I’ve been posting videos on YouTube for over two years now. I started posting regularly after getting my feet wet with a few “hair update” videos (basically, videos where people show their growth progress on long hair…it’s a thing I didn’t know was on YouTube until I started looking for it, which is an unsurprisingly common thing with the platform. Pretty much anything you might want to find is there) and got bitten by the video creation bug.
Having been in theater for over 20 years, I am used to the idea of creating work that is to be shown to the public, with varying audience acceptance. Because I am not a theater professional anymore (after a short stint as a professional improv comedian and a short job in a local professional theater) , I don’t have expectations of compensation for my acting or directing work, and the plays I’ve written are often produced on a bare-bones budget that leaves no money for the talent. Such is the life of many creative people.
When I joined YouTube, I didn’t have an expectation of making any money from it. I monetized my videos, because if there were to be a few pennies available from my uploads, I thought it would make sense to allow myself to earn them, but I am under no illusion that the videos I make are going to appeal to a mass audience (long hair tips for men and non-children-oriented puppet videos are rarely searched for) and never have been.
Still, there are plenty of folks on the YouTube platform who don’t expect to make enough to support themselves through it who call themselves YouTubers. What is my objection?
Primarily, I think that it’s limiting. YouTube is an excellent platform for storing, sharing, promoting and distributing video content. It’s the #1 platform on the internet for such material, and it’s probably your best bet for finding an audience who can continue to watch your videos as you create them. The subscription option has been imitated on other platforms, but YouTube (despite a few technical hiccups, especially lately) is excellent at it.
That said, the platform isn’t the content. The videos I make are not dependent upon YouTube to have value by themselves. If I decided to move all my videos to Vimeo or Facebook or just package them up in a DVD box set, they would continue to show the artistic vision, such as it is, that I have for them.
To call myself a “YouTuber” would mean, to me, that I pin my reasons for making videos on something unique to the platform. I can see how this is something that can attract other creative people making videos on the site, but I see it also as a shiny trap that can cause video creators to lose sight of what led them to picking up the camera in the first place.
YouTube is a very alluring idea. Anyone can upload without limitation (within reason…there are rules about content) and anyone, conceivably, could gain enough of an audience to find fame or make enough money through advertising revenue to make video creation their full-time job.
However, this is a bit of a lie. YouTube itself is a very low-paying way to make money from the hours and hours of work it takes to create material. While the potential audience is huge, the competition is just as large, and it’s easier to get lost in a sea of similar content or be ignored by an audience who don’t know that they might be interested in what you’ve created.
So I don’t label myself as a YouTuber. YouTube is a tool in my arsenal as a creator, but it’s not the end goal. I don’t begrudge anyone a dream of making content on YouTube as their full-time job, but I think that if the platform is the extent of your creative vision, it may be worth a few moments of reflection into what that means for you creatively and how it may affect you when the company that runs the platform makes changes.