The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Working with an MCN – Part I

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Multi Channel Network, fondly known to most creators by its abbreviation MCN, is an organization that works with video platforms such as YouTube, to offer assistance to a channel owner in areas such as “product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development” in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenue from the channel (thank you Wikipedia!)

If you are a YouTube creator with a subscriber count above 1000, it’s very likely that you have come across an MCN who has shown interest in working with you. In most cases, it’s pretty irresistible for a creator to turn down the offer made by an MCN – their suite of services that usually cover video production, distribution and monetisation. Adding to that, the concept of ‘taking a cut of what you make’ is generally an exciting proposal for any video creator in the early stages because of 2 reasons:
1. They don’t have to pay any fixed charges irrespective of how much money they make.
2. There is a greater incentive for the MCN to work towards building the creator’s brand and channel since their revenues are tied with what the creator makes.

Keeping all this into account, it’s usually a no-brainer for a budding YouTube creator to start working with an MCN and grow his / her channel.

So what’s the big deal?

Go to YouTube forums on Reddit and other social networks. Search for MCN related posts and you will start seeing countless posts by YouTubers talking about their horrible experience working with MCNs. MCN bashing is so common on such forums that you will start wondering how such a business model even exists.

MCN bashing is very common in YouTube related sub-reddits
MCN bashing is very common in YouTube related sub-reddits

So this clearly tells us that a lot of YouTube creators do not prefer working with MCNs or approach them with utmost caution. We’ve heard similar stories from our customers (including some of the YouTube influencers whom we interviewed in our YouTuber Success Stories segment) – most of them are worried about how transparent and ethical the MCNs are in their collaborations.

Why do MCNs do this?

Let’s try to empathise with them. Imagine a budding YouTuber with 1000 subscribers decides to work with an MCN. The MCN, with all good intentions, work with the creator day and night helping him grow his subscriber base to 100000 subscribers. Remember, MCN makes money when the creator makes money. So now’s the time they would be eager to take some cash home since the creator’s influence is bigger and the MCN is in a better position to reap from product placement deals and other revenue streams.

And all of a sudden, the YouTuber starts thinking, “Did they help me enough? Why don’t I just call it quits and leave them? I can keep that extra percentage of YouTube money to myself. Regarding collaborations and other deals, I will get them anyway since I am big now”. This is not a great situation to be in, for the MCN. Now to avoid such circumstances, they start being ultra defensive and protective in their contract which leads to very few creators really wanting to work with them.

How to work with an MCN

It doesn’t end empathising with the MCN. There are few things that a creator can do in order to make sure he builds a good working relationship with the MCN. Let’s see what they are:

1. Read the F*cking Contract – It’s very unusual that a YouTube creator requests for amendments in the contract document that’s proposed by the MCN. They blindly take up whatever comes only to realise later that they didn’t understand some of the caveats in the contract agreement. So it’s very important that the creator proactively evaluates the contract and ensure that he understands all the clauses. If he feels something is not fair, he should raise the concern and resolve it.

2. Talk to other creators – It also helps to find and talk to other creators (preferably of the same video domain) who have (a) decided to work with the MCN and (b) refused to work with the MCN. By talking to both these parties, you will get a good idea about how your relationship with the MCN can evolve with time. This would also help you choose between MCNs if you have more than one proposal in hand.

Comment below about your experience working with MCNs. For folks who are still deciding if you should move ahead with an MCN, we plan to cover more aspects of working with MCNs in the posts to come including the important contract clauses you should know while working with an MCN. Stay tuned!

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