Over the course of the last year, we’ve been fielding increasing requests from people wanting to know about potentially joining a YouTube Network – Maker, Machinima, Revision3, to name a few. These networks can do a lot of things. Among their services are providing you with production support, helping link you as a creator with brands and finding brand deals, and an increased (usually flat rate) CPM. What they ask for in exchange varies – some ask to own your content, others ask to take a percentage of your revenue, and others may ask you to work with their other artists.
Online video “networks” bear striking similarities to the old Hollywood studio system in the 20s (Danny Zappin straight up says that’s basically what Maker is in this Fast Company article). Studios back then strove to do two things – first, to bring together a bunch of creatives and their means of production under one roof and own their content, and second, to control the means of distribution of that content. The same can essentially be said for how online networks are operating today – except that the control of the distribution is very easy for them (the studio system basically got sued trying to do that and that’s why theater chains aren’t owned by Universal Pictures or Paramount)
I consider what I’m about to say as essential advice for anybody who is approached by these networks or is interested in joining these networks. I am writing the following because I’m tired of seeing people get screwed by their contracts, or entering into legally binding relationships without fully understanding the implications of their actions. And most importantly – if we, the creators, band together and act as a unified front, we won’t be bullied by ridiculous contracts and business practices online – practices that have been, even by the standards of the entertainment industry, shockingly predatory.
Simply put, if we all follow the advice below, that means better deals for everybody.
Additionally, if you are not being pursued by a network or have no interest in joining a network, take a gander at this article anyway. We cover a lot of the mentality behind treating online video production as a business, and some of our tips may be helpful in a broader sense.
Before we begin, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Fisher and Ury’s Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. It’s an invaluable manual for how to conduct yourself in a negotiation (which is what you’ll be doing with these networks).
Please note, before we continue – the following does not constitute legal advice. It’s for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you need an actual lawyer, which I am most certainly not.
In the interest of full disclosure – the FreddieW channel is represented by Collective Digital Studios. We followed all our own advice when we talked about signing on with them, and because of that, we’ve been very happy with our relationship.
Enough chit-chat – here are the 7 things you absolutely must know if you’re dealing with a Network.