If you watched the Streamy Awards last night (you did, didn’t you?), or at least read our round up of the 13 best moments from the show (of course you did!) then you already know that Epic Meal Time star Harley Morenstein went a little off script while presenting the award for Best Gaming Program. It started innocently enough with Harley poking fun at the generic gamer jokes that show organizers had written for he and co-presenter EpicLloyd, but he didn’t stop there. Morenstein took the room by surprise and channeled his inner-Kanye to deliver a rant directed at the organizers, the audience, and apparently the entertainment industry at large.
Grabbing the microphone Morenstein reminded the crowd that “Every YouTuber who touched this microphone tonight is a millionaire.” He continued “Maybe it was cute in 2011, but it’s 2014 and anyone who touched this microphone is worth millions of dollars. You show them that respect!” Over cheers from the crowd, he concluded by encouraging everyone to, “Go out there, start a YouTube channel; because there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit, and by low-hanging fruit I mean millions of dollars. Everyone is rich on YouTube!” It was the sort of unscripted moment that award shows like the Streamys absolutely live for, but it was also a major change from what we’ve seen in the past.
YouTube creators, despite often sharing snippets of their daily lives with the online world, are almost always notoriously close-lipped about money. Obviously no solid income figures are publicly available, but most educated estimates for top-tier creators line up with Morenstein’s assertions. So why then are YouTube creators so hesitant to talk about their success? Part of the reluctance no doubt comes from the desire to remain relatable. Even with the world of online video exploding into the mainstream and exploding with new opportunities, creators are afraid of losing the rapport with fans that they built when they were just amateur kids talking to web cams in the bedrooms. Talking about money from ads and brand deals can shatter the feeling of intimacy that exists even for creators with millions of subscribers.
For that reason YouTubers tend to downplay their success. It’s an illusion that industry events like The Streamy Awards often cater to with self-deprecating jokes about awkward internet losers. The problem, which Harley Morenstein correctly assessed, is that downplaying your achievements makes it harder to be taken seriously by the entertainment industry.
Ultimately creators must walk a frustrating tightrope in their professional lives and it’s that frustration that Morenstein seemed to be addressing in his impromptu speech. It seems like it’s a message that the assembled creators and industry professionals was waiting for. I asked NMR’s Editor-In-Chief Logan Rapp, who attended the Streamys, about the reaction in the room “You can’t hear it on the livestream, but the crowd was LOUD,” he stressed referring to the livestream which portrayed a more subdued reaction. “It started with us being amused, but when he (Morenstein) really got going, from where I was, we were loudly cheering him on.”
We’ll have to wait and see if Harley Morenstein has single-handedly broken the seal on the discussion about money on YouTube. However it seems clear that it’s a topic whose time has come. YouTube stars are now routinely commanding huge appearance fees, headlining national and international tours, and crossing over into film, television and even books. It’s a rising tide that has the potential to lift everyone in the industry, but only if the world has a chance to see creators achievements clearly.