iTunes and Shorts International Royalty Report… What’s the deal?

I thought I would share the recent sales report I got from iTunes via Network Ireland for my short Gone Fishing. The report landed on my desk around the same time as VFX expert Russ Wharton emailed me from his iPhone commenting that Gone Fishing is still charting VERY highly on iTunes shorts – when he took this frame grab we were at 14. I have occasionally checked in and we are usually toward the top of the charts, which is great news.

So how do the figures correspond?

Well this figures are for woldwide sales for one year, ending 30th June 2011 (reported to me late November).

Total sales = £1,480 from which iTunes take a 30% cut.

Then Shorts International take a 20% programming fee.

From that balance Shorts International take a 50% commission.

From that balance, Network Ireland (my sales agents who are really great I have to say) take a 30% fee.

The remaining balance then comes to me. So from that £1,480, I get £290.26.

I did a lovely chart to make the point even clearer.

I have no problem with Apple, I think 30% is fair.

I have no problem with Network Ireland, I think 30% is fair.

But Shorts International taking a 20% programming fee (what is that?) and then a 50% cut is rather unfair.

Apple will not deal with Network Ireland, they only distribute shorts through Shorts International. So it seems I do have a problem with Apple after all.

Why won’t Apple even consider opening up their platform for creative people to sell their work? They are soooo happy to sell us the tools. They own the best distribution tool right now. But they won’t even entertain the conversation.

I you want to read the whole royalty report, you can download it here… Gone Fishing June 11

If you want to know how I made Gne Fishing, there is a full two day workshop online here…

And you can buy the DVD, BluRay or watch online here…

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author


7 Responses to iTunes and Shorts International Royalty Report… What’s the deal?

  1. Robert McClellan December 2, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this Chris. It helps confirm my thoughts that independent film MAKERS must now become independent film DISTRIBUTORS. Gatekeepers are so 20th century!

  2. Mark Smillie December 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    That’s pretty interesting. Let me propose a different solution with better economics for you.

    Here’s how the economics work. You sell the App for, let’s say $1.99. Apple takes 30%. You get the 70% remaining…$1.39. We don’t take a cut, your sales agent would probably get a cut, but if you don’t have one you get the whole 70%.

    Here’s what we do: We build an app at a fixed fee, starting around $880 (around 1 month’s sales given your math in the post). The App has your film, extras like trailer, links, synopsis, sharing through twitter/fb/email, photos, behind the scenes video…etc… (It’s not just an app that’s a movie…it’s more interesting, engaging and helps to spread the word about your film.)

    If the film is good, it could certainly get featured on iTunes App store.

  3. jason December 3, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    Apple’s arragons is just rotten to the core.

    If you assume that itunes take-upfor chris film is 60% HD & 40% Standard that would give you about 843 units sold this year. Which would mean that trough apple at their current rates it would take 61,029 units to clear production costs or some 72 years at number 14 in the short film charts and that’s not taking into account compound interest.

    There has to be a better way because that is unsustainable for short films like gone fishing!
    perhap apple should “go fish!”

  4. Megachrist December 3, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Sux Chris

    Apple should publish what format they want digital files in.

    That file format should be exportable by FCP and supported by Avid and Adobe.

    They should take movies directly from Filmmakers and Producers.

    While there may be some checks needed for code that runs on Mac or iPhone, there really is no reason Apple can’t take movies and shorts via Email

  5. F.P. December 4, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    MegaChrist – Open format is not the issue with Apple accepting films directly from filmmakers, their format is right there in your FCP right now. Any editor can output a film for use on an iProduct today for you. The issue is dealing with rights issues, which is why aggregators exist. They do the vetting and the work for people like Apple so that they aren’t liable for selling material that breaks copyright law. It also allows them to deal with less people, which from a efficacy of doing business perspective, makes sense. Why deal with 1,000 filmmakers a day, when you can work with 1 aggregator?

    Chris – This is exactly the kind of open filmmaking economics more successful filmmakers need to help put into the world, so we can learn and share more openly and put the lessons into practice. Thank you for this.

    Shorts International does not have a great reputation for being on the up-and-up with its clients, which is why other European aggregators like Network Ireland TV have been able to do well in repping strong, and even Oscar-nominated, shorts. Since you have such a high opinion of them, what has your working relationship with them been like? Were they responsible for closing the deal for distribution via iTunes and S.I.?

    Having worked with those in the app development community as well, I can tell you developing a library app takes a great deal of time and investment and testing. Apple is entirely persnickety when it comes to accepting new apps. For the average short filmmaker to invest time and energy into making an app for just themselves, it would take months, meaning that the process would have to begin during the opening months of a festival run for it to be available for, say, a year-end availability.

    But Apple wouldn’t take on a glut of apps for individual films, for library reasons, if not to sustain their own monopolistic/revenue earning scheme. They also wouldn’t take on an app unless the content of which possessed something special and a short film’s worth couldn’t be proved until months and months had passed, in which case the audience who would have wanted it right after its premiere or after winning an award would have to be looking and waiting for it.

    If the thought then becomes, let the aggregators of the world, or even those with open-source sensibilities, build their own apps and build with their libraries themselves, it would eventually take on the same economic filters that S.I. and iTunes add in – aggregators/curators and developers would take their cut at some point and the producers earn less anyway than they should.

    When/if that angel app developer with a curatorial partner/ability avails themselves to create something long-lasting with brand recognition that builds over time, then we’re talking revolution. Or even beyond that concept, if one can engage directly with consumers, one could earn more %, absolutely.

    But to truly earn a net back, volume is the key. Let’s not forget that the filmmakers benefit from placement on the Best Sellers list on iTunes, and that gives the film instant publicity and access to those who would not have heard of, nor searched for the film in the first place. The idea is always get the most eyes on your film and if you only sell to the audience that has seen your work, you will miss out on the segment that would like to but don’t know about it. That’s where the power (and %’s) of iTunes/S.I. derives from.

    It’s a tricky situation – but this is why open discussion is key. S.I. and iTunes need that next-gen app or idea to have competition, so those ghastly % go down and more filters back to the filmmakers. Thank you again Chris for starting an extremely important one.

  6. Timo October 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks very much for posting this. We also have a short on iTunes – Death Wish – that’s been up close to 2 years now. I initially also had trouble with the revenue share, but it is what it is, and it’s hard to get a better deal so good on Shorts Int’l for working with shorts filmmakers to get content on iTunes.

    I’ve been getting the royalty reports as well, but I wanted to ask if you’ve also been paid promptly or at all? Anyone else having payment issues with Shorts int’l?

  7. Peter Harkness February 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    In mid-2012 my film, a 30 minute narrative drama, screened 16 times on Shorts HD, a Direct TV channel owned by Shorts International. As per the terms of my contract I was to be paid a one-time fee of $24/minute, which in the case of my film came to about $750. I was never paid and my contacts at Shorts International have not responded to email queries since early December 2012.

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