- September 4, 2015
It is rumoured that Syndicate is arguing that he personally didn’t control the content uploaded to his channel and therefore wasn’t to blame… we will wait and see his official response.
Advice from Total Biscuit:
I’d like to give some advice to aspiring animators that are considering or are already creating content for Youtube, specifically, doing contract work for larger channels. In this video, an animator speaks about being screwed out of money for his work. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHt0NyFosPk – This is unfortunately not a rare occurance. Animation work is frequently undervalued, yet is in fairly high demand by big Youtubers, since we dont have the ability or the time to do it ourselves. Animators are frequently underpaid or not paid at all for their work.
It’s important that you as an animator realise your worth and charge appropriately. Please do not fall into the “exposure” trap. As Oatmeal aptly said, you can’t buy things with exposure. Exposure doesn’t pay your rent. Exposure doesn’t feed you. Exposure is of limited value in the vast majority of circumstances. A credit for your work isnt payment, its expected. It’s the bare minimum someone can do.
I feel this situation has come about because of how difficult it is for animators to make a decent living on Youtube independently. Without Patreon support or heavy merchandise sales, the amount of work you have to put in to create animation is highly disproportionate to what Adsense pays out. Youtube favours longer videos and they favour channels that upload regularly. Animators can do neither of those things. All ads are not created equal. I can’t give you $ amounts but I can give you percentages. The latest Co-optional Animated has just under half a million views. It’s made under half the revenue of WTF is Just Cause 3 has, which has only slightly more views. I’ve made this comparison specifically because those two videos are monetised identically. The podcast is a bad comparison because we run more than one ad on it and its a REALLY long video. The gap is only widened by Youtube Red, which is paying out big to long videos because its based on minutes watched. That’s how Youtube monetisation works right now. Bearing this in mind, its easy to see why animators are looking for contract work, getting someone else to pay for a commissioned piece of content. It’s savvy, but a lot of people dont know their own worth and screw themselves, not to mention the worse situations where people welch on an agreement and then you are only left with legal recourse against someone who has a lot more money and legal support than you do.
You might be saying to yourself, “well, based on what you just said, it sounds like animation isnt worth much because the channel cant make much ad revenue off it”. That is vastly oversimplifying things. Animating segments of longer videos has exploded in the last couple of years and they are big draws for those channels. They bring in new subscribers to your existing properties, they often attract different demographics that you wouldnt otherwise have access to. Co-op animated for instance brings in over 3 times the normal female demographic that I get on my regular videos. It is also hitting younger demos than I usually appeal to. In turn, that’s bringing new people into the podcast and to my other content that I might not have access to otherwise. Animations tend to go viral much more easily than regular videos. They are shorter, easier to digest and of course the colourful aesthetic is much more appealing to click for someone who is just browsing. In short, animations have big promotional value to the channel and as such, they’re worth paying for. Polaris paid Sabertoons regularly for Co-op animated and when we moved it to my channel, all 3 of the hosts setup large contributions to Sabertoons Patreon for every video he makes. We know that show is valuable and we want it to keep being made. Not everyone is producing animations for properties that have that large a viewerbase, but its inexcusable when those that are, get screwed out of payments or have their work undervalued.
“If you’re good at something never do it for free”. Lot of people suck at animation. If you want to get paid for it then you’ll need to reach a certain standard first, but there are also plenty of people who don’t suck at it and too many of those get undervalued or screwed. A few of pieces of basic business advice for you.
1) Don’t accept a rev-share agreement. It’s really damn easy to lie about how much money the video made because only the channel owner has access to that information. “Oh yeah totally bro, I’ll give you 50% of the ad earnings on that video! Oh damn, looks like we had a bad ad month, your cut is 20 bucks. Those damn adblockers amirite?”.
2) Get at least some of the payment in advance. Graphic and web designers get screwed all the time in a very similar way and many have taken to demanding part of the payment upfront to even start the project. If you have a decent portfolio and proven quality, get some money first before you invest a ton of time into a project.
3) Setup a Patreon. Seriously, I dont know of anyone that is making big bucks on Youtube doing animation and relying on Adsense. Maybe the asdfmovie guy did ok, but considering how often his videos are reuploaded elsewhere and how infrequently they come out, I doubt he’s swimming in his money-bin right now.
4) Merch merch merch merch merch. If you create good characters, people will wanna wear em. Don’t leave money on the table when you could be selling someone a dumb tshirt. Zero setup cost places like spreadshirt dont give great cuts, but they dont cost you anything either. Once you have established you can sell quantity, you might wanna look into places that print in bulk and give you a bigger cut.
5) Exposure isnt worth jack. Exposure is a side benefit you get from your work being shown somewhere else, its not the payment for it. Only exception to that rule would be exposure that directly, expressly promotes your Patreon, even then that’s no guarantee of anything, GET PAID.
6) Log the time you spend making the animation. Now ask yourself “would I have earned much more working at McDonalds?” If the answer is yes, maybe up your rate or don’t spend as much time on each piece. I get it, you love animation. That’s great, I respect your passion. Don’t let your passion screw you over. Passion only pays the rent if you can convert that passion into what your work is really worth.
Some of this problem can solve itself. There are lots of enthusiastic people wanting to do stuff for free or stupid cheap just to get their name out there. I’d encourage you to think carefully about that before you do it. You’re not just screwing yourself, you’re screwing other people trying to use their talent to pay the rent. You’ve seen what the race to the bottom can do to game developers on iOS, don’t make that same mistake.