For the past year or so, video streaming platform YouTube has been in a state of constant flux. A number of policy changes have affected creators both large and small, most recently with the way they've prevented channels with fewer subscribers and view counts from monetizing their videos. This can be incredibly demoralizing, especially to those illusionists with a small following who are trying to use YouTube as an opportunity to earn a living making magic for others. Owen Daughtery is one such magician, but rather than get discouraged, he’s viewing these changes as an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways.
Owen is a 20-year-old up-and-coming magician from East Sussex in the United Kingdom. He’s been making short films since he was ten, uploading them to YouTube since he was 12 (even though he had to lie about his age when he signed up), and has been practicing magic since he was 15. His current channel, NewGreenShoe, mainly focuses on two things that are near and dear to his heart: magic and social justice. It’s been around since 2013, and with a little more than 2,000 subscribers, it meets one of the requirements YouTube has outlined for monetization. However, he’s nowhere near to the second prerequisite of 4,000 hours of watchtime, thus doesn't receive any money earned from the ads YouTube places before his videos.
As a member of a generation that has grown up with the ubiquity of the internet, he’d embraced YouTube as an opportunity to not only learn magic, but try to become “internet famous” very early on. “YouTube was actually the first place I started learning magic, which in hindsight was not a good idea,” Owen told GeniiOnline via email. “Better to learn core material from books than from online.”
Even so, being surrounded by the magic community on YouTube has taught him a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and the kinds of challenges that arise strictly from video-focused magic. “Magic is so difficult to do on YouTube as people have to be really invested in the idea that you are being as fair as possible in terms of camera angles and what's on screen vs. what's not on screen.”
It’s also given him an opportunity to meet members of the UK magic community, including YouTuber Steven Bridges, as well as other YouTube content creators and even some of his fans. And when this last round of changes hit and basically destroyed his chances of making money until his channel gains a more sizable viewership, it forced him to reevaluate why he wants to be on YouTube in the first place.
Owen posted a video a few days ago in response to YouTube’s changes in its monetization policies called “I’m done with ‘Youtube’ (And why I love it)”. In the video, Owen describes the most important thing he’s gotten out of posting his creations—and it wasn’t the opportunity for money or fame, but rather the people he’s gotten to meet and the community he’s helped build. This realization completely shift how he looked at YouTube as a platform and what he wanted to get out of it.
“So am I doing this to reach ‘the top’, or am I creating as a hobby, was something that I was battling with creatively, as both would affect how I go forward with my channel,” Owen explains. “So when I heard that YouTube had cut off monetization for smaller channels, I basically made my mind up that YouTube was going to be my place for creativity (at the sake of weekly scheduled consistent content) instead of a business platform.”
Rather than trying to make a career out of making magic YouTube videos, he’s responding by shifting his focus to making a career out of magic, with his YouTube work as a supplemental portfolio. “I've only just properly started with magic being a source of stable income,” Owen says, “which is so exciting as to do this full-time has been the dream for a long while. With street magic shows and possible prospects of being a house magician at a venue in Brighton routinely it looks to be a very magic filled future!”
YouTube has also provided other benefits for Owen besides simply getting his work out there. “I've made some really good friends through YouTube,” Owen says, “and have had some really incredible opportunities to collaborate with other magicians which never could have happened without it. Despite magic being my main focus, I'm also really excited to see how I can continue to use YouTube to sharpen my skills and experiment with new ways of entertaining with magic through the internet.”
While Owen still hopes that YouTube improves its communication and transparency with creators, he’s no longer worrying about his view count or the potential money he could earn from his videos, even if another platform comes along to try to fix YouTube’s biggest problems. “At the end of the day, the greatest thing that's come from creating on YouTube is the people I've met,” Owen says. “Another platform could come along, but while I'm still able to connect with the community surrounding YouTube I won't be going anywhere.”
He also urges other smaller creators to not give up hope: “For people trying to grow their audience using magic, if you've been caught in the smaller channel demonetization update, absolutely don't let this dissuade you from continuing to post magic content to the platform. If anything now is the time to upload more than ever as with this update there has been a massive surge of traffic to smaller YouTube channels and this could be the step up you were looking for.”