What’s your background and why did you start YouTube?
I’m a professional film composer and write original music for movies, TV shows and video games. I’ve also always loved the theory and educational side of writing music, and long ago wrote articles for a website that were well received. For years after that project ended I thought “I should start a Youtube channel” but never found the will to start. I also thought I should develop a music course, but kept starting and stopping, never able to get momentum going.
Then one day in January of 2021 I saw a video from Ali about starting a YouTube channel and he gave advice along the lines of
“Just turn on the camera on your phone, say three things that you like, and upload it to YouTube. There, now you have a YouTube channel.”
For some reason his advice really resonated with me and that’s exactly what I did; I recorded a video on my phone of three music books I liked, uploaded it to YouTube, and now I haven’t gone a week without a video or livestream since.
I figured that starting the channel might bring in some new private students, and also help me build up the skills to eventually make a course.
Tell us about your journey on the platform so far.
For my first six months I saw very slow growth, where some days I would pick up a few subscribers and some days none at all. When I joined Cohort 3 in July I had somewhere around 400 subscribers.
In September of 2021 I reached 1k which was a huge milestone for me and very exciting! My goal for the end of 2022 was to get to 3k subscribers with a stretch goal of 5k. Into 2022 my slow but steady growth continued and my targets seemed reasonable, until all of a sudden in March I had a hit.
What was key to your sudden growth?
I wish there was a magic formula I could point to, because then I would just do it again! But unfortunately I haven’t cracked that specific secret.
What probably made one of the most important differences was adapting my content for a broader appeal while still keeping it relevant and useful for my target audience.
Interestingly the video that launched my channel’s growth was not the one that went viral. But because it appealed to a wide audience it generated momentum and views on my channel, which gave that other video an opportunity to get noticed. But in both cases they were topics that appealed to a wider audience than just musicians (one was about the music of Harry Potter and the other about popular artists like Radiohead).
Putting all of the principles of title/thumbnail, introduction, engagement, and end screens together with a dash of good luck made it possible.
How important was consistency?
Since uploading my first video in January or 2021 I haven’t missed a single week. For the majority of those weeks I’ve published a brand new video, and for a handful of them I held a livestream.
The importance of consistency for me is less about pleasing the algorithm and more about keeping myself accountable. If I miss a week the odds of missing a second week will go up drastically and that is a slippery slope.
When your channel started to blow up, how did you cope with that sudden exposure?
The sudden explosion of growth was honestly very stressful at first. Seeing the channel bring in thousands of new subscribers every day was very fun, don’t get me wrong, but the pace of it was dizzying!
Going from 0 to 1k subscribers over the course of 9 months meant I was able to gradually adapt to the change in audience. Going from 3k to 60k in just one month was a lot harder to keep up with.
It felt like expecting to walk out to perform at a coffee shop open-mic and accidentally ending up on the stage in the center of a stadium concert. Maybe you’re still going to play the same songs on the same guitar, but the scale of it was shocking.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome as a YouTuber?
There’s something about human nature that we put a lot more emphasis on negative comments than positive ones, and I have definitely gone through that experience. Even if there are 99 positive comments, the one negative comment can be hurtful, upsetting, or infuriating! I had to learn to let those comments go, to ignore them for the most part, and just keep moving forward.
How has the success of your channel impacted your life?
My wife no longer thinks “this YouTube thing” is a waste of time!
Everything feels completely different than just a few months ago. I have more private students applying for lessons than I can make time for, we’ve built a thriving community of composers on Discord, and perhaps most importantly I am finally putting the finishing touches on that course that I procrastinated on for a decade!
The YouTube channel has also given me a lot more credibility as an “expert in my field”. I was recently hired for a composing project and am pretty sure that my channel was a convincing factor that helped me get the gig.
Since that inflection point, how has the channel been performing?
Eventually the Youtube algorithm “moved on to other things” and essentially turned off the faucet on the video that went viral.
Since then things have slowed down once again to slow and steady growth, which is honestly a nice break and chance to catch my breath before I decide what direction to go next.
What are your goals for the future? How have your goals changed?
My goals have mostly not changed; I still want to maintain consistency, continue to grow the channel and the community surrounding it, and keep getting better at making videos.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start again?
Every week and with every video I learn something new, so I don’t think I could possibly be where I am now without every out of focus shot, boring introduction, “wrong note”, and all the other mistakes I’ve made along the way. I guess if I were to do anything differently it would be to start sooner!
One piece of advice for YouTubers just starting out?
Stop thinking so much and upload a video already.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
Lastly, how did PTYA help you?
PTYA turned me from an amateur into a pro. More than anything it helped me change my mindset from making videos for myself to making videos for an audience.
Watching and critiquing videos from other members of the Cohort gave me perspective. By studying both successful and unsuccessful videos that were not my own I was able to apply the habit of critical viewing to my own videos.
PTYA gave me confidence that YouTube was something that could really work for me and that I could find success on the platform.
📚 Read the next case study