So Much For Innovation, YouTuber’s Meet The New Boss…

The persistent myth that artists and creators neither want or need partners in the self empowered digital age seems to have hit a wall. The LA Weekly recently reported on a number of high profile YouTube Artists who have found themselves on the bad end of bad deals with YouTube Producers. Get that. Artists have found themselves on the bad end of deals with business people exploiting them.

Ben Vacas, the creator of Braindeadly posted a video on his YouTube channel explaining the situation to his fans and audience,

“I woke up today hoping to make a video, but I went into a call with Machinima this evening and they said that my contract is completely enforceable. I can’t get out of it,” Vacas tells the camera. “They said I am with them for the rest of my life — that I am with them forever.

How could this happen in this digital age when no one should ever need any help or support from anyone else? So many in the tech blogosphere are constantly on the bullhorn bemouning the evils of record labels and movie studios, so the hypocrisy and irony of this new generation of creators falling prey to the same old types of exploitation is telling.

What’s worse is these artists appear to have entered into the types of agreements that the traditional record and film businesses have long since left behind as those industries matured and the rights of artists have been won in long hard fought battles.

As Chris Castle of Music Tech Policy commented in his post, It’s Called A Union, Numbnuts he sadly points out the obvious that the more things change the more they stay the same. Artists and creators are still prey for those seeking opportunistic exploitation of the creative class.

Well kids, welcome to the new boss. There is a reason why talent and craft unions exist and it’s not to “stifle innovation” of filmmakers any more than copyright exists to “stifle innovation” of musicians, artists, photographers, writers, authors, filmmakers and other creators.

But perhaps it is this more recent story that is more revealing. All Things D wrote this in “YouTube’s Show-Me-The-Money Problem“,

“It’s hard, given YouTube’s low [revenue-sharing] numbers and lack of marketing infrastructure to make the unit economics for premium programming work,” says Steve Raymond, who runs Big Frame, a YouTube network/programmer that says it has generated 3.2 billion views.

So let’s do the math on this. YouTube, which is the great white hope of, and often cited embodiment of the independent new digital culture for creators has bred an environment of draconian contracts for individual creators and at the same time it can not generate enough revenue for it’s most successful producers to maintain a sustainable business model.

How is this “innovation and progress”? Answer, it’s not. Of course readers of this blog will be familiar with David Lowery’s insightful and accurate analysis of the music business “Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss” and now we can see that the same forces are also shaping the new reality for more artists and creators than just musicians.

For all of the hype, it’s really funny what happens when you actually just look at the math. What’s more funny is when some tech blogs make statements like, “First of all, YouTube revenue is incremental revenue on top of other revenue.” Well apparently they haven’t spoken to Big Frame about that, unless of course they are suggesting that Big Frame’s primary business (and the creators that work for them) should have day jobs to supplement their revenue from YouTube. You know, jobs like selling t-shirts and touring…

3 thoughts on “So Much For Innovation, YouTuber’s Meet The New Boss…

  1. There are many artists and creators who have no idea how to market themselves, or how to use the tools available to do so. Additionally, an artist in one medium may have no idea how to produce content in another format. So what do these artists do? How does a musician get his music out there if he doesn’t know the first thing about digital distribution?

    Not having creative control sucks. At the same time, there is a need for networks such as YouTube to help artists distribute their works. I’m of the DIY set, partly because I’m tech-savvy, having “done my homework, so to speak (having put a great amount of time and effort into learning the tools I need to know to distribute my works). Yet many artists can’t do it all themselves; perhaps they never chose to spend the amount of time into learning how to distribute their works, so they need to pay for expertise in that area. Or perhaps they’re not technologically inclined.

    What I’m trying to say is, artists need promoters just as much as promoters need artists. Artists need distribution channels as much as those channels need artists. Artists need Internet radio and YouTube and video producers and image makers — the list goes on and on — just as much as everyone relies on the works of the artists.

    I don’t know if you agree or disagree about the need for this. I respect artists who can do it all, but it seems there are very few do it all and seem satisfied with their level of income, or notoriety, or whatever. (There are a few that are, however, I am happy to report.) If an artist wants to do everything on her own, she needs to understand that her level of success is going to depend on her own perception of “success”. That is, simply continuing to be able to enjoy practicing her craft while just breaking even — that may be a mark of success in her view. For other artists, “success” means wealth, or status, or fame, etc. Very few will achieve wealth or status or fame without letting go of some of their creative control, unfortunately.

  2. Perhaps this is off topic and, OK, it is a bit. But maybe artists need to take some responsibility too for learning as much as they can about the individuals with whom they team up with, particularly before they get too close and certainly before they start signing things.

    There are good people out there in “the industry” (whatever that means at this time) but its the nutters who would come up with the infinite contract that we need to be careful of and disarm if you will. Today everyone is an expert and promoter. On our end I think we have to be willing to find out who really is on our side and has some knowledge, who has good intentions but not a lot of know how or bona-fides, who is blowing smoke up our arses and who is downright venomous.

    Thx for another informative article. I always learn so much and I am happy to have a source that I know is trustworthy.

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