MrBeast’s Limits

[Written July 17, 2023]

I read an article🌎 on MrBeast becoming “the Willy Wonka of YouTube,” via tumblr🌎, and I have thoughts of mediocre quality.  Nonetheless…

Perhaps the key point is that a “charity spectacle” video precludes MrBeast from making a long-term impact.  It’s great for the people that get some money or services, to be sure.  But he can’t contribute to any organizations’ endowment funds, because direct and immediate help produces numbers for the camera that are 25 to 30 times bigger.

He also can’t make steady contributions to an organization’s operations.  A spectacle isn’t necessarily repeatable, and certainly not as an annual video.  The organization can’t budget for it, and can’t rely on him as a donor.

If subscribers are the ones chosen to receive the benefit, then in some sense, MrBeast is running a lottery.  But instead of being funded directly by the winners and players, the prize pool comes from from a third party seeking to influence those players.

The rest of it doesn’t look all that bad.  For all the hand-wringing, back in my day, we all wanted to grow up and be front man for the best-ever rock band.  Lead singer, lead guitarist; we didn’t know why anyone would play rhythm guitar or bass.1  We looked to front men (always men, as men in a sexist world) and dreamed of being up there.  Paid handsomely, a crowd of fans, having fun.  It was an almost impossible dream: millions of kids, and very few ultra-popular bands.  It wasn’t even ultra-popularity that we really celebrated; it was the underdogs, the rising stars, the young new bands (more like us) that really created the fantasy of vaulting from small-town suburbia into national fame.

To look back at fans of MrBeast, then, none of it really seems that different from what we were doing.  We were looking to entertainers, dreaming of being them, selfishly absorbed in imagining a better life only for ourselves.

I know there’s a moral hazard involved with accepting ad dollars for anything, including “to make a living” and “to give to charity,” but on the other hand, commission-based sales seem to be socially acceptable?  I’d love to have a different system, one where people had money and time to directly make the world a better place with, instead of routing it through products to MrBeast (a single point of failure) and out to a small number of big winners.  I’d love something that didn’t feel so much like the prototype for a pyramid scheme.  On the other hand, MrBeast is playing the hand that was dealt pretty well.

I wonder how much of it is, “Things are different, and I hate it.”

I would not even know bass existed for quite some time. The one girl would show up to high school in a shirt reading, Lesh Philling, Bass Great and I could only get the beer dimension. Could you… just play bass drum?