If you’ve been keeping up with feud between Ray William Johnson and Maker Studios, you’d know that Ray has posted an in-depth explanation behind his decision to leave Maker.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that this is just one side of the story.
It seems the biggest myth in the YouTube community right that only one viewpoint is ever valid.
While i’m surprised that Maker has not released an official statement about what we can now safely call a PR Nightmare, I suppose silence is better than Maker’s last PR snafu, where a spokesperson outright lied to New Media Rockstars (NMR) by saying Maker removed ‘Equals Three’ from the network due to declining viewership… Seemingly oblivious to the fact that he’s still the #1 Most Subscribed person on YouTube.
While we wait for Maker’s side of the story, which they have promised to provide, I would like to draw attention to four things everyone involved not just in this drama, but also in YouTube may need to think about.
1. Both Ray William Johnson and Danny Zappin have acted extremely unprofessionally.
For many years now, there has been a lot of rhetoric about YouTube’s huge growth, and its potential to overtake television in popularity among consumers. This intensified when Time Warner recently invested $40 Million in Maker Studios.
That rhetoric can never become a reality if the high profile players in the growth and development of YouTube and the growing eco-system surrounding it cannot act in a professional manner towards each other; much less others outside the community. Danny Zappin’s incredibly offensive texts, and inappropriate tweets were the epitome of unprofessionalism. However, given the fact that Ray dedicated an entire paragraph to explaining that Danny Zappin is a convicted felon, the text messages were somewhat understandable.
Some have suggested that saying he’s a convicted felon is slander. If it’s true, then it’s certainly not slander. However, to open an article in which you intend to disparage a person and their company with a piece of information from their past that you know will be viewed negatively IS Character Assassination, and is completely uncalled for in this situation. Ray is an intelligent person, and i’m sure he knows that this oft-used technique is a great way to get people on your side.
As much as I’ve enjoyed sitting back with a bag of popcorn watching this story unfold, it would have been much better for the health this YouTube ecosystem if both parties had taken the time to understand their responsibilities and contractual obligations towards each other and settled any differences in private. There was no reason for this to spill over into the public domain as much as it has, particularly when there was an opportunity to continue on, keeping an amicable relationship until RWJ’s contract with Maker expires.
2. Contracts really aren’t that complicated.
I would go as far as to say, in most cases, they actually make things much simpler.
When Machinima’s ‘perpetual contract’ controversy erupted, I could understand why so many people were angry. Many smaller (and often, younger) YouTubers had no idea what they had signed up for until they wanted out.
Ray William Johnson, on the other hand, is sitting on millions of dollars of potential advertising revenue. For his own sake, and the sake of his fans and other stakeholders, I certainly hope that someone in that position knew what they were getting into before signing any contract.
I have no doubt that both parties knew exactly what they were getting into, which makes RWJ’s version of events about projects being shut down seems incredibly hard to believe. While I hope he’s not ‘lying,’ there is certainly information missing from his assessment.
I have a very hard time believing that Maker Studios “shut down production of Equals Three,” as Ray claimed in his NMR piece. I would be surprised if they even had the legal right to do this. If the contract he signed is anything like the one he revealed in NMR, then I would speculate that Maker would be in breach of contract if they tried to shut down ‘Equals Three.’ I also find it hard to believe that a company that is currently fighting to keep control of ‘Equals Three’ would be so willing to shut down its production just a few weeks prior. This may be a good time to remind you, once again, that this is the most subscribed show on YouTube… For now, anyway. No one with a stake in it would ever attempt to shut it down.
This entire debacle arose when Ray was asked to re-negotiate his contract. Johnson was under no obligation to re-negotiate anything. When negotiations for a new contract broke down, that should have been the end of it, and the original contract should have continued. It did continue – But it seems nobody told Ray… who was willing to breach the terms of his contract to try and leave Maker immediately, rather than wait a few months before an amicable separation could take place. If he does want out immediately, Maker have the right to ask for something in return for losing their cut of 8-months of ad revenue on ‘Equals Three,’ and that is what former Myspace Music President, and now Maker COO Courtney Holt is asking for in the email he sent to Ray. If you didn’t agree with the terms, perhaps a counter offer would have been more conducive to a mutual agreement than a lengthy and inherently bias piece on NMR.
None of this was a ‘trick.’ RWJ wasn’t duped by a ‘hidden clause,’ as some are claiming. There’s no such thing as a ‘hidden clause’ in the 21st century. A clause can only be hidden if it’s not there, or you didn’t read it – A mistake nobody as intelligent as Ray would ever make – Especially with millions of dollars on the table.
3. Networks: Do you need to re-think the way you do business on YouTube?
While many YouTube Community purists will disagree, I believe multi-channel networks like Maker Studios are necessary for YouTube to continue to grow at its current rate. However, this feud between Maker and RWJ is not a new phenomenon. Creators and businesses have battled over rights for centuries – literally. This feud is no different from a musician wanting out of their label, a movie producer wanting to move production to another studio, or a 19th century poet objecting to their local newspaper publishing their poem.
The movers and shakers on YouTube, and New Media in general, have a lot to think about. Do you really want the same antiquated and unnecessarily complex rights management model to follow you as you transition from ‘old media’ to ‘new media? – Equally, do you really want to do business in a ‘one size fits all’ way that works for some and fails catastrophically for others?
There’s an opportunity to re-think rights management, and the way business is conducted, doing things right this time around. The only question is, will you seize it?
4. Creators: Always do your homework!
YouTube networks will continue to grow and play a key role for many larger creators for the foreseeable future. However, you must remember that every YouTube network is different. Networks can provide a fantastic platform for promotion, improvement in production quality, increased income, and greater opportunities for personal and professional growth, but remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re thinking about joining a network, do your homework. Research exactly what they are offering, talk to their talent representatives, others signed to the network, and trusted community members; and above all remember that the standard YouTube partner program will always stand as an alternative to these networks, which allows you full control over your content, your ‘brand,’ and the way you monetize, if you even choose to do so.
If I can leave just one piece of advice for the content creators of the future: ALWAYS know exactly what you’re getting in to, and if things go sour, always know exactly how to get out unscathed.
Do you agree with me? – Or do you think i’m completely wrong? – Let me know in the comments below! (I’d like to ask you to Rate, and Subscribe too but we’re in the wrong place for that…)