YouTube Creators Should Talk First!

by Christian Duque

For many, YouTube is a lot more than a video-sharing platform to watch funny videos and listen to podcasts. In the fitness industry, many have taken to the app as a second career. You have competitors who have decided to hang the trunks up, whether because age has caught up to them or simply because their placings just didn’t justify continuing on. Let’s not forget that aside from being an extremely selfish sport, bodybuilding is very expensive.

Between the food, supplements, and gear, it’s enough to put most in the poor house – and that’s assuming they’re sponsored. I hate to say it, but that’s a huge blunder for most in 2022. Companies are being more and more selective about who they get behind, and even when they do put their money where their mouth is, they’re paying substantially less than 5, 10, or 20 years ago. No one is getting paid to sit around and look pretty. You have to compete, actively, place well, and you have to be all over social media, hitting expos, and pushing the products hard.

Most competitors are unwilling to be a cheerleader and so, they get dropped. But even assuming an athlete is sponsored, things aren’t like they used to be. They’ll get that direct deposit each month, but beyond that, they’re on their own. If they’re smart enough to budget their funds, then maybe they can stretch the dollar, but most can’t. After a few months of “doing the business of bodybuilding,” and not reaping big prize money, a great many competitors look to other ways of earning a living. One very promising way to do it is by getting a YouTube channel, investing some money into camera gear, learning production and taking the dive. Some have diet-related programs, others focus on training, and some go full-force into the media world. There’s other folks within our industry looking at YouTube, as well.

There’s folks who cut their teeth and paid their dues with giant publications and respected websites. Maybe they weren’t being paid comparable to the skills they brought. Maybe they had creative differences with the owners. Whatever may have caused them to leave their full-time jobs, they saw potential in doing their own thing. For those of you out there that think there’s only a handful of channels I could be talking about, you’re way off! Just open Spotify, Soundcloud, or hit up YouTube, and you’ll see a sea of programs which can be accessible through YouTube. Unlike other platforms, however, YouTube is the main one that offers creators the ability to earn revenue, simply by uploading to its site. You don’t need to have sponsors, you simply apply for Google AdSense and if you’re approved, you just make sure never to click on your own ads. If you have the views and engagement (e.g. likes and comments), you’re going to see major earnings. You don’t even have to worry about taxes. Since you’re working for Google, they’ll send you a 1099 that you can then hand over to your trusted accountant. Everything is on the up and up; however, it can all be taken away from you, with just three strikes.

It used to be that creators’ biggest fears came from record labels, maybe there was a little music in the background or maybe their intro music had something that was off limits. Back in the day, such a complaint would result in the entire video being pulled or its audio being pulled. Later, as YouTube got with the times, they started to leave the content up, but they’d cut in the record companies into whatever the creator’s end of the proceeds would be. Everyone loves money, right? Google Adsense has also evolved when it comes to clicks. It used to be that if you so much as looked at your own ads, you could be booted from the program. Today, clicks are way more trivial. The program has higher standards to get into, but it’s not as easy to be booted as before. That said, creators are turning on each other.

In recent memory we’ve seen popular YouTube channels in our industry go from throwing passive aggressive digs at each other, to making copyright claims on each other. Instead of shooting a text or making a phone call, creators are engaging in dog-eat-dog type behavior. Knowing all too well that copyright strikes could hinder a creator’s ability to make a living and could also put their channel at risk, many creators are trigger happy. They will flag each other’s videos, report channels, and then dig in for the long fight. YouTube, on its own, encourages creators to try to talk about it first, but many YouTubers are constantly trying to one up each other. They don’t care about their fellow creator because there’s no sense of community. It’s not like with media outlets of just a few years ago.

Journalists used to interact all the time. Many times, they’d make small talk and have some laughs. They could be in line waiting for credentials, backstage waiting for the athletes to arrive, or just sharing some jokes in the press pit during frequent instances of downtime. That said, as contest coverage has become harder to do, given the rules and other logistic issues, more and more outlets are focusing on virtual coverage. If you were once on the field, then you have the benefit of having made some friendships which can be maintained through online communication; however, if you’re a newer outlet, chances are, you don’t really know your fellow journalist and could care less if they have a way to earn or not. It’s simply not your care or concern.

This cold vibe has also spread to the bigger cats who have been in the game longer. Sure, they could try to work issues out, but they’re guilty of just jumping the gun like millennials. I’ve been to a handful of channels that lose monetization, whether for a specified period of time and/or indefinitely. I’ve also seen channels terminated. And what’s worse about that, is that while getting a copyright strike removed is possible, having a channel “unterminated,” is almost unheard of. Once it’s gone, so is the entire library. That would be the nuclear option if there ever was one and many creators are totally fine with using it.

Just imagine that. You could have a body of work that runs years, hundreds of videos, and one day you get an email notification that your channel is no more. This can happen and has happened to many. Sometimes they’ll get all three strikes in a matter of days. Although YouTube has gotten way better at distinguishing real complaints from the malicious ones, I’ve also seen outlets not only not dialogue with channels they believe have taken their content without permission, but I’ve also seen where complaints and strikes are used to sideline the competition.

If they’re caught engaging in this type of behavior, there’s severe consequences; however, that’s only if they get caught. Other outlets are somewhat indifferent to others using their content, creating a sort of permission by omission, but if their competition gets too big, they might then turn around and flag it. Youtube may not know about the whole story. And if the reporting party can demonstrate ownership and the accused cannot, that might be the end of it, “fair use or not.” Again, that’s not a debate on what’s legal and what’s not, what’s fair use and what’s not, it’s simply an observation of how Google/YouTube have dealt with strikes in the past.

The goal is always for outlets to talk it out, try to reason with one another, and reach some kind of reasonable agreement. Sadly, that’s not always the case, and more and more creators are getting sidelined because of it. My only warning to those of you looking to get into YouTube as a side hustle – or – as a full-time gig, is be very careful. If you’re using anything beyond Fair Use and you have permission, try to get it spelled out. Obviously very few people correspond on paper anymore, so it’s doubtful you can get it in writing, but maybe get a DM, a text, or even better, an email. Have something, anything, that you can use to protect your channel should you ever find yourself fighting to keep it on YouTube. And don’t ever just take a strike. Chances are, if you take a strike and don’t fight it, you’ll have other content which could be reported – and by the same person. Remember, if you get too big, too fast, you’re going to make enemies. That’s just the state of the press on social media, today.

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