So I made the decision to remove all videos except from the most recent from Vimeo. I am still using the Vimeo player to stream the videos on my own site, and embedding outside Vimeo is still enabled, meaning existing links won't break, but now my videos are not browsable through a Vimeo URL. Again, my films can still be accessed, shared and embedded via my own website and I'll probably continue to share new work on Vimeo for short periods before moving it to my personal site. So I'm still a subscriber, a fan (see the CGWTF channel for my picks) and a user, but I don't want my work to live there permanently. There's no drama, really.
Part of this is an editorial issue: Vimeo doesn't offer many of the design or curatorial tools that I find useful when displaying or organising my work. I can't distinguish between tests and fully realised works or between art and commercial commissions. Up until recently I'd been paying for two separate Pro accounts just in order to separate works I felt shouldn't sit together. As it stands, my personal site provides the most sympathetic context for my work. I can publish with properly formatted text, links, essays, stills and comments. My films can be organised like they should in a portfolio. A visitor can see my practice as I'd like it presented alongside my blog that contextualises it with the work of similar artists and themes. But is this editorial control worth the loss of the browsing Vimeo audience?
I don't know. I do know that simply publishing to Vimeo won't get you a lot of hits in itself. Thousands of videos are uploaded each day and you have limited means of getting eyes on them. The platform is a little stale and doesn't have a particularly dynamic community outside of a few specialist subgroups. The only truly effective way of differentiating your work on the platform is the Staff Pick. I've had five Staff Picks since I joined Vimeo (about one a year, on average), and close to a million plays across various films, some of which I retired some time ago. Staff Picks bring likes, views and comments (as well as validation that your work is good... kinda) but often the most valuable result is the chance of a video breaking out of the Vimeo box and getting featured elsewhere for bigger audiences.
Having watched this happen a few times, I'm very aware that this best-case scenario isn't necessarily as rewarding as it seems. Even if my work does run the editorial gauntlet successfully, the result is usually that my "content" is harvested by external publications that can monetise it through advertising. This does draw visits to my site, and is partially responsible for the nice emails I get from other artists, students, academics and festival organisers. I love this part of sharing my stuff online (although I could do without the startups offering to exclusively license my "creator content" to their subscribers). I'll also find new Vimeo and Twitter contacts who share my interests, but - crucially - not a huge influx of offers for paid work or commissions.
The art stuff tends to happen through real-life networks and open calls, Twitter, funding applications and proposals. Vimeo just isn't the place for that kind of community - there are some great, successful artists on Vimeo that have just a few hundred views on their work - Katie Torn, for example. Even galleries like The Serpentine or Gavin Brown - both have published Ed Atkins' and Mark Leckey's CGI friendly work - can only rack up a few hundred hits for their videos.
Commercial commissioning, on the other hand, works better through Vimeo, or at least it used to. Back in 2012 I was regularly contacted through the site for freelance gigs, but over the past couple of years this kind of approach has become a lot rarer (and that's not just because my work has become less populist!). I get the feeling - and it's hard to confirm - that if a commercial client likes my work they'll put it on a mood board and present a brief to a closer contact, a bigger studio or an advertising agency. A year or so ago, I gained three followers in the same two hour window, each one a major VFX studio. I presume that a tender must have been sent out with a link to my work in it. I know similar stuff happens to artists like Nic Hamilton and Andreas Nicolas Fischer (we've moaned about it on Twitter).
I'm not primarily motivated my financial concerns here - I get by just fine - but my work doesn't come from strangers on the internet, it comes from more concerted relationships. And I'm not saying that I want the advertising revenue that a Staff Pick generates for content farmers: I wouldn't let people watch my work online for free if that were the case. I just feel increasingly conscious that the best-case Vimeo Staff Pick process is not as rewarding as it seems. I have the suspicion that even artists and designers making more popular art and better commercial work than me are being short-changed by the same media dynamic. There's a few that probably make it work - Zolloc and Albert Omoss pump out great experimental stuff and get work from it, but neither rely on Vimeo for that. Instagram is the place to go, it seems.
Of course, taking my work off Vimeo isn't going to solve these problems. It might just mean less people see my work! Wouldn't it be better just to relax about the whole thing and embrace the dynamics of the game? Well, I guess I think that I'm perhaps playing the wrong game for my kind of work. For the time being, I'd like to prune my online presence, take a bit more control of it and explore other options. That might mean releasing shorter clips via Instagram and Twitter, rejoining Facebook or being a bit more agile and pursuing more opportunities like the recent premiere of my work "Primitives" on POSTmatter.
What would be really great is if there were more vibrant places to show video art online - somewhere with a different kind of culture that brought back the feeling of seeing something special in a special context for a limited time. And that maybe even provided some financial incentive - a revenue sharing scheme, perhaps? That's a big ask. Something like VHX launched with this in mind, but it's since been moulded into something else and bought by Vimeo (I think it was even launched by ex-Vimeo staff?).
The big questions mark in all of this - and one that many artists I know online will be familiar with - is the difficulty in finding the right context for the sort of arts practice we have. Most of the artists I feel kinship with have quite diffuse practices - they blend art and commerce, they make stuff for an international community and they balance it with full-time or freelance work. They often write, teach, or study alongside the art. Their work can end up in festivals, screenings or galleries but it almost always lives most happily online.
I like that. I like that people don't have to pay or queue or travel to see my stuff. But I'd also prefer it if they didn't find it hosted on a badly designed platform, or embedded alongside clickbait and ads for weight loss pills. Then again, perhaps this kind of unpredictable, uneven dissemination is the best thing about working online?