Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Experiment 14: Distributing and selling your audio on microstock

In addition to pictures and HD videos,  I started this month distributing  audio to different agencies. My goal is more to have recordings to support my  pictures and videos than rather to increase my microstock earnings. After looking  for a suitable recorder, I ordered a Zoom H2 from Amazon. The zoom H2 has a low price tag ($150) and a great sound quality, capable recording at 360-degree and comes with a 1GB SD card and earplugs. If you are looking for a more advanced recorder you can have a look at the Zoom H4n.

Wav files recorded at 44.1 kHz 16 bits are accepted pretty much by all agencies although some are taking 48 kHz 16-bit as well. As the Zoom H2 can record at 96 kHz 24-bit, I use these settings and downsample files before submission.
Like with pictures, agencies are looking for noise-free high quality files and Istockaudio even specify that the signal should be in the final range of -4db to -6db.  I use Audacity, a free and open source software, to  remove noise if necessary and amplify my audio files.
Like any submission in microstock, quality is preferred over quantity so sounds with a different twist have more chance to be sold. Keywording is quite different than in video and photo and it is advisable to add words to describe the mood of the file in the metadata.

For information, I put in a table below a list of  agencies I upload to, along with some, I hope, useful informations.  Being an Isyndica user, I take the advantage of their platform to distribute my audio files in few clicks.

I am far from being a sound expert so please feel to post a comment if you find any mistakes on this post. Thanks and happy recording!
If you want to sign up to start selling your audio, feel free to click on my affiliate banners below:

Revostock footage

Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Experiment 13: Shutterstock versus Istock

Shutterstock and Istock are often listed by microstock photographers in their top selling agencies. Both marketplaces differ in their history, the way they distribute and sell their products and in their interaction with photographers. After a brief history of both companies, I will take a closer look in this post at my earnings since 2007 and will draw some conclusions.

  • A bit of history
Istock was founded by Bruce Livingstone in 2000 adopting a credit based based model to distribute royalty-free pictures. It was acquired in 2006 by Getty Images and branched the same year into the new market of video footage. Vetta, a premium collection, open to exclusive photographers only, was launched in 2009 and the same year, Istockaudio opened, allowing contributors to sell basic sounds and more complex music compositions. Istock have now a more diverse product offering than Shutterstock, with illustrations, flash animations, logos in addition to photo and videos.

Shutterstock was founded back in 2003 by Jon Oringer and contrary to Istock, adopted a subscription based model. In 2008, a new on-demand subscription plan was unveiled and Shutterstock started to distribute footage ahead of  Istockphoto. In 2009, they acquired Bigstockphoto, a credit based microstock agency.

  • How did Istock and Shutterstock compare for me ?

Comparative graphs for the 2007-2009 period show that Shutterstock earnings did reach a plateau very fast compared to Istock where earnings are increasing with the portfolio size. For the first time since 2007, IS performed better than SS for few months of 2009, showing more potential than Shutterstock for the foreseeable future.
Shutterstock pays $0.33 per subscription download but with enhanced and on-demand sales, the average RPD increased to 0.51, well under the 1.55 of Istock. However, due to a high volume sale, total earnings at Shutterstock are few dollars above Istock at the end of the year. However, this comparison is not fair because due to a tedious submission system and upload limits, my portfolio at Istock is 2.7 times smaller than the one at Shutterstock.

Sales pattern differs quite a lot between the two agencies: Shutterstock has a tendency to favors new images (even if it is less obvious than few years ago). At Istockphoto at the other hand, only a small fraction of my portfolio is selling and few pictures are generating the bulk of my earnings: the top five best selling images (just over 1% of my portfolio) are responsible of almost 60% of my earnings! Unfortunately, these five pictures can be negatively affected by a change in best match and earnings can drop dramatically. Overall, I consider that my earnings (assuming regular uploads) are more stable at Shutterstock than at Istockphoto even if Shutterstock does not show much progression.

  • Conclusion
On the light of these observations, my plan is to increase my Istock porfolio to have more best sellers and be less affected to changes in best match. At the same time, I will continue uploading pictures to Shutterstock despite a flat earning curve. I do expect to have a better upcoming year at Istock than at Shutterstock even if I will benefit this month from an increase of commission from $0.33 to $0.36 for subscription downloads.
It will interesting to see in 2010 if Shutterstock will follow Istock on royalty-free audio and how exactly they will manage Bigstockphoto acquisition.


So far this year my SS earnings are showing  a nice progression while Istock is downhill since the beginning of year: in May 2010, I registered a 60% decrease in earnings compared to May 2009, which was my best month ever.
In the meantime, my RPD at Shutterstock increased to an average of $0.55 for the first six months of 2010.
Needless to say, I expect a significant  difference between Shutterstock and Istock by the  end of the year.
Getty owned Istock just annonced that they will decrease commission for  their non exclusive contributors  from 20 to 15%, arguing that their business model is not sustainable! I decided therefore to stop uploading pictures to Istock and will decide later on if I start pulling  out pictures from my portfolio.
If you are a buyer and  looking for royalty-free pictures please  have a look at Shutterstock which treat their contributors more fairly.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

December 2009 earnings


December was pretty good considering that sales dried up in the last week of the month and that I do not have any christmas related pictures on my portfolio. I had quite a few extended licence sales at SS, DT and Veer and the latter was also my only BME this month. Sales at 3DStudio made a come back this month after a three months drought.Istock sales took a dip with less than $100 but still managed to be my second best earning agency and the one with the highest RPI. If my total RPI was quite low this month at 0.51, it is worth mentioning that 0.95 was my all time highest $/dl since I started microstock.

Overall, including referral and midstock sales, my december earnings were just above the $450 mark which is a 100% increase over December 2008.


No sales to report this month and I am still building my portfolio, uploading videos to six agencies although their distribution is far from being even. Clipcanvas is my largest library so far with over 100 videos on line, the other five having less than 50. I am getting a lot of views at Istock with only three clips but reviews are painfully slow.

Isyndica screenshot

Earnings table (US dollars)

2009 goals

As far as my 2009 goals, the main one which was to make $500 a month with microstock pictures was reached once in September and the months after that were also close to this number. some of them will be only be reached sometime in January like the commission increase to $0.36 at SS and the silver rank at Fotolia. I also managed to increase my portfolio to more than 1000 pictures on most agencies but missed my 500 portfolio target at Istock. I had 3 more pictures with flames at IStock as expected. Midstock sales are still a bit lower than I was expected although they represented 20% of my total sales in October 2009.

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