A consequence of Friendlyjordies’ interest in John Barilaro is that the popular Australian YouTuber has been spending quite a bit of time and money on lawyers lately.
Shanks says the law firm Xenophon Davis is representing him, his producer and also his producer’s mother in a claim that police assaulted her during her son’s arrest.
During a video depicting his producer’s arrest, Shanks made a plea for his viewers to chip in to help fund these legal costs.
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The income and fundraising efforts of Shanks, who didn’t respond to questions from Crikey for this article, will be crucial to pay for what will likely be expensive legal costs and a potential defamation payout.
How much has he made?
Friendlyjordies’ interest in John Barilaro has been a lucrative one for the YouTuber. While the videos he’s made about the deputy premier haven’t reached the peaks of popularity like some of his other content, his focus has been rewarded in other ways.
Shanks released his “bruz” video about John Barilaro on September 14, 2020. With 675,000 views, it’s more popular than an average video for him but doesn’t crack his top 10. (His top three videos are, in order: a Trump impersonation; a video about Clive Palmer; and a parody of the television series RBT.)
Similarly, he saw a larger than normal but overall modest bump in YouTube subscribers and Facebook followers in September.
What did change was the number of Friendlyjordies fans who were willing to directly financially support Shanks’ work — showing the benefit of not just having scale, but also a willing audience happy to pay for what he does.
Shanks has a Patreon account, where users can sign up as members at different tiers, with high levels enjoying more perks, including early access to videos or no ads.
In August 2020, 1672 people had signed up at some level, according to Patreon analytics tool Graphtreon.
By the end of September, when he released “bruz”, Friendlyjordies’ Patreon membership had more than doubled to 3716, and has stayed roughly around that level since.
Shanks is also monetising his focus on Barilaro in other ways. He’s selling merchandise, including a set comprising a keychain and shirt with a cartoon of Barilaro’s face wearing a Mario Bros hat atop a set of testicles. That will cost you $50 plus shipping.
How much does he earn?
So, how much is Shanks earning from his ventures all up? It’s impossible to know exactly but publicly available information can shed some light on his income.
The Friendlyjordies main Patreon account has made 39 video posts since the “bruz” video. Members are charged somewhere between $1 and $20 per video post, although users can set a monthly maximum. At 3500 subscribers, this means Shanks would have netted at least US$136,500 if every member was paying the lowest tier for every video, before Patreon service and currency fees were taken into account.
The number of subscribers at each tier isn’t public but this amount would obviously increase if the average member is paying more than the lowest tier. At an average of $3 per member, Shanks would have earned more than US$400,000 in the past nine months.
Shanks also receives revenue directly from YouTube for advertisements played over his videos on the platform. The amount of money per ad played varies widely and isn’t public, but social media analytics tool Social Blade estimates his monthly advertising income somewhere between US$1000 and US$16,000 per month.
Shanks also runs a Friendlyjordies podcast with a similar Patreon subscription service that charges members US$1-US$10 per podcast.
The show, which Shanks hosts with two others, had 880 subscribers in January (at which point the subscriber number metric was made private).
At 800 subscribers, Shanks would have netted a minimum of US$49,600 from 62 episodes of the podcast since the “bruz” video came out, assuming everyone pays the lowest amount. It would likely be significantly more than that.
Taken together, it’s safe to assume that Shanks has earned a minimum of US$200,000 from his Patreon and YouTube accounts since “bruz” came out and likely significantly more than that.
Shanks also makes money from his merchandise, tickets to his live shows, and he also charges for access to recordings of all his old shows.
His income, likely among the top creators in Australia, is the culmination of years of work by his team. Shanks is a prolific YouTuber and podcaster who has grown a large audience over years who are willing to pay him directly for what he’s done.
Shanks’ digital output also has costs. His co-hosts, producers and editors, as well as production costs and equipment, would not be cheap. Plus, of course, there are his legal costs.
The media strategy
The release of news about the arrest of Friendlyjordies producer Kristo Langker was a carefully choreographed affair to maximise political pressure and raise money.
On Monday morning, a public holiday, a media release was sent out by Blackwattle Media on behalf of Xenophon Davis about the arrest, which had happened more than a week before.
Shanks also coordinated a release of a YouTube video with a call to action for his audience: donate.
“There’s a link to our legal fund in the description,” Shanks says to the camera. “Donate if you can because this has gone from a legal spectacle that exposes limits of free speech to exposing the confines of your civil liberties, which are a lot smaller than you thought.”
The strategy has worked. The arrest was covered by media outlets and other creators, been widely condemned, and the legal fund web page has been shared more than 2000 times on Facebook.
The amount of money donated to Shanks isn’t public but not long after the video was posted, thousands of dollars had been pledged as donations by dozens of people on social media. One Twitter user, who said he was a retiree, donated $1000 in support saying: “This is as much as I can do for now.”
Shanks and his team are the David in the legal proceedings against their various Goliaths. But thanks to a very healthy income and the willingness of his fans to chip in to help out, the “little guy” in this legal fight may be surprisingly well-funded.
Update: This article was updated to include that Patreon members can set monthly limits on their donations.