I want to do a separate post in response to a (perhaps inevitable) comment on the Facebook thread re: my new Patreon for Loose Canon. Though it wasn’t the most polite comment, it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to as the paradigm shifts vis-à-vis what is perceived as acceptable means of making money. Loose Canon is only a few episodes old and is still growing, audience-wise, but it seems to be well-liked enough for the people who watch it. Thing is it takes a VERY long time to produce each episode, much longer than it did for a Nostalgia Chick episode. Therefore, it felt fair to me to make a dedicated Patreon for that show alone.
But there is more to it than that, considering there is a bit of a culture being built around Patreon, as well as a backlash (some of which is not completely undeserved). I won’t go into specifics for other people and how they choose to run their Patreons, however, I can only do so for myself.
“Why can’t you get a real job?” is a common rebuttal not only to Patreon and “e-begging,” but to the notion of making a living off of online content in general. Well, friend, I CAN. And in fact, I very often do. This is why my output in 2014 was so small compared to previous years–I was working jobs outside of the Internet and YouTube, mostly as an Assistant Editor in TV projects. Life is expensive. I gots to pay for it somehow.
In the interim I had a LOT of comments asking me why my output had slowed or stopped. The answer was simple: I didn’t have time. I was working other jobs; I have to pay rent.
There were several reasons for this, but primary among them is this: since 2011, ad RPM (this being revenue per thousand views) has plummeted. Funny thing is, even though I’m no longer with Channel Awesome, when you factor in League of Super Critics (and I’m not talking about the motherfuckers over there who host my videos illegally), more eyeballs than ever are seeing my videos, and I have never made less money off of ad revenue. Unless you have views in the millions and millions per month, it’s almost impossible to scratch out even a modest living on YouTube.
It’s okay to find crowdsourcing platforms like Patreon off-putting. That’s fine. But you cannot expect a content producer to continue working for you. You cannot say “I want you to produce more reviews” and in the same breath “I don’t approve of the way you get paid.” You cannot have it both ways.
2015 will be something of an experiment for me. I’ve spent most of the last year freelancing in the world of TV and indie film, so now, now independent of the website which I’ve called home my entire online career, I’m going to try my hand at this again. My situation is very different now from when I was with Channel Awesome; I don’t know what to expect. My most recent freelance job is finishing up now, and my contract with Maker has just renewed. I’m going to try to produce videos regularly again–Loose Canon among them, but not ONLY that. I have another, more YouTube friendly show in development, for Super Critics and also BOYA on our nascent Chez Apocalypse channel.
But the feasibility for my being able to support myself by making online video are very, very different than they were three years ago. Patreon gives possibilities for a more subscription-based model. Like NPR, I’m here whether you donate or not, but donating does help.
The long and short is this: If it turns out that I can’t continue to make a living doing this, then I will move on. That is an option that is always available to me, but I won’t be able to produce videos regularly anymore. I know that will disappoint some, and others will count that as a victory, but it’s a simple reality of living in a society where landlords generally frown upon rent not being paid.
But you cannot demand that I produce more content and then cry foul at the means by which I am compensated. You cannot have it both ways.