Contract Negotiations

In the past couple years, YouTube has changed a great deal. There was a time when it was a free for all, and anyone who had some content could slap it online and show the world. The abundance of content (much of which being illegal) forced YouTube to adjust the intense pressure on its engines. This led to the partner program. In April, when everyone had the power to be a partner, the age of networks officially began.

Now, networks can offer creators things that YouTube no longer can, such as music licensing, protection (from things like click-bombing), and promotion. Naturally, all these things come at a price, so networks are constantly looking for content creators to sign. Now, more than ever, it has become vital for content creators to learn how to protect themselves.

For this reason, I poked around online for advice about contract negotiations. First, I listened to “Business English Pod :: Learn Business English Online.” The two episodes I listened to focused on a staged negotiation between a business owner, Sam, and a representative of a vehicle leasing company, Larry. The first podcast focused on the art of seeking concessions – how do you make sure that your interests are protected? In order for Sam to protect his interests, which in this case was not being charged too much for mileage, he referenced objective criteria by pointing out a competing company that gave him a better deal. This kind of objective criteria was sewn into a careful use of language that was more based in suggestions than demands. This is an address of the “people problem,” which is that people have emotions that play a part in negotiations.

The second podcast focused on the “fine print.” Sam and Larry discussed warranty terms and response time for service. The podcast stressed that the contract should address specifics about who pays for what when, and who does what when. While in the first podcast, Sam addressed the people problem with suggestions, in this podcast, he addresses it by setting a positive tone with the phrase “I like where this is going.”

The third podcast I listened to was Salary Talk. Linda Babcock, a professor of economics who specializes in dispute resolution and negotiations, came on the show to discuss her book, Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation. In the discussion, some disturbing points from studies were brought up. For example, men are four times more likely to negotiate their salaries than women are. Also, 85% of men polled believed they determined their own worth, while 83% of women believed their worth was determined by their employer. Babcock said that women are more likely to be apprehensive about negotiations because of what culture taught them growing up, and they can alleviate that stress by being properly prepared before entering a situation in which they must negotiate.

When looking into networks for my content, I will keep all of the above in mind. I need to protect my interests while being willing to make concessions, and I need to maintain the position that I define the value of my work and my content.

My Chat with Andie Bolt

One of the most powerful moves that I've made since moving to Los Angeles to pursue my career in web entertainment was interning with the Fine Brothers on the web series, MyMusic. This incredible opportunity allowed me the chance to sit and chat with Andie Bolt, the show's executive producer.

What intrigued me the most about Andie was she not only has experience with one of my career goals, but all of them. She has produced web-based comedy, but also writes and performs in stand-up and sketch comedy shows.

After having been groomed her whole life for a softball scholarship, Andie decided to abandon that path in favor of a career in comedy. Once she got a taste of the industry, she realized quickly she wanted to produce her own content.

She learned how to make films at LACC, a good school for people who can't afford USC and want to make material on a budget. "I was just filming sketches I wrote." She started putting her videos on ad-supported sites like Revver. "I remember one time we got a check in a couple years for like five hundred dollars, and we were like, 'wow, that's so cool!'" This put Andie on the path to the world of online video.

From there, she got a job working for National Lampoon's Lemmings, where she did a live sketch show and streamed it online through National Lampoon's website. This sparked the interest of, who hired Andie to create exclusive comedy content on his website. There were problems with isolating the content this way, as oppose to putting it on YouTube. "We did some really amazing stuff that no one ever saw."

Andie stresses the value of being on YouTube rather than trying to launch your content on your own video site. Many companies were really trying to host their own content, while Andie believed in putting videos on YouTube where they have easier access to audiences. This philosophy was shared by the Fine brothers, who she met creating video sketch content for the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. "The Fines were saying that before anybody."

Andie was drawn to YouTube because it was a place where she could learn and grow to reach her goals. "When I was a kid and I really wanted to get into comedy I really loved comedic movies. I had a beta tape that had Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein on it and I watched both of those over and over again." She appreciates the long-form story of television, but there's an iconic aspect to film, and the way we pass those to our children, that she is passionate about being a part of. "I want to be remembered. I want to leave something."

Andie has her fingers in a lot of different pies. "I really admire people who are like, 'I do this one thing, and I do it well.' Because sometimes I worry that I'm too spread out." I relate to this a great deal, and I asked her what her opinion was about the career direction of a person who dabbles in stand-up, improv sketch, and web. I've always had my concerns about taking on all three and how to budget my time accordingly, and I was excited to hear the perspective of someone who was doing it all successfully.

Andie compares having multiple interests and disciplines to looking at religions. Take the parts that inspire you, and leave the parts that don't. You may like the "being in the moment" aspect of improv, but you don't like performing in improv shows. "You can take the elements that you like and put them together." She also pointed out that sometimes what starts as a sketch concept is too simple to be stretched into three minutes and can be boiled down to one great stand-up joke. "Where can those jokes live? They can live in my stand-up."

When I expressed my fear about focusing on the wrong project or discipline and wasting time, she said, "so many people are afraid they're doing the wrong thing. I think if you really like what you're doing, that's the important thing." A comedian might feel like they have to do sketch if they want to do comedy, but Andie says if you hate it, you don't have to do it.

I used this chat as an opportunity to ask her direct questions about my own insecurities about myself and my own channel. My views are humble at best, and I'm often caught in analysis paralysis over the best way to develop my career and market my show. She was very candid about what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong.

"You have to be your own salesman." She stressed the importance of believing in yourself, because if you don't, no one else will. "You are the only person who can help you." I asked her how I could possibly expect to garner interest with such few views, but she reminded me that views aren't the only thing a person can offer. "This is something that you've produced," she said, referring to my YouTube show. "You can point to a show that you've produced, that you've been able to sustain however long you end up sustaining it. 'Here's something I wrote, I produced, I put together a whole crew of people, I organized schedules, I was able to hit deadlines.' That's something that you have to offer." She also reminded me that the Dinz is my passion project, but I need to open myself up to the possibility of providing my skills to someone else's project.

I went into our conversation with a great deal of bitterness about my lack of attention from the audience I wanted. My audience is primarily 13-17 year old girls with an interest in pop culture, when I would rather target older audiences with an interest in social issues, current events, and applied philosophy. She warned me against focusing on the audience I want instead of the audience I have. "If you feel like that's the sense of humor you have, great, but don't cater it." She stressed I should do what I do and do it well, and let the audience be whoever they turn out to be.

She also addressed the frustrations I had about being on YouTube for two years without having an especially significant following. She put strong emphasis on being willing to wait for your big break. Most comedians who seem like overnight successes built up their skills for many years before getting attention. "I don't know Ricky Gervais," she said, "but I doubt he would trade in creating The Office to have been discovered when he was 25." She also pointed out, "you can't sprint a marathon." She told me to accept that I have entered a marathon, and even if I were to have a million subscribers today, that's only the first step to everything else I want to be doing. "You have to believe that you deserve that, and that you are that, and everything else will fall into place."

My conversation with Andie gave me a lot to think about. I left the conversation with a new perspective on who I am in this industry today and what lies ahead. I really do need to put more thought into the relationship between who I am and who I want to be, and the real reasons there is a difference between the two. Am I targeting the "wrong" audience because I'm not being true to myself in my content? Which is my priority - making changes to the channel to get major numbers now or waiting until my current content gets good numbers down the road? Is YouTube the end goal, or should I think of it as a pathway to bigger and better things? All that said, at the end of the day, it all boils down to her six simple words: "You just have to keep doing it."