Using Blackbox for Stock Footage, Is it worth it?
What is BlackBox and is it Worth it for Stock Footage Contributors?
BlackBox is an independent platform that handles all the tedious tasks involved with submitting stock footage over various sites. This benefits stock contributors as they save time not having to do their own editing, uploading, and key wording for each and every clip in their portfolio.
BlackBox is free to join and prides itself on looking out for its community of artists. This sounds wonderful and who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a service?
Let’s take a closer look and discuss the pros and cons of working with a service like BlackBox. To be clear, I do not have a membership with BlackBox and I make no money if you sign up. This is simply my honest take on this new and highly debated platform.
Is BlackBox free?
Here is where we need to dissect things a bit more. It is free to join Blackbox, yes. But it is truly free? Not exactly.
You won’t pay for a subscription or membership upfront, but you will pay 15% of what you make for each clip that you sell.
To be clear, Blackbox takes 15% of your net sales, not gross sales.
For example, if you sell a clip for $100 on Pond5, Pond5 takes $60, you take $40 minus 15% ($6), so you make $34 total, BlackBox makes $6.
I do think this is a fair rate. BlackBox is doing a huge chunk of the work, after all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them making a cut for the work they put in. But, it is important to keep in mind that it is not exactly fair to say that BlackBox is free. This is a bit misleading. You are going to pay for their services at some point down the line - it’s just not an up front cost.
I will add that there is an additional benefit to this way of charging - it is mutually beneficial to you as the contributor and to BlackBox when you sell your footage. The only way that BlackBox actually gets paid is if you sell your clip. For this reason, they are incentivized to best optimize your clips to be sold.
Which stock sites do they upload to?
Currently BlackBox handles footage only, no photos. They do note on their website that they plan to expand into handling more types of video content, music, games, and educational content. They submit to the following five agencies on your behalf: Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, Storyblocks, and VimeoStock.
Is it really necessary?
I will be the first to tell you how much time it takes to properly edit, upload, and keyword each stock photo and stock video clip by clip. It can feel like a mountain of work, especially if you have years of footage built up.
Or if you are continually shooting new footage on a daily basis. To me, this is the strongest selling point for using BlackBox - saving you time to focus more on what you love. It makes complete sense for many individuals.
Who is it for?
If you have a full-time job and you simply don’t have the extra time throughout the day for submitting new footage, then this platform is probably for you.
Secondly, if you are a full time stock contributor and you are out there shooting non-stop, then this might maximize your time in a sensible way. You will earn back that 15% of your earnings quicker if that time is spent continuing to build up your footage catalog.
Lastly, if you have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of clips of footage, then this service is probably for you. Without committing to hours upon hours of uploading, you may never catch up to all that footage.
I will add that this service is also for the individual that just can’t stand the tedious nature of keywording. No shame in paying a bit of your profits to not have to deal with something that you just don’t enjoy. It's a personal choice.
Who is it not for?
If you are just getting started with stock footage and you don’t have a ton of clips to begin with, I would say it is probably best to learn the ropes on your own.
It won’t be that difficult to learn how to keyword properly and start getting your own footage out there. I wrote an article on just that, in case you’re interested. With just a handful of clips at a time, the time commitment is not nearly as demanding and you will be able to enjoy the full amount of payment from your work.
It is not for those who like to be in control of their own work. More on this in a moment.
BlackBox is also not for the individual that already has a large collection of curated stock footage online. If you have already spent the years uploading and ranking high in search results, it would not be wise to move or divert your footage away from your own collection. You are in a sense going to be starting over with new footage through BlackBox. You cannot upload the same footage multiple times (i.e. to your own catalog and BlackBox).
Who Takes Ownership?
When you sign up with BlackBox, you are adding your footage to a larger community of contributors. This means that inevitably you are going to be giving up some control of your work. You will be giving up your control over exactly which keywords and meta data are used to rank within the stock sites that sell your work. This may be exactly what you want, it is the idea behind the service after all. However, there is something to be argued for the fact that in many cases you may be able to do it better.
In my research, I have yet to see any data that can argue that BlackBox is able to keyword better than I am. I have heard the argument that because they are such a large contributor that it will automatically get your footage ranked higher in search results. I just don’t quite see the argument there. Aren’t you then just competing against other BlackBox contributors within the same collection as it grows larger?
It just seems that the larger it gets, the more diluted the content and then we are back at square one (competing against a large network of contributors). This doesn’t give me enough confidence that it will actually help my footage to rank any higher than I could rank on my own - especially if my own content collection is large and specifically curated to a few select niches.
My Main Problem with BlackBox
I like the idea that BlackBox promotes. They suggest that as creative artists, our skills and time are increasingly undervalued, even though the demand for our work continues to grow. I agree with this completely. However, I don’t exactly see how BlackBox is solving this problem.
If the problem is that big stock companies like Shutterstock and Pond5 are not charging enough for our footage and then taking too large a percentage of our cut, then how is BlackBox offering a solution by taking an additional cut of our profits? Even further, if I am an individual contributor to all of the exact same stock sites as BlackBox, then how does BlackBox not become a monopoly that is actually hurting my chances as a contributor to succeed?
To me, the solution looks more like contributors standing up to the large stock sites that are racing to the bottom with clip prices. The answer involves us banding together and refusing to sell our footage for less than its worth. I haven’t seen how Blackbox is contributing to this solution just yet. Not saying they won’t, just saying I haven’t seen it yet. If ever they do, they will get my complete unending support.
I believe BlackBox is a great service for many artists that want to continue pursuing the work that brings them joy. I am all about it and have nothing but support. As stated above, I do think there are just a few misleading facts about BlackBox that get overly promoted within the community of stock contributors. To these issues, I would LOVE to know your thoughts. Who has used or is using BlackBox? I want to hear about your firsthand experience with it. Should I change my mind on some of these issues? Comment below and let me know what you think.