YouTube creators like Shane Dawson, Ryland Adams, and Smosh co-founder Anthony Padilla have called out digital network Defy Media following its closure for a series of concerning business practices.
Defy Media was the parent company of some of YouTube’s most popular channels, including Smosh, Smosh Games, and Clevver. The network announced last week that it was shutting down operations immediately, leaving teams at Smosh and Clevver looking for a new parent company to back their talent team and production costs. Now, in wake of the news, several creators who worked with Defy Media and Defy Media’s multichannel network (MCN) are expressing their own grievances with Defy Media’s predatory practices and lack of professionalism.
Adams, a successful YouTuber and Dawson’s partner, used to work with Clevver News. Adams tweeted out his testimony about alleged mistreatment that he experienced at Defy Media, noting that he never spoke about it at the time of his departure because he was “being threatened by Defy’s lawyers on a daily basis.”
“Instead of taking them to court and being stuck in limbo for what could have been years I accepted to join their MCN which is why they were in a position to get a percent,” Adams tweeted. “I was forced to become a part of Defy Media’s MCN, meaning the YouTube money I work hard for filters through them. After they take a percent of my ads, I then get paid my money. This month, I was never paid. A bank took Defy’s money, which so happens to be mine that I may never see again.”
Padilla, one of the most prominent YouTube creators who worked under Defy Media, shared his own experiences. He spoke about Defy executives attempting to keep him out of meetings set up to greenlight new shows, forcing the team to launch a $250,000 Indiegogo campaign for a poorly conceived mobile game, and trying to take control of his personal Twitter account once he left the company. Defy’s announcement of its immediate closure, which will affect hundreds of employees, didn’t surprise Padilla, but he suggested the way the company handled it was telling of its morals.
“And to top it all off, today they announced they’re closing down without giving any kinds of heads up to anyone,” he said in his video, “and putting so many people’s livelihoods on the line.”
Padilla’s video resonated with other prominent members in the YouTube community, including Hank Green, who tweeted out his support of independent creators after testimonies started coming to light.
“The more I learn about the business of early online video, how things actually went down, the more I see that the ‘wild west’ wasn’t about how free we were to create, it was about how free assholes were to suck value out of innovative young creators,” Green wrote.
People like Green and Dawson, who never worked with Defy Media, came to the defense of Padilla, Adams, and others on Twitter, tweeting out similar stories they heard. In a series of since-deleted tweets, Dawson called out the company for ripping off creators.
“Imagine being a YouTube network that steals all their creators hard earned money and then files for bankruptcy and uses the creators money to pay their debt,” Dawson tweeted. “Can’t relate.”
Lisa Schwartz, a YouTube creator who worked within Defy’s MCN, announced on Twitter that she had to discover Defy Media was shutting down through a Tubefilter article. She added that no one from Defy Media reached out to anyone beforehand.
Now, numerous creators within the MCN are in a state of limbo, trying to figure out how to receive their AdSense payments — a procedure once completed through Defy Media. According to Tubefilter, YouTube is trying to work with creators to ensure that their AdSense payments wind up in their personal wallets, enrolling individual creators into YouTube’s Partner Program and unlinking them from Defy Media, according to TubeFilter.
More creators are coming out of the woodwork to tell their own Defy Media stories, but the company has gone radio silent on social media. It did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment.