Joseph is more widely known at Stampylongnose and over the last week he finally made his presence known in the mainstream with some appearances on the BBC. By and large the focus was on money, how he makes it and how much he makes. Whilst coy about the latter he has plenty to say about the ways in which he turns the millions of eyeballs viewing his videos into cash.
In short, he lets YouTube do all the hard work. In fact he was clear that: “there’s no business knowledge needed at all.” The point at which his income from online advertising was outstripping the minimum wage from working in a bar, was the moment he joined the hallowed ranks of being a ‘YouTube Entrepreneur‘ (rather than a ‘Minecraft Entrepreneur’ as labelled by the BBC’s caption). Joseph’s, accidental, narrowly-focused success is precarious – his channel was briefly and inexplicably banned by Google – but it represents a trend whereby the ways in which success with digital happens is multifarious and seemingly unpredictable.
The ‘Let’s Play’ genre (very much not an instructional game walkthrough but an irreverent, humorous, literal playing of the game) is niche but is viable enough to sustain income for a growing number of specialist companies as well as individuals looking to earn income for themselves or others. Whats more, games companies are increasingly seeing it as a viable form of promotion for their titles rather than an infringement of copyright.
There are two lessons I think we can take from likes of Joseph Garrett/Stamplongnose et al (see also Amy Lee). Firstly, as an educator, it’s a reminder that I know nothing about the career destinations of students in the digital sector. It’s too unpredictable. All you can do is point at the things happening and perhaps research into such phenomenon. But it tells me that the last thing I should do is advise on the kinds of jobs that students might end up doing. Better perhaps to focus on the possibilities for income generation rather than the more narrow skills/roles discussion that we tend to accentuate.
Secondly, it strikes me that Joseph represents the antithesis of the self-consciously hipster, start-up culture that frames the ways in which we tend to think about digital entrepreneurship. Joseph’s success comes from his fandom and from the everyday nature of game-playing. There’s no business plan, no investors to please, no red trousers to wear.
In my children’s eyes Joseph Garrett is a legend. But a normal one who does the things they do. Now they understand how he makes a living from it – from the thing he and they both love doing – I hope he’ll continue to be a visitor in our house for the foreseeable future.