Photo Credit: Dennis Yang – Flickr
What financial value would you put on your weekly entertainment? Valuing that entertainment is easier when you pay a Netflix subscription, but what about YouTubers, or streamers you enjoy? This month, a hacker leaked documents from Twitch, an internet streaming platform mostly used for gaming, which has prompted discussion around financial compensation for internet creators. These leaks, according to VideoGamesChronicle.com, spanned from “the entirety of Twitch’s source code” back to its earliest stages (source code is the human-readable basic lines of coding that set out the commands and variables in the background of a website), to information regarding “an unreleased Steam competitor, codenamed Vapor, from Amazon Game Studios”. The information, however, that drew the most attention was data leaked relating to income since 2019 from Twitch’s top streamers, such as streaming celebrity Ninja and self-identifying left-wing political commentator Hasanabi.
At the top of the list was channel ‘Critical Role’, who earned over $9 million in the two year period, and xQcOW (a famous Overwatch streamer), who made over $8.4 million. Additional leaks revealed the September 2021 earnings, which were topped by xQcOW who made $752,467, with some streamers lower down the list earning between $100,000 and $10,000 that month. Much of the attention on Twitter was negative, with user @GoldenTrawick responding, “imagine working 40hrs a week and donating to a millionaire streamer…”, and user @DK_Unbroken tweeting “if you read [the leaks] and still feel the need to donate to someone who makes 1m a month, you have an issue”. When people complain about how much creators earn, it is likely that they have failed to contextualise this information against other sources of entertainment.
For example, a season ticket for Brighton and Hove Albion costs around £650 through their website, and the Amex stadium can seat about 30,000 people. If half of their maximum capacity bought annual tickets, that would be roughly £9.75 million per season. That is more than the most lucrative streamer made in two years on Twitch, according to the leaks. When you purchase that ticket, the money is used for a variety of things relating to club costs and fees. The same happens when subscribing to an internet content creator: they can pay bills, purchase and maintain equipment and contribute to increasing the quality of the content they can put out. Regardless of which you chose, you receive entertainment that people form a community around, likewise with a cinema or museum ticket. The problem is that many people seem to have an issue when an internet creator makes money from their content, based on a perceived lowliness of content creation in general society.
When Plan Toys released a children’s ‘vlogger kit’ (a wooden set of toys containing a wooden camera, mic pack, ring light and camera stand), a similar disdain was garnered on Twitter. User @dylanviner uploaded a picture of the kit with the caption “this is depressing on many levels”, and derogatory comments soon followed; user @DustinGeneraux commented that “by the time these young kids will be adults the social media bubble will have popped and plummeted […] It’s not a viable long term sustainable career”. Other replies rightfully pointed out that this company also sold sets tom girls promoting cooking and motherhood; others said that the disappointment was outdated, with user @tokonelly comparing the tweet to “julius ceaser complaining about kids spending too much time reading books”.
This outrage stems, both financially and culturally, from a derision towards the Arts. This derision has been cultivated by continuous cuts to the arts by government funding since the Thatcher era, which has in turn reduced the value of a career in the arts, reducing the funding schools put towards the subjects, even pre-GCSE level. Many readers will remember cuts to their drama and art departments as a result of ongoing Department of Education policy to funnel people towards the STEM sector, and many will remember the uproar over the cybersecurity ad which resurfaced last year, suggesting a ballerina should retrain in “cyber”, as part of the government’s “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” campaign from 2019. The campaign was designed to combat weaknesses in the labour markets around the time of recessions, which tend to hit the Arts sector most heavily, and circumvent a rise in unemployment by suggesting those in the Arts seek out alternative careers. The government cutting funding and calling the Arts “not strategic priorities” in its education policy leads to a lack of appreciation for the hard work of art creators. This advertisement was especially crass because it resurfaced at the end of a year of reliance on streaming services, podcasts and video games to keep us mentally stimulated during lockdowns.
Leonardo DeCaprio made “at least $50 million” from box office takings for his role in Inception, alongside home video and television sales, according to Business Insider. Inception filmed for roughly six months, but there appears to be little complaint about how much DeCaprio was paid for his role. The difference between DeCaprio and internet creators is the parasocial relationship that some viewers form with a streamer. They watch hours of this person’s content, they subscribe to them and banter back and forth with them in the comments of their videos, so when it is revealed that thousands of other people also support ‘their friend’, that their relationship wasn’t as unique with a streamer as they felt it was, they get indignant. This streamer that they thought was just like them isn’t just like them, so they become angry for the success that they supported, because they may never see it as more than a hobby. For many streamers, this is their job: most have worked very hard to become successful. It is not their fault that their viewers might see them as a friend rather than a content creator, the same way they might see DeCaprio.
When supporting a content creator, the money supports someone who goes out of their way to pursue their passion, the same way we pay for coffee at an independent coffee shop or buy a book from a small bookstore. The audience is not entitled to this person’s time or passion, they choose to watch them for an hour instead of Netflix or Strictly Come Dancing. When a company places an explicit value on things – £15 for a month’s access to Netflix, or £5.99 for a DVD – it is much easier to understand the value. When we are asked to value these things ourselves, it is incredibly hard: how much did Sex Education season three take to produce, should I pay that to watch it? Of course not; countless numbers of people share that cost, and we should celebrate that all these people enjoy the same things we do, because it means that we can all continue to enjoy them. Whether you think that internet creators are paid too much, or shouldn’t be paid at all, think about the value you place on other areas of your life and how much it costs to allow your entertainment to continue to be made.
The problem comes from the ‘Hipster Mindset’. You feel an entitlement to this person because you feel personally invested in their success, which results in negative emotions when you realise that you are a small drop in the ocean. This does not mean you are not valued as a supporter, perhaps it means the opposite because you are one of many whose support allows them to do what they love doing.
The same thing happens with music, people want their favourite artist to be the next best thing, but when they become the best thing they no longer want to listen to that music, and the music is ‘overhyped and too mainstream’.
Then comes the question of why we villify artists for spending their earnings.
One commentor on a Tweet including all this information responded
Why do we villify creators that we enjoy for success?
Do we feel entitled to content?
“Get a real job mentality”
Hasan recently broke headlines as he purchased a house, which drew criticism from people who argued that this went against his left-wing ideology
Amazon, Bezos not working
Amazon owns Twitch