Dear YouTube “Star”: You Won’t Get Rich Selling Your Videos

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again in case you weren’t listening. Unless you’re Felicia Day or maybe MediocreFilms, don’t bother selling your amateurish videos online. I don’t know that I’ve made any money selling copies on YouTube (heck I don’t even know if I’ve activated it). And I’ve sold exactly two of the “Best of Nalts” DVDs in the past year. I tried lowering the price and focusing on the brilliance of high definition, but admitadly haven’t marketed them on my YouTube channel because I doubt it’d be worth the fuss.

The same goes for “merchandising,” which (with some exceptions if you’re maybe “Fred”) is a waste of time for most of us.

And I’ve yet to “non-exclusive license” many of my videos to people (TV shows, MTV prank show) for anything significant… usually a few hundred bucks, which sounds like a lot… but there’s paperwork, time, shipping, uploading, follow-up, more paperwork… if not for the exposure I probably wouldn’t bother.

There are a few good reasons people aren’t prepared to buy online-video content:

  1. It’s, um, free. Online. Better have some attractive add-ons (outtakes) that aren’t available online.
  2. The shipping burdens the cost… even at $15, the shipping brings it to the cost of a real movie. I suppose at $10 (shipping included) a few more people might purchase it.
  3. People are less interested in brilliant resolution as topical stuff… and most of our content isn’t evergreen.
  4. The lure of online video, in addition to convenience, is the virtual friendship. So the archived DVD doesn’t appeal to that desire.
  5. It’s difficult to convey the difference between a low-resolution video and a full-fledged high definition experience. I’ve seen the difference, but I’m not sure there are many creators that have content where that distinction would matter to me. Although I am glad I got my “Retarded Policeman” DVD before my episode got yanked (due to creative difference between the team that worked on it).

P.S. Go buy the damned DVD. It’d make a great holiday gift, and you’ll feel great when you’re not burdened at the mall during the busy period coming upon us.

17 Replies to “Dear YouTube “Star”: You Won’t Get Rich Selling Your Videos”

  1. They kicked you out of the “Retarded Policeman” series? Because of “creative differences”?

    This sounds like an interesting story. Spill …

  2. You know, back in the day, I think selling shirts was a better thing for youtubers. Even ol’ Reubnick made a couple bucks with it, and the shirts I was selling were HORRIBLE. I don’t know why anybody would buy them. I certainly wouldn’t want to. But, that was back in what I consider the renaissance of youtube, in 2007 and 2008. Nowadays, the youtube community doesn’t feel the same as it used to, and there are sooo many people trying to make a buck from their videos. Sometimes it’s just pitiful (may I drop ShaneDawson’s name?).

    I think viewers might be a little tired of buying things from video creators, because so many people are trying to sell things at this point. I don’t mean your DVD either, because that’s cool. But everybody wants to be fred or something, and it’s a shame. I personally don’t even want to make money from Youtube, nor do I expect to. I just want to be a partner for the banners and status you get. I’m sort of rambling here. I guess what I might be trying to say is that I wish youtube, and the community was like it used to be, with collabs and all that. The whole ObviouslyBenHughes tubetown thing is perfect! It’s such a throwback to a couple years ago.

    What am I talking about? I don’t think my comment is really relevent with your topic. Sorry. Whatever. I guess I should probably buy your DVD sometime.

  3. Hahaha! With this and the Google money tree post, you are certainly living up to the “blatant self-promotion” bit in your banner.

    I too am curious about the “Retarded Police” thing. There is still a sped up version still on YouTube.

    By the way, I’m also curious if anyone bought any “Nalts Donations”. I might have sent you a few bucks just for kicks if the address it showed wasn’t associated with a company you no longer work for. You see, I’m not very familiar with PayPal and I didn’t want something I sent you to get lost at Merck.

  4. a few opportunities to sell your junk

    1. the nostalgic factor is right around the corner in a couple more year
    2. using the dvd, t-shirt, mugs instead of e-begging
    3. charity

    going through places like cafe press, spredshirts and if you’re ambitious etsy – takes care of most of the shipping burdens

  5. Nalts, your niche is YouTube. Like you said, it seems pretty silly to expect a DVD with a small sampling of your work to sell when nearly all of your work is available for free online. And unlike action films and science fiction blockbusters, high definition versions of your work offer only a marginal improvement over a low quality version. Probably the only way to sell them is to include a significant portion of commentaries, extras, behind-the-scenes, and exclusive videos not available elsewhere. That might garner some interest for the more die-hard Nalts fans but probably not so much for your casual fans.

    Other Nalts paraphrenalia might be more marketable but you’d have to be smart about it. Frankly, I’d probably feel self-conscious wearing a shirt with a Nalts logo or your face on it but I can imagine something like an “Emo Loser” shirt being wildly popular with a little luck and a lot of promotion.

    I have a couple of math shirt I designed at CafePress (, but unsurprisingly, nobody has bought any probably because the designs are based on highly esoteric math jokes which many undergraduate math majors (or even beginning graduate students) might not understand. I of course love them for precisely that reason; they are inside jokes where the humor is inversely proportional to the number of people who understand it.

    By “being smart about it” I mean you can’t just slap a Nalts logo on something an expect even your most rabid fans to buy it. You should consider who might buy your products (it’s smart to make them appealing even to people who have never heard of you or else you are severely limiting yourself) and more importantly what kind of statement they are making by wearing/displaying your merchandise (“I’m a fan of this middle-aged, video-crazy, balding goofball from YouTube who you’ve probably never heard of.” is not the kind of statement likely to catch on.)

    Other than Emo Loser (or “Emo LooZ0R” which is my transcription of the way I hear Charlie say it), I can’t currently think of anything which seems likely to catch on, but my guess is that there is probably something you can find worth exploiting if you look hard enough.

  6. It’s so late, but I have to say that I just might buy a shirt that said “I’m a fan of this middle-aged, video-crazy, balding goofball from YouTube who you’ve probably never heard of”.

    One more thing–when I think back on the things I’ve said to Nalts, and the audacity of those things, and things I’ve seen other people say, I cringe. But this guy takes the cake.

  7. LOL. Well, there you go Nalts. Apparently there is at least a small market for sarcastic, self-deprecating humor.

    Hopefully you know I love you man and that I wrote what I did with the utmost affection. All of that is part of your charm. 😉

    BTW, did you ever see the Nalts as an Emo LooZ0R image I made?

  8. People have actually been asking me to make another DVD all year. I’ve sold more than Naltsy this year(!), BUT here’s the thing.

    I can’t justify making another one. It’s a lot of work, and people pirate it if they want it. One person buys it and then anyone that wants it has it.

    Then add the new secondary channel that so many of us are doing… What the hell is the point of a DVD? What is there to do that matters? I love listening to DVD commentary, which I do when I release a DVD (I’ve done two in the last decade), but as far as I know I am the only freak that enjoys commentary as much as I do.

    Deleted/unfinished stuff essentially has a home on channel #2. That was the other reason I made a DVD. I didn’t want to put that stuff on my channel, and still don’t. That was the right place for it. Now, a secondary channel is the perfect place for that. You keep the viewer on your content rather than going elsewhere, and it shows you care about people that want to see that kind of stuff.

    I can’t justify a DVD or a Blu-Ray. It just doesn’t seem smart if you aren’t like… a filmmaker. If you’re running a constant turnover of content that makes your DVD more and more obsolete every week, it just doesn’t make sense.

    A film, I get it. It’s the definitive collection of content on what is supposed to be an amazing snapshot of the filmmaker’s mind. All in one place. Don’t search YouTube, don’t fuck with Netflix, just put the damn disc in and anything I want related to this film is there.

    It’s just not like that with YouTube videos!

  9. The only way I can justify making a DVD would be like… a live show. Either doing my music live with a soundboard recording/multi-camera shoot or if I was good at standup – events someone can’t see on YouTube.

  10. Well, I could dip the DVD liner paper in a special mixture of happy chemicals! Guaranteed to create return traffic. I’m sure it would catch on!

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