It’s never easy to start over, on the internet or in life, but that’s just what Grace Helbig is doing right now. The online video star, who won the heart of the internet largely with her YouTube (s GOOG) channel Daily Grace, has split with YouTube network My Damn Channel. As the rights to Daily Grace belong to My Damn Channel, Helbig now has to rebuild her YouTube following on the new independent channel It’s Grace.
While It’s Grace currently has over 300,000 subscribers, the original Daily Grace account had at peak 2.4 million subscribers. According to VidStatsX, it has been dropping dramatically every day since the beginning of the year, when the channel shifted to posting, essentially, reruns.
If you’re a Daily Grace fan, there’s nothing on the YouTube channel to indicate where you might find new Helbig content; however, over the past several days, Helbig’s new channel has been the focal point of a rallying cry.
Folks from Hank and John Green to Wil Wheaton to ex-Attack of the Show host Kevin Pereira have urged their followers across all of social media to subscribe to It’s Grace,. Hank Green has been especially vocal on the topic, writing on Tumblr:
Not owning your content is a terrible (though not unusual) thing…it means that the company who does own your content can hold your stuff hostage and do anything they want with it. They can make you do things you don’t want to do. I’m not saying this is what My Damn Channel was doing to Grace, but I am saying I do COMPLETELY understand Grace not wanting to be part of that anymore.
What Helbig’s situation puts into sharp relief is the oddness of ownership when it comes to YouTube creators. Helbig’s brother Tim (also a YouTuber) highlighted this with his most recent tweet:
Thanks to the internet, I now have two sisters!! One is real and the other is a corporate entity.
— Tim Helbig (@RaginBotanist) January 2, 2014
My Damn Channel, of course, doesn’t own Helbig herself, but its contract with her does give them the rights to the content made and the following built while she was an employee. When It’s Grace launches tomorrow, it’ll likely maintain Helbig’s signature vlog style, developed over the past five years of Daily Grace updates.
Say what you will about My Damn Channel’s decision not to release the Daily Grace channel back to Helbig, but it is in part due to their years of support that Helbig has become what so many who make content for the web aspire to — a genuine celebrity, with crossover potential.
For no better evidence, look at Camp Takota, the feature film starring her and frequent collaborator Hannah Hart. The film, which was initially produced in collaboration with Chill (prior to its shutdown), is now available for pre-order through a distribution deal with VHX. In the trailer, Helbig is in pure leading lady mode — a Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl, except with the proven ability to be funny.
Helbig’s final Daily Grace video of 2013, SEE YOU NEXT YEAR, does include a sincere “thank you” to My Damn Channel. “They provided me with a job, which is awesome,” she said, before going on to say that things would be “different” going forward.
Expect news like this to become more and more common — disputes between creators and the companies which fund and support content are becoming a more regular occurrence as the money involved becomes real.
Even YouTube itself is no longer immune, as several people who built their followings on the platform are considering other venues for their content (theoretically, venues that do not take a reported 45 percent cut).
Looking ahead at 2014, it’s clear that one of the biggest challenges facing creators is finding the balance between independence and the kind of financial stability that comes with making the right deals. There are no shortage of opportunities to sign away your rights to your channels, on a temporary or permanent basis — finding the right deal is just as much a challenge as creating the content for it.