Staying independent may seem easy on the surface, but with the increasing number of big players trying to recruit talent from YouTube with great financial backing, it’s harder to stick to your creativity without letting others do the dictating. Studios like Revision3, Maker Studios, Machinima and Big Frame are constantly adding more undiscovered artists into their roster with sweet deals and the promise of making money. At the same time, artists would no doubt lose some of their creative control and will have to rely more on ratings and advertisers rather than what they feel is best for their brand.
As we have said before, the end of the indie creator may come soon enough, but it doesn’t mean that no one can avoid studio influence. If you want to stay independent without relying on signing up to a studio, here are five questions to ask yourself:
1. Do You Have Enough Money?
To survive as an independent artist, you’re going to have to invest in your brand. I know what you’re thinking—what does money have to do with staying independent? Money is everything. It’s the thing that separates the wildly successful from the mediocre. If you’re lucky to have an investor that won’t alter your content with a 10-foot pole and lets you take control of what you think works, then use them for all their worth. Otherwise, if that big studio gives you that call, you’re going to have to follow the money.
2. Are You In It For The Long Haul?
If you’re going to go the independent route, know that you’re going to have to take risks and have a lot of patience. Success wasn’t built in a day and don’t think for a second that it will. Yeah, you hear about a few overnight sensations now and them, but becoming one is like winning the lottery. Investing not only money but time in what you do without selling out is a long-term commitment, and if you don’t have faith that you know what’s best for your brand not what a big studio thinks, you might as well sign that contract.
3. Do You Have Compelling Content?
Even though having compelling content will get you calls from the big studios, it can also be your biggest advantage when going your own way. Audiences will more likely find interest in someone who’s taken their own route to success rather than signing a part of their creative and monetary freedom away. The progressive Internet news and commentary online network The Young Turks (which we’ll feature next week) gets a million views each day on YouTube, yet after 10 years in the business, the network still sticks to its guns on releasing compelling content and remaining independent without bowing to anyone.
Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks channel, told NMR:
“If they try to take our independence away, we just leave. That’s what happened at MSNBC. They offered me a lot of money and a very good show after I had done [a 6 p.m. show] for them. But I had the sense that it came with strings attached and that they wanted me to take it easy on the establishment.”
Having great content for viewers to watch will garner more interest and lets you, the creator, do the talking.
4. Are You Ready To Compromise?
Compromise can kill your independence, but it depends on what you have to lose at the bargaining table. If you’re hoping to get some money for your project but you’re going to have to give in to your investors’ demands like putting a product placement, then you should remain independent. If you’re allowing money and power solely dictate your work, you shouldn’t stay independent. However, if you can be open to changing a few things that won’t dilute your overall brand, then you’re free to compromise a little.
5. Do You Know Your Audience Well?
If you have an understanding of who’s watching your videos and who’s commenting on your YouTube channel, then you know what’s best for you without relying on a studio to do the work for you. Your core audience is a great indicator of what works wells and what doesn’t; they can see through you if you’ve signed your creative control away and your content suffers. By staying independent, you have more control of understanding your audience how your audience is connected and not allowing PR control that information.