Self-described “youth industry leader” Alloy Digital has added a fourth YouTube entertainment provider to their already impressive portfolio. YouTube network Clevver Media has been acquired by Alloy, which means the addition of Clevver’s seven multimedia inspired channels to Alloy Digital’s roster.
This latest addition now puts Alloy Digital in the top spot for overall YouTube subscribers as their combined channels have over 8 million subscribed viewers. While Alloy’s three previous acquisitions this year—Smosh, B5 Media, and Generate–represent a specific brand of entertainment, Clevver Media’s programming is much broader. Clevver currently produces seven channels that range from games to the fashion-infused ClevverStyle.
With Alloy Digital becoming the leading YouTube entertainment provider, it’s now clear that the market for independent creators is almost nonexistent. Alloy has specific digital, television, news and education departments all focused on young adult entertainment. The department that picked up Clevver, Alloy Digital, has over 15 digital entertainment YouTube channels and blogs including Teen.com. As mega corporations like Alloy absorb successful YouTube entertainers, the ability to stay afloat without a network or agency is nearly impossible.
In the past, before YouTube networks and mammoth digital media companies began representing YouTube talent, the market for a successful creator was wide open. Creators like Smosh, Fred, and The Annoying Orange built their careers on independent marketing and razor-thin production budgets. Now, as millions of dollars are being invested into YouTube and its creators, an unsigned creator must compete against those incredible resources.
I could speak about how YouTube was built to showcase independent video content and should forever stay that way, but the bottom line is that even if it was meant to showcase independent talent, YouTube has evolved into something so much more. From the moment YouTube allowed creators to monetize video content, YouTube became more than a place to share videos around the world. Nothing that produces billions of dollars yearly could ever stay independent, and such is the case with YouTube.
So what does this mean for new or undiscovered YouTube creators? The recent changes to talent representation can mean several things for young creators. First of all–as it is with the music industry–competition within the industry will become increasingly difficult. Previous to major studios and networks putting their resources into channels, a talented creator had as much of a chance as the next person to make it big. Now, as the landscape of being a YouTube artist changes, the webcam-fueled basement-recording YouTube creator can never hope for their videos to be more than a hobby. In the event that a small-time creator does in fact “make it,” it will be seen as a rare underdog story.
Secondly, because major networks have created a place where, in order to make it, a YouTube creator must be represented by an agency, I predict that YouTube content will be split into specific categories. Again, to use the music industry as a reference, you have major mainstream record labels that range from pop to hip hop. Further down the line, you have independent labels that represent artists whose work does not fit within what is categorized as mainstream music. Here, indie groups can create music that satisfies more of their artistic vision rather than be “radio friendly.”
Right now, media companies want to work with YouTube talent that is considered “safe” and already comes with a prepackaged fan base. In time, independent YouTube artists, if unwilling to change their content, will have to sign to more indie networks if they ever want to have any kind of YouTube career.
Finally, all these changes will mean a rush to create content that the public views as popular. We already see it with the hundreds of vlogs out there hoping to replicate successful vloggers’ styles. It may mean a sacrifice in truly original content, but many creators will work from what they believe will get them signed by a network.
It has been a long time coming, but it seems like with every signed contract YouTube is becoming less for individual creators and more for digital video mega stars. This is the way of the world and the way of any creative outlet that can make big money. Though it may spell the end for low budget individual creators, it may bring about the birth of an entirely new wave of independently represented YouTube artists.