In a recent Bloomberg TV “Money Moves” interview, Maker Studios COO Courtney Holt was asked to explain whether or not he truly believed the YouTube multi-channel network was this generation’s United Artists. For those of you unfamiliar, United Artists is a film studio founded in 1919 by several Hollywood tastemakers with the intention of controlling their own creative pursuits while remaining relatively free from major studio obligations or commitments.
During the early Hollywood days, major studios fell into the habit of more or less screwing their talent. Salaries were rigid, creativity was limited and overall life was grueling for actors. It was with these troubles that United Artists was created, by artists for artists.
The obvious comparison between UA and Maker Studios comes from the fact that in the way UA was created by actors, Maker was founded by influential YouTube creators like Lisa Donovan (Lisa Nova) and Shay Butler (Shaycarl).
While both studios were talent-founded, the primary difference resides within the fact that UA was created with the intention of freeing actors and directors from the controlling tyranny of studios. In Maker’s case however, there was no original tyranny to rally against. UA founders were looking to put creative control back in their own hands. On YouTube, for creators, creative control was never stifled.
This is the inherent beauty of YouTube, the fact that as a YouTube creator, you can do whatever the hell you want. There was never a suit telling you what you could and could not create. There was never any freedom to be wrestled from the grips of cigar-wielding corporate fat cats in YouTube’s case. Sure, artists at networks still have a great deal of creative control, but that shouldn’t be something applauded as daring and innovative when creative control was never an issue in the first place.
Creative freedom was one of, if not the most appealing aspect of being a YouTube creator. If anything, modern MCNs are more limiting to a YouTube artists creativity due to the fact that by signing up, you are effectively bumping up the number of people you must answer to.
YouTube creators are currently in an interesting position, one where the allure of being signed to a network seems to have overshadowed the fact that there was nothing wrong with being independent in the first place. As we are now seeing from hosts of legal battles and shady contract disputes, networks weren’t necessarily the definitive sign of success we originally thought they were.
Of course, MCNs do have their place within the modern YouTube landscape, and this is just one person’s opinion. However, when we start positing that MCNs hold the same cultural impact on the entertainment industry as UA, we should also consider what networks have done and potentially could do to the once-independent YouTube community.