Why can working with an MCN be a good option?

by
AM

If you are a musician who wishes to position your content, generate the greatest possible earnings with your songs and videos, and prevent others from benefiting from your products, perhaps you should consider joining a multi-channel network, or MCN, one of the most viable options for achieving the above.

While most MCNs are more focused on youtubers and channels that generate audiovisual content, the specialization of many in the music industry has meant that more and more musicians decide to sign a contract with one of these companies. Perhaps the most popular is VeVo, with which well-known mainstream artists like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Rihanna work.

Basically, an MCN is a business or organization that works with video platforms such as YouTube to provide assistance in areas such as product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization, sales and audience development, in exchange for a percentage of the income generated by the channel (thanks, Wikipedia, for the definition). But, how does this translate for an artist who has a YouTube channel and wants to get the most out of his or her content?

One of the most important benefits of working with an MCN is the possibility of having access to a content manager that allows you to administer a Content ID. When you upload a video to YouTube, the content manager scans it and adds it to its database. If anybody else uploads your video or part of it, even just the audio, then this tool provided by YouTube to MCNs allows you or the company with whom you have signed a contract to take legal action, such as blocking your video for a certain country or worldwide, eliminating the audio from your video, or generating earnings through publicity with the videos that these other individuals may upload. If somebody wants to spread your products while generating earnings for you, why not let them? Cover versions of “Despacito” number in the thousands, and its owners are grateful. Another advantage of belonging to an MCN is that if you violate the copyright of someone else by uploading a video, you won’t have to face this problem alone; the lawsuit will be filed against you and your MCN. That is, you can count on a group of trained people to defend you and help you find the best solution.

Now, to obtain a Content ID from YouTube, the MCN must demonstrate that it is the owner of its content, (or that it holds the rights, whether as producer or distributor of the material) and sign an agreement with YouTube stipulating that only videos with those content can form part of the Content ID. It must also hold the exclusive rights to a considerable amount of original material that the YouTube users’ community frequently uploads. If nobody sees your videos or reuses them, why should the platform allow the Content ID to be used? Luckily, the MCN with which you sign a contract should take care of all of that.

Esquema de funcionamiento de las MCN. Ilustración: Mayo Bous.
Scheme of operation of the MCN. Illustration: Mayo Bous.

MCNs also oversee the monetization of their contents. On YouTube, publicity is paid based on how many times a video is reproduced (and at the same time, the publicity contained within it.” The term that is used, CPM (coste per mille) refers to payment per every thousand printouts (or views) a video has. The MCN with which you sign a contract should take charge of finding the best publicity opportunities on the market, meaning the best possible pay for every thousand views of your content. This might seem like a small thing, but the search for advertisers is a serious problem, and a big waste of time for artists who prefer to focus on their career. Of course, to do this, first you must make sure that you will have at least tens of thousands of views monthly.

To do that, the MCN should analyze your subscribers, examine which content has more success, and the age range of your followers, to be able to advise on what the characteristics of your content should be. Moreover, the MCN will use some of the main artists on its list to promote the career of other, lesser-known artists; will help you to have more involvement with your audience (that is, by responding to commentaries, and launching questions or contests); and will provide access to better tools for video editing, marketing and promotion, as well as facilities for production, participation in events, and merchandising sales related to the artist. This does not mean that every MCN’s package includes all of these facilities, but they offer many options to those who sign contracts with them. In short, the more popular an artist (meaning the more subscribers and views/reproductions), the greater the earnings for both.
Evaluating how much a Cuban artist can benefit from joining an MCN is quite simple. From the precarious Internet connections in our country to our lack of expertise in managing and monetizing video contents and platforms, there are reasons enough to delegate this financial aspect to someone more specialized (MCNs). Plus, there is finally a way to earn money from music videos! It is no longer necessary to have a video solely for winning prizes or gaining visibility; now you can generate income over an unlimited period of time.

In conclusion, it is important to understand that signing a contract with an MCN is not all roses. Artists should know what they want and how much they are willing to give, and not just in financial terms. These contracts often grant ownership of all the artist’s contents to the MCN (meaning if you end or violate your contract, the contents generated until then will no longer provide you with earnings), prevent collaboration with artists who are not part of that MCN, and so on — a whole series of cons listed by famous YouTubers who regret their contracts once they want to find a new beginning. This is why it is important to always consult a lawyer, and if possible, talk to people who are part of an MCN and others who have decided not to join it. It is the artist who ends up being wholly responsible when deciding to sign a contract without being aware of all the concessions that must be made.

In the end, MCNs are a new and necessary actor in the world of online audiovisuals. Just like books need publishing houses, films need distributors and videogames need someone to back them, MCSs are the way to go for obtaining visibility in saturated video platforms. Striking out on your own is like shooting an arrow into the air; you might hit something, but your chances will be much better if you make the attempt with people who know the road and have the tools to do so. All in all, if you upload videos, it is because you want to be seen, and if you want to be seen, the way to go is an MCN.

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