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PPL and making a living as a youtuber

Hi all,
I am following a bunch of aviation YouTubers and some of them have enough views and sponsor to make a living out of it. A portion of these though still only hold a PPL which technically does not allow people to fly and be paid for it.
I think this is an interesting and relatively new situation from a legal perspective, and I was wondering if any authority could argue that this kind of activity is not allowed with a PPL. After all, you are not technically paid for the flight itself but for telling a story about it. On the other hand that could be framed as professional entertainment, which would fall in the same category as flying in an airshow professionally, which would still require a CPL at least as far as I understand.
Any thoughts from the regulation experts?

Cheers
Seba

Training PPL
LFST, France

Seba wrote:

A portion of these though still only hold a PPL which technically does not allow people to fly and be paid for it

Wondered the same about Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson who only holds a normal driving license I don’t think CPL angle is the right way to see it, in the other hand FAA had relaxed rules for the “filming industry”, so YT is probably not an exception

AFAIK, to fly in Airshows you don’t need CPL but not sure how people making a living out of it get paid (I recall you would be very tankful if you get a full tank of fuel)

Last Edited by Ibra at 15 Jan 12:23
ESSEX, United Kingdom

Seba, are you sure they are making anything, let alone serious money?

I recall a previous discussion, regarding a pilot who was regularly posting YT videos on forums, where it was reported that YT doesn’t start paying you anything until you have 1000 followers. It may be easy to get 1k (or 1M) followers if you post movies of cats falling off trees, etc, but in GA?

FWIW I have been doing flying videos for years, on Vimeo and more recently duplicated (in the usual poor quality) on YT, and while I have not been plugging them all over the internet, the number of followers is … 53. And that is despite them being on EuroGA (which has a massive amount of traffic; thousands of pilots reading it every day) and peter2000.co.uk (100GB/month of traffic). One of them, a short flight from Split to Brac, got a very unusual ~3k views in a day or two when it got published in a Croatian newspaper. My YT channel has 15 followers. Hence I find it hard to believe someone is making real money.

Also facebook is full of people plugging flying videos. It is free so everybody with anything to show or sell is dropping it everywhere on fb they can find. So your content gets diluted – even if most of the competing material will be crap. I think to get followers you have to really work on it, with twitter, instagram, hashtags coming out of your ears, basically spend your whole day banging on the internet. Oh, and pay some €€€ to google to show them in searches.

I can imagine the lady who posted all the videos of her flying (mostly helicopters I think – dammit dammit I can’t find her right now ), while wearing almost nothing, got enough followers to pay for avgas, but most of us can offer no more than possibly a hairy chest Same for the famous Gulfstream Girl, later to become Global Girl, who probably did as well while still wearing clothes (her videos could be watched at the office ). The passport, of course, is the male dominated community.

It reminds me of how many people I have met who said they had a PC running 24/7 at home doing automated trading and were making nice money out of it. Despite asking everybody I’ve ever met in the business, I’ve never found any proof of that being possible after one paid for the stock price feed. At the 1M/year level you could probably do it.

I would be surprised if YT earnings were easy to verify because if they were, the tax authorities would be trawling YT and investigating everybody on there who is making money. This is why most AirB&B hosts are more or less anonymous, too

I’ve never heard of any PPL holder getting done for making money for peripheral activities. Many people with PPLs have published books of photos taken from planes, for example.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

Seba, are you sure they are making anything, let alone serious money?

Sure YT itself does not bring in a lot of money, but most people have activities on the side like selling merchandise, and most importantly sponsors (all the “big” ones have at least Bose and Foreflight as sponsors). The thing is, as soon as they are getting more money than what they pay for the flight costs, then they are making a profit, even if it is not enough to make a living.
Mine was more a theoretical question of the likes of “if someone with a PPL was making enough money to make a profit with such activities, would that be legal”?

Seba

Last Edited by Seba at 15 Jan 12:44
Training PPL
LFST, France

I know a YouTuber with a million subscribers and very good engagement, and there is absolutely no way he can make a living from it. It’s become harder and harder.

He made USD 40K last year and spent way more than that actually producing the content. It’s an expensive hobby. Like flying ;)

As Seba says, there are other intangible benefits such as being invited places and getting sent ‘stuff’.

Last Edited by stevelup at 15 Jan 12:47

I know a YouTuber with a million subscribers

What is his specialisation?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I didn’t know you had a youtube channel peter ! You will have many more than 15 followers if you advertised about it.
I am subscribing now. The name is not the most trivial.

I don’t understand how the youtubers I watch can make a living apart from the videos.
Flightchops is definitely full time on his channel, and he pays some crews to help.

LFPT, LFEH

Peter wrote:

FWIW I have been doing flying videos for years, on Vimeo and more recently duplicated (in the usual poor quality) on YT, and while I have not been plugging them all over the internet, the number of followers is … 53. And that is despite them being on EuroGA (which has a massive amount of traffic; thousands of pilots reading it every day) and peter2000.co.uk (100GB/month of traffic). One of them, a short flight from Split to Brac, got a very unusual ~3k views in a day or two when it got published in a Croatian newspaper. My YT channel has 15 followers. Hence I find it hard to believe someone is making real money.

Well, you need high-quality footage, smart editing, and a bit of storytelling. Of course, just the video of the flight is not gonna attract a lot of people.

Jujupilote wrote:

Flightchops is definitely full time on his channel, and he pays some crews to help.

Yes, he is one of my favourites. Not sure if he has a CPL yet but he definitely is not IR rated at the moment so my guess is he is only PPL.

Steveo1kinevo is also quite nice to watch but he is a pro with ATPL so not really on-topic here.

Anyway, for most YouTubers, in any field, the revenue does not come from the views but from the side activities.
Still wondering about my legal question above though

Last Edited by Seba at 15 Jan 13:36
Training PPL
LFST, France

Seba wrote:

Still wondering about my legal question above though

It seems at least historically journalism has not been regarded as an activity requiring a CPL.

It seems in a best case you can make about 1 euro per subscriber per year. But obviously only with sponsors, patrons and a topic which can generate income. For example flying videos watched by non pilots are probably rather worthless. Flying videos watched mostly by pilots could do a lot better. If there was a decent European channel like steveo1kinevo I would try to sponsor it but I did not come across one yet…

www.ing-golze.de
EDAZ

I run a 40Mio$ business on digital channels as part of my remit and have grown this business line from 0 to this level in 4 years time, I would say you can make money if you are smart about it and very, very dedicated. Looking at YT as a standalone way of reaching your audiences is the wrong way of going about it, while you are producing this content (which admittedly takes time) you need to be thinking about how you syndicate that content to all other social channels. (FB, YT, Instagram, Amazon PVD, etc…). When you look at these “creators” as Youtube calls them they have varying ways of monetisation that increasingly move away from AVOD. The to creators who are diligent (and post about once a week, according to a well defined schedule) all have Patreon or other forms of subscription where people who enjoy their content pay a monthly fee (or a fee per post). Instagram mainly monetises through sponsorship and FB is only monetisable above 10K subscribers per channel. If you are smart your digital content business becomes a run rate business and you build it up over the years, even on older content it is possible to monetise very, very well if you are smart about and at at a very low cost.

LFHN - Bellegarde - Vouvray France
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