YouTube, Vlogging, and Filthy Lucre.

I can’t get a job, because if I had a job I wouldn’t have enough time to vlog.

The above quote isn’t attributed to anyone in particular, it’s rather a sentiment I’ve seen expressed a few times recently.

Motovlogging culture – those guys that go out on their bikes and record it for our entertainment – has become a big part of the motorcycle media landscape in recent years. I won’t namedrop because it’s vulgar, but like most entertainment media, the majority are forgettable, and a very few are excellent. Like most media, there is not always a correlation between quality and a channel’s success. In short, there are some utter clowns that have become very successful, and some truly great channels that languish with low views. If I understood why that is, I’d be vlogging myself.

That success has brought financial rewards, although it’s difficult to know how much, as both Google and the channel owners are cagey on the subject; it’s fair enough – it’s nobody’s business but their own. However, the mere suggestion of money can be ruinous to men, and creates something of a gold-rush mentality. I’ve seen a couple of vloggers give up their day jobs and chase YouTube money, and when it hasn’t quite worked out,they resort to asking their viewers for help with the bills. I believe one of the drivers is they’ve done just well enough to convince themselves it’s viable. I dislike myself for it, but this brings out the cantankerous old fart in me. Nobody’s owed a living, and if you can’t make it work you’ve got to be realistic and think about how to go forward. That might well involve having to take a regular job for a little while to make ends meet, and taking stock of the fact that you’re choosing to compete in a phenomenally crowded market which, to make matters worse, is only getting more competitive.

This reminds me of conversations I used to see on photographer message boards in the early 2000s; specifically the ire of professional photographers towards amateurs giving their work away either for free, or well below market value. The rush of consumer DSLRs and affordable pro-grade editing tools meant their world had changed; the barrier for entry was lower, their slice of the pie just got that little bit smaller.

YouTube is no different. The barrier for entry is again very low, and the productions standards on many channels are really very impressive, and this can only mean more competition for views. Some of those guys that are at the top of the pile now would certainly struggle if they were just starting out, but that’s capitalism; ’twas ever thus.

I feel bad for a lot of these kids, because they’re talented and they are entertaining enough, but YouTube’s model is based on a tiny number of winners and a lot of losers. Is it fair? No, but when was life ever fair? I suspect if you crunched the numbers, it would not be that different to the rest of the entertainment industry

Should they be paid? Unfortunately, that decision has already been made. You can consume gigabytes of video entertainment on YouTube for the cost of an internet connection and a device to watch it on; you just have to put up with the ads. Where that money then goes is up to Google, but you can be sure they’re the biggest winners. That leaves Patreon and similar services, but given the huge number of free channels out there I’d be surprised if there’s much money to be made there if you’re not already a giant channel somewhere else.

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