Amid all the dealmaker swagger and pubescent screams at last week’s giant Vidcon gathering in Anaheim, CA, one nagging question kept presenting itself: how do YouTube creators stay “authentic” to their demanding and devoted fans even as cheaper/better tech, vaulting creative ambition and the desire to make a living keep pushing into the equation. It’s a complicated question for this fast-evolving new media platform.
Most of the YouTube creators now boasting millions of followers started out with modest production values, technology and creative capabilities. Now, as those swooning Vidcon attendees can attest, the creators have fans, who have Expectations, which they share publicly and loudly. It’s a bit like the indie rock band that finally signs to a major label. Fans who thought they “discovered” and “owned” the band start screaming “sell-out.” It’s even worse now. Unlike in the days of Frank Sinatra, or Elvis Presley, or Shaun Cassidy, or the Backstreet Boys, fans can talk back to their favorite creators, and to each other, on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, Reddit and other social-media sites and online communities. Too much deviation from fan expectations can be a killer.