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How To Get Views: Advice From Youtube’s Top Music Artists

By

July 1, 2014

(image: Angie Chu)
(image: Angie Chu)

If you’re still interested in posting your music to Youtube after the recent controversy (you can read all about that here) or if you’re happy to sign up for their streaming service (and honestly, why wouldn’t you) then this is the page for you.

For music, Youtube is big business. Seriously, have you seen the Beebs sales of late? Or our own Iggy Azalea, she’s taking the US by storm at the moment. The point is there is money to be made on Youtube. Even if it’s just to bring your music to a broader audience, no one can dispute the power of the ‘tube as a marketing platform.

This week musician & Youtuber Ari Herstand wrote an article on his blog about a recent VidCon conference he’d attended in Anaheim, California (you can read that here). The VidCon brought together some of the biggest names on Youtube from all over the world sharing their tips and stories with fans, some 19,000 of them. The place was teeming with fans of all ages, communities and genres, some even chose to dress up in cosplay as their favourite artists. Herstand mentions that one fellow Youtuber he’d met at a party told him “it takes 30 minutes to walk to the Hilton.” I was so confused as the Hilton was about 50 feet from the front doors of VidCon. Then I realized, this guy has 300,000 YouTube subscribers and the moment he shows his face he gets hounded by screaming tweens with iPhones and sharpies.”

The panels for the conference which covered everything from music, to beauty tips and DIY guides to game streaming. So here is some of the best advice given at the conference by artists in attendance.

(image: vidcon)
View from the main stage (image: vidcon)

 

YouTube And Your Music Career Panel

At the YouTube And Your Music Career Community panel, YouTubers Mike Falzone (107K subscribers), Tyler Ward (1.6Mil subscribers, with 120K on a second channel), Alejandro Manzano (of Boyce Avenue)  (5.8Mil subscribers) , David Choi (1Mil subscribers), Meghan Tonjes (180K subscribers) with Peter Hollens (720K subscribers) acting as MC. Also sitting in on the panel was Margaret Gregory,  YouTube Artist and Label Relations team member.

“The room was packed with young, aspiring YouTube musicians who, by a show of hands, claimed they still buy music. Liars. But they had to look good in front of their idols.

The godfather of the panel, Alejandro Manzano (of Boyce Avenue), just 27, has amassed over 5.8 million YouTube subscribers to Boyce Avenue’s channel. Tyler Ward openly admitted that Boyce Avenue inspired him to become a YouTube musician (Ward has over 1.6 million subscribers). Boyce Avenue started uploading cover videos 6 years ago and even their earliest videos have millions of views. Their most popular video, with 50 million+ views, is a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” featuring the X Factor girl group Fifth Harmony and was uploaded a year ago.”

A picture taken of George Watsky at VidCon 2012 by author John Green, himself a Youtube sensation (image: John Green)
A picture taken of George Watsky at VidCon 2012 by author John Green, himself a Youtube sensation (image: John Green)

Collaboration

All of the panel guests stressed the importance of collaboration and had at time collaborated with each other.

“Boyce Avenue has collaborated with every musician on the panel except for Peter Hollens – but they made a public promise to make that happen soon.” Herstand says.

Manzano said “Collaboration is key. If you look at this room, what makes it interesting is that there are so many different people on this panel. If there were just one person up on this panel it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or as informative.”

Meghan Tonjes agreed saying “not necessarily with other musicians, but the fact that there are other YouTubers who felt compelled to shout me out on TV or to use my music in a makeup video or to show up to a show and tweet to their fans.” One of Tonjes best friends is fellow panelist Mike Falzone, the two tour together regularly.

David Choi stated his belief that collaboration with not only other artists, but also producers, filmmakers, animators and videographers. “work with people who love what they do, whether it be videography or editing. Collaboration is definitely important. You can share your fan bases.”

VidCon main entrance (image: VidCon)
VidCon main entrance (image: VidCon)

Best Piece of Advice

Asked for their best advice to budding Youtube artists, the panelists (despite playing largely differing musical genres), all had a common thread – a clear understanding of who they are and who their audience is.

Tonjes:“Be authentic. That’s what makes people want to support you. Don’t be a character. Be very much yourself…The problem you’ll run into is that you’ll actually get sick of whatever character you create…people will connect more if they know your personality… and they know what you’re writing is authentic.”
Choi: “When you write a good song that can connect with a lot of people…that’s the best way to gain traction for anything on YouTube.”
Manzano: “If you’re honest to yourself and you stay true to your brand, and treat it like a brand, and respect yourself, people will gravitate towards that. No matter how niche your market or your sound may be, just be true to it.”
Falzone: “You got to do it because you love it. You shouldn’t do it because of the views and you shouldn’t do it because of the money you could make someday…because you’re going to figure out sooner or later you’re not going to want to do it. It’s a job. It’s a business. But we love it.”

Tyler Ward  shared some simple but relevant advice for gaining and growing your audience:  “It’s about being smart about your tags and titles and making sure you’re searchable. The only reason I have a job now is because I was searchable.”

Youtube manager Margaret Gregory, whose work has given her key insight into how successful artists have gained their audience through the media platform, said: “Consistency is so key. Consistency with content. Consistency on being true to who you are. Don’t get discouraged when you’ve posted every week for 6 months and you aren’t where you think you should be…because these guys have been doing it for a long time. They didn’t get here in a few weeks.” – Margaret Gregory, Artist and Label Relations, YouTube

Gregory went on to highlight three ways in which Youtube are aiding budding artists:

  1. Top Strategies for Music: Their team looked at the ways in which highest viewed channels maintained their audiences, putting together a ‘Hit List’ of things you should be doing as an emerging artist on Youtube (you can find that here).
  2. Fan Funding: Announced at the keynote address, Youtube will be integrating a ‘Fan Donations’ button to give music fans the ability to donate directly to their favourite artist or channel.
  3. The Youtube 15: Jenna Marbles (comedian with 13.4Mil subscribers) has begun hosting a weekly radio program on SiriusXM’s Hits 1 featuring the top songs on YouTube. This will highlight both established and emerging artists.

 

VidCon Entrance (image: VidCon)
Outside VidCon main entrance (image: VidCon)

Crowdfunding & Spotify

Using crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon, Kickstarter and Pozible (amongst others) gives bands and artists the chance to raise funding directly for their productions and tours. Choi even developed an app that allowed fans to become subscribers.

Tonjes: “Patreon is the way I’m paying rent right now.”
Choi: “People who follow us on YouTube, think that they can play a very integral part of our careers. More so than a signed, major artist.”
Falzone: “People want to help you. So let them help you”

The panel also agreed that Spotify is a good medium for funding and marketing.

Manzano: “Put everything on Spotify”
Ward: “Spotify outdid my iTunes sales last year”
Hollens: “Streaming will be the future”
Choi: “It already is”

Inside the exhibitors hall (image: smosh)
Inside the exhibitors hall (image: smosh)

Final Words

Manzano (of Boyce Avenue) was the only panelist who had signed a label (for a short time). Regarding the experience he said: “it’s not like the labels are the bad guys, it wasn’t the right relationship for us. We were on YouTube for a year and a half and got a lot of label interest and we chose what we thought was the best deal…A lot of the people sitting behind desks… they need us. We happen to understand this new thing better than they do. And we should be aware of that”

Choi mentioned that 94% of music on the platform is some form of cover and that Youtube now has a system in place that allows cover artists to receive a share in advertising revenue (for those who partner with Youtube).

Falzone mentioned how discouraging it can be when you’re building an audience: “It’s so ridiculously easy to get discouraged. All you have to do is look at that number under the video and picture those people. Those are real people. It might look like a tiny number. Picture 23 people looking at you. Clapping for you. Appreciating what you’ve done. Know that there’s somebody on the other side”

Manzano encouraged emerging artists to continue posting videos, despite the relatively small views they are receiving: “One video at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed when you see a big subscription number. We all started from zero”

L to R:  Margaret Gregory, Alejandro Manzano, Tyler Ward, Mike Falzone, David Choi, Meghan Tonjes, Peter Hollens (image: Ari Herstand)
L to R: Margaret Gregory, Alejandro Manzano, Tyler Ward, Mike Falzone, David Choi, Meghan Tonjes, Peter Hollens (image: Ari Herstand)

 

Excerpts from Ari’s Take.

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Special Edition
Rupert Neve, Audio Pioneer (1926-2021)
READ ONLINE NOW
Online
Issue 69