There are still aspects of the YouTube fame machine that no one talks about. But in true YouTube fashion, if you're going to call something out, it better be set to a catchy tune.
Jon Cozart does just that in his latest video.
"My friends are dictated by similar subscriber counts," he sings in "YouTube Culture: A Song." In the short single he calls out problematic aspects of YouTube stardom, from the popularity of drinking games on channels where subscriber ages are well under 21, or YouTubers using ghostwriters to write books—charging hundreds of dollars for live appearances. It's everything no one else is willing to say on camera about the weirdness of YouTube fame.Cozart actually waited a long time to release this song and accompanying video because he was nervous about the response he'd get from both fans and the YouTuber community.
"I wrote the song last year for my one-man show in Edinburgh and I've been holding onto it because I was afraid of backlash," Cozart told the Daily Dot. "But I wrote it to sort out my feelings about how YouTube is changing and I either need to change with it or figure out a new career. It's a real internal conflict, and I feel like selling out used to be such a contentious issue on YouTube and now I can count the non-sellouts on one hand, and I'm not one of them."
Cozart, for his part, has the song available for purchase on iTunes, and that's why the joke works. Cozart knows he's part of the game and can acknowledge it, like lyrics that call out "exploit[ing] fandoms for a bottom line"—click over to Cozart's most popular videos and find Disney parody songs that helped him land 3.3 million subscribers.
It also works because he's got backup from seven other big-name YouTubers in the clip. Anna Akana, Flula Borg, Kingsley, Steve Zaragoza, Timothy DeLaGhetto, Joe Penna, and Jack Douglass all lend their talents to the clip, but they weren't the only people Cozart invited to join him.
"I emailed my favorite people in L.A. and got mixed responses," he said. "About a third of the creators I reached out to ended up in the video, another third was absolutely against the song, and the last third either had scheduling conflicts or didn't bother to respond."
It's easy to see why some YouTubers would balk at participating, with lines like, "I'm monetizing kissing guys and/I won't come out the closet till I've got something to sell about it" and "I'm privileged, white, and rich, and male and/You are not, so worship at my YouTube sale."
Cozart calls the crew he ended up with "no-drama YouTubers" and said he's happy how the shoot and finished product turned out. As for the fans' reactions to the song, commenter ThatGuyNamedBen sums it up best:
"I'd love to see the Fine Bros. do a 'YouTuber's React' to this video. Watch them all sit there with awkward smiles on their faces and laugh nervously," he wrote.