"Should players get paid for AP*s?"
(*actual plays. Live streaming events where people play a ttrpg before the cameras.)
Someone order another round and pull the chairs in, this is gonna take me a while. And I'm not doing it on Twitter.
Performing arts careers have always had gatekeeping and cash flow problems. And performers encountering them have always been thinking up ways to make their own damn gates. Youtube making video streaming practical for laymen users... fuck, almost 20 years ago? Make that next one a double. Anyways, meant that new forms of performance have been followed by new forms of performers looking to make a buck that way. We've seen it with video review shows and we've seen it with cosplay, among others. Now we're seeing it for AP's.
And while @AlliesNerd has a good threat going, there's some big questions that aren't being asked.
Big question one:
"Is the AP in question being run for the sake of the players or for the sake of the audience?"
Leaving that question unasked or trying to weasel out of it by saying "both" will not end well.
If the answer is "the players," then the answer is no. They don't need to be paid. Their focus is on having fun. Let them. The audience is just along for the ride at that point.
(If you want to pay them on general principle, I'm not about to stop you. But I'm also not about to throw shade if you just throw them a party or something if there's anything left after expenses.)
If, however, your AP is situated on drawing a crowd, or, gods help you, a profit, then yes, your players should be paid.
That said, while it will still be more fun, that may require further direction on the DM's part. Performing for your own sake instead of that of the audience is what an old friend of mine calls actorbation. And while it's all well and good if that's understood that's what you're doing, it's not the recipe for a paying gig.
Big question two:
"Where is the money to pay your players coming from?"
(And I swear to Odin, the first little fucker who says anything about a capitalist hellscape is getting strapped down and spanked with an economics textbook until they can scream "free markets work" well enough to make me believe it.)
Twitch seems to allow for the two classic methods of payment: patronage and direct ticketing. Twitch acts as a house manager, splitting subscription revenue with a given streamer. And viewers have an option to donate, which is a method as old as passing a hat around.
Other streams, like merch, really should wait until the first two are established and regular.
Once you've established this, you've got an idea of how many eyes you need on your channel and how often hats need to be passed in order for everyone involved to be paid at least comfortably.
You've also probably realized that you'll need to invest in yourself first in order to have something that brings said eyes on.
Big question three:
"Where is your game at now?"
If you're asking about paying players, you're at one of two stages.
Either your game hasn't started and you're dreaming about the future.
Or, you've been playing for a while, suddenly there's money, and you're figuring out what to do.
The first stage is the better one to start thinking such things with by far.
The second is possible, but everyone involved needs to tread lightly.
Because, one of the big ugly secrets of art history?
If the question "you're getting paid for this?" was answered early, often, and honestly? A significant portion of the world's collaborated art would never have been made.
Which is part of the reason transparency on such things is like pulling teeth (looking at you, theater.)
Yes, some of it is undoubtedly due to greed.
But I'd wager that most is the result of wanting the art to happen being a higher priority than paying everyone who should be.
Unfortunately, the greedy have learned long ago that "the show must go on" gets sympathy. Figuring out what is which is an ongoing problem.
So, some things to keep in mind:
What are the sunk costs?
Cameras, mics, lights, computers. How much did you buy for the purpose? (and how much wear and tear are you putting on your personal gear?)
Who's working behind the scenes? Sound, light, camera, editing, artwork? Because they've earned their cut too.
Who's getting hit with the tax paperwork and the payment processor fees? Such things should be accounted for.
This is why contracts spelling out daily rates or percentages of the take get signed before the picture comes out, folks.
Big question four:
(and this is really for those who are trying to make money from the ground up)
"What are you bringing to the audience that nobody else is?"
At this point I'm assuming that you've decided to do this for money, and are working towards that end. So I have to ask you what makes people want to watch your AP? What about you, your game, and your players will bring in the 600 bottom tier subscribers it will take to make what twitch calls a successful streamer?
Critical Role has a simple premise: "professional voice actors play D&D."
One sentence says it all. It's the gaming equivalent of watching headliner musicians record a jam session.
Tabletop, the spiritual ancestor of ap's, had a simple premise: "Wil Wheaton and guests play a new board game every week."
Yes, the first and most successful examples of ap's were people who were already involved in the industry trying something different.
Now there's a lot of AP's out there. What is it about your game that makes you different?
The answer doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, simple is better. But it does need to fit in a sentence or two and it needs to hook me from there.
TV and movies have to do this at every level, from getting pitched to getting made to getting audiences.
Buffy the vampire slayer is "A monster stalks a cute girl into a dark alley. She kicks his ass."
John Wick is, "Gang thugs beat up a random guy, kill his dog, and steal his car. That random guy was the deadliest man in the underworld, and that dog and car were the last things he ever cared about."
The Untouchables is, "The handful of cops in Chicago who aren't on the take band together to take down Al Capone."
One or two sentences, you know what you're in for and you want to know what happens next.
(This is not completely foolproof. Some movies are really difficult to sum up this way. And even if those movies are really good, they suffer commercially. The Princess Bride is one of my favorites ever, and it tanked at the box office. To this day it is taught in marketing classes for it's unsellability. Because encompassing it in a marketing pitch is damn near impossible. Everything Everywhere All At Once STILL hasn't broken $100M at the US box office despite being the most incredible movie I've seen in a decade.
That said, you're not trying to redefine cinema. You're trying to get subscribers on your channel to watch your ap, thence to get paid. So make with the marketing pitch.)
I'm not trying to be a crusty old capitalist mercenary (although I absolutely am one).
I'm glad people's first instinct is to pay those that made the magic happen for them.
We need more of that attitude in the world. (Still fucking talking to you, theater)
But questions of "can?" and "how?" definitely need to be answered before anyone starts attaching numbers to "should?"
Anywise, take care of yourselves out there.