images as IQ sales over 5-year terms, thereby cutting of future revenue stream for 5 years all the while giving the contributor a nett amount which adds up to about the cost of a cup of coffee?

 

You talk about improving customer experience and yet you persist with a stack it high sell it cheap mentality. Do you really need 315,823 images of lions? Is that really going to provide a great customer experience sifting through that lot? Why not curate the library and focus on quality over quantity? Does Quality not always command a higher price?

 

What are Alamy’s notable innovations? “Personal Use Licences”? Perhaps we should call them by the name the contributors know them by “A licence to infringe”?

 

What is your success rate with pursuing infringements James and is the fee you charge really a deterrent or does it just encourage it?

 

The real problem James is that you are just following the larger competitors and not leading them. You are just matching them turn for turn. You are doing nothing to innovate and what you do is done half-heartedly (like the recent tools).

 

Do you really want to do something radical James – give guaranteed rates for “what to shoot” and let the contributors decide if it is a valid investment. Or be really bold, turn everything on its head and let the contributors set their own prices, and let the market decide if it is willing to pay.

 

You say “If things continue to be flat, which I think is the base case scenario, then revenues to our contributors will either stay flat or worse, start to fall.” No James if you are taking another 10% they are definitely going to fall.

 

Lastly James your video last night was simply not good enough, you are the CEO and the face of Alamy. You need to smarten up your appearance and stop rambling.

This ^^^^^

 

Great words.

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1 hour ago, Calum Dickson said:

Hello James,

It appears that you have added a few new “tools” to the Alamy website as a precursor to the commission decrease announcement. You are now asking contributors to market their own work through “Your Alamy Portfolio” and in return for this investment of time and effort you will take another 10% of their commission?

 

You are also providing a tool to let people know what to shoot, and in return your business model is to sell these images as IQ sales over 5-year terms, thereby cutting of future revenue stream for 5 years all the while giving the contributor a nett amount which adds up to about the cost of a cup of coffee?

 

You talk about improving customer experience and yet you persist with a stack it high sell it cheap mentality. Do you really need 315,823 images of lions? Is that really going to provide a great customer experience sifting through that lot? Why not curate the library and focus on quality over quantity? Does Quality not always command a higher price?

 

What are Alamy’s notable innovations? “Personal Use Licences”? Perhaps we should call them by the name the contributors know them by “A licence to infringe”?

 

What is your success rate with pursuing infringements James and is the fee you charge really a deterrent or does it just encourage it?

 

The real problem James is that you are just following the larger competitors and not leading them. You are just matching them turn for turn. You are doing nothing to innovate and what you do is done half-heartedly (like the recent tools).

 

Do you really want to do something radical James – give guaranteed rates for “what to shoot” and let the contributors decide if it is a valid investment. Or be really bold, turn everything on its head and let the contributors set their own prices, and let the market decide if it is willing to pay.

 

You say “If things continue to be flat, which I think is the base case scenario, then revenues to our contributors will either stay flat or worse, start to fall.” No James if you are taking another 10% they are definitely going to fall.

 

Lastly James your video last night was simply not good enough, you are the CEO and the face of Alamy. You need to smarten up your appearance and stop rambling.

 

Excellent post. I couldn't agree more. It's been obvious to me for some time that Alamy's strategy of adding more and more images irrespective of their saleability whilst encouraging keyword spamming (discoverability) would not improve customer experience and they would be faced with having to cut prices to compete with micro-stock whilst bearing the operating costs of hosting a rapidly growing portfolio which provides search results more and more slowly.

 

Mark

Edited by M.Chapman
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For many of us contributors it is not so much about money, but about fairness.

There is a famous economic experiment called the "Ultimatum Game": Player 1 is given an amount of money and has to offer a share of that money tp player 2. Player 2 has the option of either accepting that offer or rejecting it. If he rejects the offer, player 1 also loses the money he was given and both players end up without any money. Most people consider a 50/50 split fair and the lower the offer from player 1 is, the more people reject his offer although it means that they end up with no money at all. Interestingly that is even true with large sums of money. So if the sum is $10,000 for example and player 1 only offers $3,000, most people will reject that offer, even if that means losing $3,000, because they find it unfair that player 1 gets $7,000, while they just get $3,000.

Of course that experiment shows that most people would also accept a split that is somewhat less fair for them than the 50/50 split. Many contributors here probably will accept the 40/60 split, but that does not mean that they think it's fair. They just can't afford losing all their Alamy income after having invested so much time in keywording and optimizing their images for Alamy. However they will always have a bad feeling in their stomach if they take a look at the Account balance and the that the value in the "alamy Commission" line eats up more than half of the money of the "Sale" above it. They feel that it is unfair, that the creator of a photo does not even receive half of the licensing fees.

Perhaps I am not the typical Alamy contributor. My focus are skyscrapers and I travel around the world to take photos of them and if I come back from a journey I only upload the 50 or so very best of my photos, because I care very much about quality. Some photos take about half an hour in optimizing them with Photoshop and Lightroom and the keywording, counting the number of people in that photo, finding out the address of a building and so on takes a lot of time. You really need a lot of passion for photography to do this.

The biggest reward for me is seeing my photos appear in books and magazines around the world. A photo only "lives" if people see it. I was very happy when my photo of the Empire State Building appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records. That was a sale through Alamy and I do not care very much about the amount of money that sale generated for me. However I DO care about the share I get from such a deal. Getting 50% of $20 is more satisfying for me than getting 40% of $100, even if the amount of money is four times as much.

The 40/60 split just shows us that you think that your part of the work has more value than ours. That is a slap in the face for us photographers who sometimes wait half an hour until the clouds are gone and they have the perfect light for a photo. I can understand that you need money for datacenters and employees, but that is nothing compared to the huge amounts of cameras and lenses Alamy contributors buy every year. Someone in the other thread made a good comparison with Uber drivers. Some of them even bought a car just for Uber and after they have invested so much money, Uber suddenly reduces their commissions and they are in same trap as many Alamy contrubutors: Either accept the new unfair commission or face an even huger loss if they quit.

I will not delete my photos right away. Yesterday I restricted all my photos from most use cases and will lift those restrictions once Alamy goes back to the 50/50 split. I think there should be an option to take a photo offline without deleting it. That would also be very useful in other situation. Perhaps some people only want tons of Christmas photos in their portfolio if it really is Christmas time. There should be a convenient way to turn on and off sales of a photo, even if it would take 48 hours for changes to come into effect.

 

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5 minutes ago, Skyscraperfan said:

Yesterday I restricted all my photos from most use cases and will lift those restrictions once Alamy goes back to the 50/50 split. 

 

Did you really mean to restrict your photos to permit Personal Use only?  

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There are too many contributors who have posted many images who never sell. The agency needs to remove  those collections reduce server space and cost and tighten up the website so the purchaser sees the best images without wading through tens of pages.  Then Alamy can be advertised as new tightened up collection.. at the moment it is in danger of .becoming another micro stock agency

Edited by Travelshots
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16 minutes ago, digi2ap said:

Did you really mean to restrict your photos to permit Personal Use only?  


Yes, that's what I did. Unfortunately you can only apply a maximum of three of the four restrictions. So I still have to allow personal use.

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To one and all ..... how long before Alamy is listed amongst the many micro stock agencies? Not the professional editorial agency we joined.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Matt Limb
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It seems to me that you are using the contributors as de facto shareholders in order to raise capital for further investment by taking money from your suppliers. In the case of the royalty rate drop from 60 to 50%, which was used to grow the North American business, well, we haven’t seen any return on our ‘investment’ to date. Why will it be different this time? 

 

I could also argue that if your business is flatlining whilst others, e.g. Getty are in debt, then you are doing well in a tough environment. As others have said, dropping prices to ensure sales or periodically hitting the suppliers for easy cash is not sustainable. 

 

You could always raise the capital via a share issue, and move forward with a committed group of contributors who also need to earn money to survive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Paul Tomlins
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Just one question...does anything I uploaded prior to Feb 2019 earn 50/50 ( wasn't there a de facto contract?) Or does everything on the Alamy database get the 40/60 treatment?

 

There definitely needs to be some form of incentive... just slashing your arm doesn't address the situation.. eventually Alamy will bleed out!

Edited by Barking

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9 hours ago, Alamy said:

 Apologies for typos (the grown-ups who police my work have left the building).
 

James

Didn't the grown ups tell you  "*Please add any comments about the new commission structure to this thread only. Any other threads on this topic will be merged with this thread."  😉

9 hours ago, Alamy said:

 

 

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Senior management know fair and well that the threatened 'voting with our feet' simply will not happen, that the vast majority of contributors will swallow this and carry on.

 

Either because moving their portfolios isn't feasible and would require more work on the part of the contributor than the outcome would justify (including self) , or because they desperately need even the reduced revenue (they exist and are the real victims here, hope James sleeps well knowing that he may well have reduced the already tiny livelihood of those who have faithfully contributed to his company for years), or because they are happy as hell to just get anything for their pictures, this would include the huge number of hobbyists on here.

 

They also know that for every contributor who may actually go through with the whole 'vote with your feet' idea, many new, eager (and not always skilled) snappers will simply take their place and upload images into the downward spiral towards microstock. That the reality. It doesn't shock me, nor does it surprise me. But it does disappoint me having seen all the 'reassuring' emails and messages over the years. 

 

International extension my sizeable bottom. Flooding the news feed with a gazillion distributor images from Asian markets, and allowing the stock pool to become flooded with a gazillion below par quality, badly keyworded micropics isn't my personal idea of international expansion if the infrastructure and staff are so very clearly not in place to manage and support it. 

 

What does shock me though is the rather casual phrasing of 'we do this and we *hope* that solution B will have outcome B. I hope for nice weather every morning, too.

 

And -> what Calum Dixon said! 

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10 minutes ago, Thyrsis said:

Didn't the grown ups tell you  "*Please add any comments about the new commission structure to this thread only. Any other threads on this topic will be merged with this thread."  😉

 

:)

 

James should have locked his new thread so that it shows only his posts, and then requested any responses in the "single thread".

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A little discouraging,  because  this year I really feel  that I have made genuine progress in the stock industry, with Alamy specifically.  Both in terms of growing my portfolio,  gaining insights into the market,   branching out into new areas not covered  particularly well by other photographers,  and  creating  a specialism in certain subject areas,  that some  clients will  seek me out  for. So I am hoping,  as I  approach semi-retirement, that my huge investment in time and effort will not be wasted!  Time will tell if Almay's  move to again  reduce  the photographers commission will  pay off,   both  for us, the contributing photographs and Alamy  itself.  Since I have all my eggs in one basket, so to speak,   It worries me that this will happen again in the future, and we will see yet further  reductions in the  commission  rate to its contributors? 

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1 hour ago, Travelshots said:

There are too many contributors who have posted many images who never sell. The agency needs to remove  those collections reduce server space and cost and tighten up the website so the purchaser sees the best images without wading through tens of pages.  Then Alamy can be advertised as new tightened up collection.. at the moment it is in danger of .becoming another micro stock agency

 

I agree - Alamy is at the crossroads - and without a conscious decision is heading towards RF micro stock land

Alamy may feel that with so many images it has no choice but to be a micro stock provider , but there is a choice - introduce an edited collection, promote RM and tighten up the portfolio, I can see a future with the latter but not with the former

 

will Alamy be brave ?

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I would also like to note that I have a friend who has all his photos on Getty, which pays a very tiny commission of 30% or even below. He had images on Alamy before and told me that with the same images he makes much more money on Getty than he used to make with Alamy - even with those low commissions. Although that might be true, those low commissions are the reason why I - and many other photographers - would never switch to Getty. True, Getty could generate you a high income, but it will generate an even higher income for Getty and that's simply unfair. Having a fair share of a small amount feels much better than having an unfair share of a large amount.

Under President Hollande there was a plan to raise income tax to 75% in France for all income over one million Euros. That plan never came to fruition, but I can very much relate to how bad it feels if you earn ten million Euros in a year and the government takes away more than 7 million of that. Although that still leaves you with a lot of money, you will not be able to enjoy that, because instead of enjoying what you have, you will always be angry about the (much larger sum) the government has taken away from you.

In Germany there also had been plans for a maximum tax rate of over 50%, but the supreme court ruled that every citizen - no matter how rich - should have the right to keep at least half of the money he earned, because it his work that generates that money.

Of course the Alamy commission is not a tax, but it feels quite similar. Alamy offers the platform for selling photos and takes a share of all revenues. Like our country which offers the platform we live on. That deal becomes unfair once Alamy gets more that the people who created the photo.

 

Just imagine AirBnB would get more commission than the landlords, who offer their apartments.

Just imagine Uber would get more money than the Uber drivers who do all that driving.

Just imagine the food delivery service would get more money than the restaurants who cook the food.

Just imagine Ebay would get more money than the sellers.

 

Everybody would see that as unfair and that is also true in the stock industry. That other pay even lower commissions does not make that any better. It's like having a bad flue and somebody says "Don't complain, other people have cancer!". That does not make a flu any more enjoyable.
 

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6 minutes ago, John Gaffen said:

Time will tell if Almay's  move to again  reduce  the photographers commission will  pay off,

 

Reading various threads since the last reduction it did not pay off then for contributors so why expect it to pay off now? It simply won't happen as Alamy head for the worst of all worlds- micro stock pricing and the wrong customer base to create the volume.

 

Not one of the so-called improvements or new income streams have done much to increase contributor bottom lines. Contributors have only stood still by continuing to contribute vast numbers of files with a huge cost in time - 100million files at 10 minutes per file = 20million hours work -no wonder its unsustainable.

 

I have not submitted since shortly after the last drop -still 150 files waiting to be made live but not worth the effort! will i remove whats there ? Nah just keep collecting the monthly payment from alamy for the time being as the occasional good sale is worth having and would not have been made thro the traditional agencies i support. 

 

Will i contribute new material in the future-Not bloody likely! 

 

Regen

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I think this will ruin Alamy.  The only reason I support Alamy is because they pay 50%.  I might as well apply for Getty now, something I thought I would never do.  Don't know if I will upload here again, why would I now?  There would have to be an increase in sales that compensates my loss and that seems unlikely.  If that did happen, would we be on 30% in a years time?  There's no trust now.

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5 minutes ago, Stephen Rees said:

I think this will ruin Alamy.  The only reason I support Alamy is because they pay 50%.  I might as well apply for Getty now, something I thought I would never do.  Don't know if I will upload here again, why would I now?  There would have to be an increase in sales that compensates my loss and that seems unlikely.  If that did happen, would we be on 30% in a years time?  There's no trust now.

Good call.  I'm seriously considering going down the Getty route whilst leaving my images here.  I'll never upload another pic to Alamy.

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I would imagine a lot of people are now actively looking at other agencies - after all if their volume of sales is such that the paycheck is bigger it's better to get the most money you can from being screwed.

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11 hours ago, Alamy said:

It's not unsustainable if the plan works. Last time we did it, it worked.

 

Option 1:

Keep things as they are and net royalties to contributors will either stay as they are or fall.

 

Option 2:

Keep trying new stuff and hope that the additional cost of doing that works out better than option 1.

 

J

Those of us who were with iS > Getty heard similar bad news and the same platitudes a few years back, and it's all gone down the plughole for contributors there since.

Edited by Cryptoprocta

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Very sad to hear James waffling in his video. Not the sort of thing I would expect of a company CEO. It really does not instil any confidence in me about James and Alamy going forward as a company.

 

I have made many friends through being with Alamy and would not like to lose contact with them, which is probably what would happen if I left the company so for the time being I am putting Alamy on the back burner, in that images already with Alamy will stay (for now), but I will not be uploading any more for the foreseeable future.

 

At this juncture, with what is going on in my personal life, (illness, death, home move), I do not have the time to consider other options so that will have to go on hold too.

 

All I can say James is a very sceptical "Thank you" for adding nothing to my future and taking it all away at this time.

 

A very disappointed Allan Bell.

 

 

Addendum:  After spending time the other day on setting up "My Portfolio" I have made it invisible as my first action to the announcement of commission being reduced. I know it probably will not make any difference either way but it makes me feel a little bit better.

 

ITMA

 

 

Edited by Allan Bell
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11 hours ago, Alamy said:

It's not unsustainable if the plan works. Last time we did it, it worked.

 

Option 1:

Keep things as they are and net royalties to contributors will either stay as they are or fall.

 

Option 2:

Keep trying new stuff and hope that the additional cost of doing that works out better than option 1.

 

J

Utter rubbish James.

Nothing at all to do with contributors net royalties.

Coincidently (dont believe in coincidence) my net royalties have only this month or so recovered to the level before the last cut. Thats with pretty much doubling the number of images and reworking thousands upon thousands of existing images.

Im never going to see a return on that with this cut. A 20% cut brings me back to 2008 levels. Let me repeat that a 20% cut brings me back 11 years and 40,000 images ago.

Think about that James, it means the last 11 years work have been for nothing, zero growth, just a massive drain on my resources to subsidise you.

 

You complain about 'only' 2% growth, many many companies, corporations and countries would love 2% growth.

 

You are giving me a 20% cut effective February. That's unsustainable. Im guessing you will hope most people will just moan and gripe and do nothing about it and that may well be the case but its such a big jump that its a showstopper for many people. As you mention there are Tier 1 suppliers out there with smaller percentages but they do much much larger volume. If leading contributors migrate away the top 5% of their images you will lose that 2% and then some almost overnight. Its not about cancelling contracts or storming off in a huff, we all have our own spreadsheets and graphs and whilst Alamy has umpteen million images to choose from the vast vast majority are pretty much unsaleable.

 

You are doing exactly what some of the big supermarkets have done in the last few years, squeezing and squeezing main/big suppliers (because they can) and once people find alternatives they will do so. Im sure by this announcement that really doesnt worry you in the slightest but the recent history of companies squeezing regular/main/big suppliers hasnt ended well. Im sure you think you will do well out of it otherwise you wouldnt have done it.

 

Dont try and dress this up any other way than its taking money from your suppliers to give to you and your staff through wages, dividends and special directors payments.

At least be honest about it and stop this complete male bovine excretia. We are not exactly 'all in this together'.

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4 hours ago, gvallee said:

 

James, I take it you're no linguist. You refused to listen that automatic software translation is total gobbledygook

I hope you take this into account for future international expansion and find another solution. Otherwise, you're heading for disaster.

 

Be very careful what you to about translation. Trust me, as I've said already, I've been through this sh*t with iS/G. They bizarrely decided to have a proportion of captions changed "for better SEO" by some company specialising in this. Allegedly the work was done by humans, but the work was so totally awful, it was unbelievable. It wasn't just bad translation, the new captions often bore absolutely no resemblance to the image.

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Alamy claim to want to rise to Tier 1.5, but are doing everything they can to drive away the kind of contributor who would help them achieve it. Instead they are, knowingly or otherwise, attracting the kind of contributor who will pull them down to Tier 3. Many new contributors seem to think Alamy is a social media site rather than a business: which is an easy mistake to make given that that is how Alamy has been presenting itself.


Alamy has always been good at producing gimmicks and dressing them up as innovation. It sometimes seems as though the software developers are working on their own pet projects rather than trying to solve the existing issues which have been holding the company back. Unless there is a paradigm shift towards true innovation, rather than introducing new 'features' just for the sake of it, things are only going to get worse. Tackle the key issues: don't keep papering over the cracks.

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