I've been doing a lot of thinking (and a little research) about YouTube, artists, and how Content Creators (as they tend to be called these days) fit into the framework of Capitalism.
This line of thinking was sparked by the YouTube Walkout in October of 2019. I've meant to do more work on this research project since then, but between being sick and just being exhausted I haven't made much progress. But I felt like sharing some of the notes I've taken and questions I've considered (and want to look more closely at).
I want to sketch out a few Big Picture questions:
- How Artists relate to the rest of the Working Class
- How Journalists and News Reporters relate to the rest of the Working Class
- How Crowd Funding fits into our understanding of Capitalism as Marxists
- Does the Gig Economy fit into this analysis somehow?
I think Content Creators fall into the category of artist, but many of them also deal with News Media and Journalism. The lines between artist, entertainer, educator, and journalist become blurred.
More YouTube Specific questions:
- What kinds of workers are there at YouTube? (Managers, Infrastructure, Custodians, Content Creators, etc)
- How many Content Creators are paid by YouTube, and how much do they typically make?
- Who works with the YouTube Content Partner Managers, and what is the role of these managers?
- Why does YouTube exist?
The last question is a big one. I know YouTube has spent years never turning a profit (which may or may not have changed recently), so why does it exist? Google must value something about it more than money. We know they shutter projects constantly, popular or not, but YouTube, a sinkhole for cash, continues on. I'm sure plenty of people have theories.
Some other questions I'll want to deal with are things like “What is a worker?” and “What is the role of the abstract Company in the Worker/Capitalist relationship?” (which I think is important, since YouTube is a company within a company within a company, and the capitalists themselves are still just cogs in the Google Machine).
And I'd like to acknowledge the criticism “YouTube Content Creators are not working for Google, they are only utilizing YouTube as a distribution channel for their videos.” It's an interesting critique of the YouTube Walkout. “It can't be a strike because they don't actually work for YouTube.” I think being paid by YouTube, and having your content controlled by YouTube lest the money stop flowing, creates an employee/employer relationship. Perhaps the patron/patronized relationship is different. I've still got a lot of studying to do.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @email@example.com if you have comments.