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Alamy Stat Flap

28 November 2012 - EPUK

The anonymous publication of a spreadsheet showing the recently announced 10% decrease in photographers’ commission by stock library Alamy is, in real terms, a cut of 17% has caused consternation at Alamy HQ.

When photographers who contribute to the Alamy stock photo library debated the stats of an anonymously published spreadsheet titled ‘When 10% is not 10%’ on the official Alamy blog the thread was taken down. When someone asked why that thread had been removed their thread was taken down as well. Alamy, it seems, are in a flap over these statistics.

‘When 10% is not 10%’: part of an anonymously published spreadsheet of statistics that caused a flap at Alamy

The spreadsheet, which became prominent after a link was published on the EPUK News Facebook page on Saturday morning, graphically illustrates how photographers’ revenue will drop, not by 10%, but by 17% for direct sales and a staggering 25% for distributor sales in real terms.

On 20 November contributing photographers received an email from Alamy telling them “Your royalty percentage will be decreasing by 10 percentage points in early 2013 for direct and distributor image sales.”

The email went on to say that the Oxfordshire based agency had reached the limits of its expansion under their current set-up and extra revenue taken from photographers’ royalties would be used to drive sales and “improve the contributor experience” in 2013.

‘It will survive no more than three minutes’: a condensed version of the thread on censorship which was itself censored by Alamy

In 2008 Alamy made a 5% reduction in commission to fund expansion in the US. “The US is now our largest direct sales operation and we are currently recruiting staff to expand it further,” contributors were told. “Our experience shows that investing in the right things does pay off.”

The problem for contributing photographers is that Alamy, like other high-profile agencies today, appears to be investing less and less in photography yet more and more in themselves – leaving photographers to wonder how can they be expected to expand their businesses, supplying Alamy’s source material, when their own revenue streams are decreasing?

And now photographers are asking what happened to the original Alamy pitch that brought the agency so many new contributors. That pitch was “We give you more because you do the keywording.”

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If you ever wondered how farmers felt being squeezed by Tesco now you know. Photographers supply the material and photographers are the ones to take the hit. Way back at the start I was just on the verge of my first qualifying payout when the rules were changed and I received not a cent after several sales. Then the distributor deals came along and the discount deals for bulk buyers: do the newspapers buy my pictures in bulk ? – they do not – Alamy benefits and contributors lose out. Now the story is that the business is healthy but to make it stronger something has to give – and guess what is going to give – yep – the contributors who supply the goods without which Alamy is nothing. Personally 10% or 17% less of nothing is still nothing – my sales have sat at $67 for at least four months – so much for the improvements (different name on Alamy by the by). Suggest a new Alamy slogan – “Jam tomorrow”. If negative comments are indeed being censored on the Alamy site then its a big danger signal – never mind the disgraceful ethic it smells of panic and to an old cynic like myself possible financial crisis. Lack of information breeds speculation: ask Max Clifford. The video presentation of the latest cuts was an object lesson in style over content.

Comment 1: Derek Simpson, 28 November 2012, 07:38 PM

Alamy likes to boast about it’s good works. In fact, from 2006 – 2010 it says it donated 89% of it’s profits to one charity – the Fischer Family Trust, a charity whose address is the same as Alamy’s and whose trustee is Alamy co-founder Mike Fischer, who is CEO James West’s uncle!

Comment 2: SilentThomas, 28 November 2012, 11:33 PM

I recently complained to Alamy about 8 month ! old uncleared sales, I received this polite answer
but I could only lough about how cynical some people can be:” Distributors have longer payment periods than our normal customers. The reason for this is that they have to receive payment from their clients, and then pass on payment to us, meaning that there is an extra step in the process.

It is not unusual for distribution sales to have longer payment periods in your account, Please be assured that our Billing team will have invoiced the client as quickly as possible and will be chasing this.”

I wonder what happens if the distributor does not get paid ?

Comment 3: Felipe Sangines-Uriarte, 17 March 2013, 07:20 PM

It’s time for a contributor protest – somehow a time needs to be arranged for all Alamy contributors in unison to take their images off sale for 1 week. This is hardly going to dent people’s income given the pathetic per image sales figures. But it will dent Alamy’s income and bring them to attention.

But how can this be arranged outside the Stasi like confines of the Alamy forum?

Comment 4: Jack, 30 May 2013, 09:58 AM

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