YouTube content creators beware; it's not just divergent political opinions that can result in arbitrary demonetization and loss of income.
In the case of trailblazing music producer Ryan Celsius, it was "misleading thumbnails" that earned him a full demonetization as well as a "shadowblock" on several videos uploaded to his eight-year-old channel, which boasts more than 60 million views, 980 videos and nearly 400,000 subscribers as of this writing.
"Surprisingly to me the reason provided was fairly vague and didn't identify which of my 900+ public videos was in violation of the policy. It only noted that I had 1 or more videos with a 'Misleading thumbnail' designed to gain views," Celsius told Zero Hedge.
I reached out to creator support again and they struggled to understand my issue or provide any new information on why my videos were shadow blocked despite YouTube policy stating video searchability and visibility is not affected by monetization. After a month of being demonetized and having my videos blocked , no bot or human at YouTube can even tell me how my content is 'misleading' or why the subjective opinion of a non offensive image on 1 of 900+ videos merits taking down a whole channel. -Ryan Celsius.
The thumbnails in question often include anime, Simpsons fan-art, and nostalgic imagery to match both the audio and visuals created by Celsius and guest artists he elevates using his platform. Of note, the channel was not demonetized due to copyright violations, however when asked about the shadowbans, YouTube pointed to claims by other artists.
"I refuted this since I know all of the claimants," said Celsius. "When I asked them which specific claimant blocked the videos (since this information is not visible) they said that it could not be known."
YouTube has no clue what to make of Celsius
"The running joke in the community is that the YouTube policy team cannot understand the link between Japan -> Trap Music -> Anime -> The Simpsons, so since they don't understand my content it must be misleading," said RC, adding "Apparently, the YouTube demonetization has been somewhat of a plague for the creators in my community. For example, a few creators I know such as SmoothSounds and RizonielTV have been hit with the same demonetization issues as well as copyright strikes."
Ryan's unique style combines phonk, trap and hip-hop music against nostalgic backdrops, popular anime clips and other interesting footage. In short, it's an entirely new genre.
I create experimental visual mixtapes that intersect many genres of music. Internally, when I create mixes or single videos I imagine I am creating a soundtrack for a movie that doesn't exist yet or even a movie that couldn't exist," said Celsius.
"It started as a personal project for my own enjoyment. I never expected to build an audience of thousands of people, but when I did, I felt like it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of this huge opportunity I was given," he told Amuse.io in January.
I spend most of my time looking for tracks from independent artists that fit in with the concepts I want to develop. On the way I usually find tons of other tracks that I would not have discovered otherwise. This digital crate digging has led me to find a lot of incredibly talented artists that are taking the styles of music I enjoy such as vapor trap, phonk, lofi hip hop, dark trap and continuing to expand them. I am honored that I have an opportunity to help represent these artists. -Ryan Celsius
The channel's immensely popular 'Trappin' in Japan' series features custom mixes by Celsius and others set to footage of people walking and driving through various parts of the island nation.
Other videos feature remixed beats set to clips from popular nostalgia, such as the 1989 animated film Akira.
What's more, Celsius has at least two 24/7 streaming channels, where hundreds of fans chat in real time as a staff of moderators police the room for bad vibes and self-promotion.
In short, Ryan has created a platform for a unique community of musicians and fans to enjoy their creations - and neither YouTube's algorithms, nor their "creator support" group at the Silicon Valley behemoth have any clue what box to put him in. None of RC's content is particularly controversial, so his demonetization should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who depends on YouTube ad revenue for income.
Fortunately for Ryan this isn't going to put him on skid row. "YouTube was not my primary source of income," he said. "[B]ut it brought in enough money to run a suite of beefy VPS's to run my livestreams and purchase any albums or other content / equipment to continue making videos and growing."
YouTube did not respond when reached for comment.