Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today we have Sid Masand. Welcome, Sid.
Thanks for having me.
No problem. Would you like to start by telling the audience a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Sure. So, I’m 34 years old. I had a pretty traditional career when I started out. I went to engineering school and, you know, my idea was to just work my way up the corporate ladder and be an engineer and move up the organisation where I’m currently working. And a couple years into my career I, kind of, decided that wasn’t for me so I wanted to branch out and have freedom in my life and, you know, here I am eight years later with my own YouTube channel, and that’s, kind of, been pretty much my main focus these days.
Yeah, well I can understand why and that’s, kind of, what we’re going to be talking about today. And you’ve got at the moment 229,000 subscribers, is that right?
Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah, it’s crazy, I never thought that would happen.
And 56 million views which you’re gonna be pretty happy about, I would imagine?
Oh yeah, I’m very thankful for all that, yeah.
What do you attribute to the main source of that success, I suppose?
Well, ever since I was a young kid, even like, growing up – I came from an immigrant family, like, my parents emigrated here in the 70s to Canada and the US, and I’ve always had a really strong drive to succeed at any goal that I try to put my mind to. And most times it’s good but then sometimes you can create a lot of stress for yourself too. But it was just working in the corporate world and I loved being a project manager and, you know, I still do enjoy it but I almost feel like, the system is so stacked against you, like, you have to work for somebody else for 30 years before you can even taste freedom which is retirement. And I just decided that wasn’t for me, like, I tried to go through interviews, get promotions, it never worked out for me and I saw my co-workers getting promoted over me and I was so tired of somebody else dictating my future. I want to be in control of my future and my family’s financial wellbeing, so I started my own business. And it really just started out as a YouTube channel and I went through about four years of actually finding my niche. I failed a lot at the start of my journey but I was really driven to succeed, like, I was starting to see slow signs of progress. And it wasn’t until, like, 2017 that our company had a major restructuring where I worked and it was just, I wasn’t happy really during that period of my life. And I said now is the time I’m going to go all-in on my channel and over those couple years, you know, by 2019 it just exploded and I was driven to succeed at basically at any cost just to get my freedom. And if I ever wanted to walk away from my job, I’m thankful I can do that now.
So, it’s, kind of, like, a warning shot for you?
Oh yeah, like, in 2017 I had a great team I was working with and just everybody was, like, leaving the organisation, people were being fired. I mean, that created an enormous amount of anxiety for me which I’d never experienced in my life, and I was so sick of it. Like, all these external people were causing this anxiety in my life and I was, like, I want to just break away from this and I always felt like, I was born to do something bigger than what I was doing at that point in time. And I think YouTube is that thing that I was probably meant to find and enjoy doing in life.
So, now that you don’t have that stress anymore, would you say that you’re enjoying your job a little bit more?
Oh yeah, like, for the first seven years of my job I would have anxiety about things going wrong. Like, you know, as a young professional starting out your career, you’re really green and I would always attribute any kind of failure on my projects to be a reflection of myself and, you know, that’s not the right way to look at things. I mean, there are so many things in life that you have no control over, right, and you can only control what you can control. And now after, you know, my channel blew up, I go into work and I have no stress. I look at all my co-workers and they’re stressed and I just have this attitude, it’s like, a very rock and roll attitude, of, you know, you have this, kind of, swagger you carry yourself with and it’s, like, this stuff doesn’t stress me out because I can just walk away at any moment. And it’s so amazing to have that feeling. I never thought I’d ever get that feeling.
Does that make you a little bit difficult to manage?
It does now, yeah, like, I remember when my channel started to blow up, I mean, I was much more – I would say what I was thinking. You know, a lot of people don’t want to say that but I don’t feel like, I have any repercussions because I feel like, you know, what, I’m doing something that most people who I work with can’t do and I’m so thankful for that. And you can be difficult to manage, yeah. I mean, I think I’m a pretty easy person to get along with but you have to make sure that that kind of stuff doesn’t get to your head too much because it can. Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
Well, you said you tried some others and I noticed in your notes that if I’m not mistaken you tried – is it five other channels?
I think, you know, I started out as a dating coach which wasn’t really a YouTube channel so much, it was, like, giving seminars to people because I had met my wife online and I started helping guys and girls write good dating profiles because I realised a lot of people didn’t know how to write about themselves. And, I mean, I made some money doing that but I hated it in the sense that I was just hearing about people’s problems and that can really be draining. So, then I started YouTube and I got really into music because of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. That was the first channel I started which was not that successful. And then I started, like, a Guns N’ Roses channel which, you know, it has, like, 52,000 subscribers or something, it’s done pretty decently. But Guns N’ Roses taught me – like, that channel taught me a lot about what people enjoyed which was, like, these documentary-style stories about bands. And that morphed into Rock N’ Roll True Stories which is where I’m at now.
So, did you change the channel or did you create another one with Rock N’ Roll True Stories?
I just created another one. I still have Guns N’ Roses Central as it’s called and it’s still up there and it’s really like, – my production value was so bad on that. Like, it’s just a reminder of how far I’ve come. Like, I didn’t write a script to even do my videos, I just, like, did it, like, spur of the moment. My audio is all over the place, the graphics are terrible, yeah, but people still enjoyed it but it showed me there was an audience that people were enjoying those kinds of stories. Now, you know, I have, like, much better equipment, I have much better editing, I have a whole team that works with me, now so it’s grown quite a bit. And I’ve still got room to improve, you know, from where I’m at.
Now, are you able to monetise that with AdSense–
– because presumably, it’s all – to what degree do you have an issue with copyright with YouTube?
So, YouTube can be finicky with that kind of stuff. I’ve gone ahead with, like, 20 copyright strikes, mostly on Guns N’ Roses and I’ve won every single one of them. Now, the law differs in each country but in Canada and the US – it’s probably the same as the UK – you have fair use which allows you to take someone’s copyrighted work and then provide commentary over it. And provided you’re adding some sort of value to it, it’s protected under fair use and you can monetise it. There are so many YouTube channels that do that, like, you know, WatchMojo is probably one of the biggest ones. They use a lot of copyrighted content. We use some content but we don’t use music videos for bands or audio recordings for bands and we use a lot of stock footage and that kind of, stuff. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had to deal with a whole lot of that. We’re very selective in the stuff we use too, so we have guidelines that our editors follow so that we generally don’t run into copyright stuff anymore. And, I mean, I went and talked to a copyright lawyer as well. I think if you’re gonna do the kind of stuff we do on YouTube you’d be best advised to go talk to a copyright lawyer.
So, it’s, kind of, like, an ongoing process?
Yeah. I mean it can be a headache sometimes but, I mean, for the most part, we’re pretty careful in that and yeah, you can pretty much monetise all of it on YouTube but it’s good to be diversified at the same time.
So, do you make use of anything else like Patreon or any other…?
No, we did Patreon for a bit but, you know, we put out so much content that it was difficult to manage everything at once. I mean, we do have, like, a website for Rock N’ Roll True Stories that is monetised and then there’s the YouTube channel. And then, you know, I still have my day job, so in a sense, I’m diversifying my income by having my day job still and then doing YouTube. But a lot of people have Amazon affiliate links where people can buy products through Amazon, you get a commission. Even YouTube has, like, memberships within YouTube so, like, if you pay, like, a certain amount, certain fans will get higher ranked on the comments. We don’t do that yet but there’s a bunch of different avenues people can go through to monetise their content, yeah.
So, if someone was – let’s say they listen to our conversation and they’re inspired to start a YouTube channel, generally speaking, what are some principles that you’d share with them about getting started?
I think the two most important things I always tell everybody is to first ask yourself what are you passionate about in life? Like, you know, your passions are probably different than mine and the same with other people. And, you know, the one thing you can always ask yourself what you’re passionate about is, like, what do you know, more about than the average person on the street? And then the second part is to go see how many people on YouTube are actually in that niche. It’s really important to have a niche on YouTube and not try to do too many things. So, I would say to go on YouTube, look at that niche, see what are some things that people are doing really well, what are some things that people are not doing well, and then you can, kind of, fill that gap. I find the comments on YouTube, even though people like to demonise the comments, there’s a lot of interesting things that people write in there that they want to see that maybe creators don’t do. And then I think the third thing too is to use, like, keyword research tools, like, you can get Google keywords to see how many people are searching for that particular topic per month and you can see the competition. So, I think those three things are pretty important.
So, doing something that you really enjoy and also finding out what the demand is?
Yeah, like, I love rock and roll, like, if I had chosen something else, I don’t think I would enjoy it day in and day out. And I think the other thing too is – and I’ve learned this the hard way – like, having a work-life balance. Like, I was working 40 hours in my normal job when I started my channel and I’d just had a baby and then I was also doing my channel on top of that. And, you know, I don’t sleep that much but, you know, at some point you can’t keep burning yourself out and you have to learn to have a work-life balance and actually have things in your weekly calendar that you’re enjoying doing. You know, like, for me it’s, like, learning guitar right now or I’m going for walks and that kind of, stuff.
And how often do you upload now?
Right now it’s three times a week. Up until, like, last year it was, like, five to seven times a week, when I first started it was fourteen times a week. Just because you look at the production quality, like, when I started, it took no time to make a video. Now it takes, like, five to ten hours from start to finish to make a video. So, to me, it was really important the quality improves as the channel grows and a lot of my fans and subscribers have always – at the beginning, at the early days they always pointed to the quality should be better but the message they really liked.
Okay. So, it’s more about, I suppose, there’s always going to be that balance between quantity and quality, would you say?
Yeah. I think the most important thing is to make sure – you don’t have to upload three times a week. You need to be consistent with your audience so your audience knows that, you know, for me they know that Sid’s going to upload three times a week, they know what to expect Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but for some creators, they do it once every three weeks and that works for them. Some people do it once a month. And also because some creators spend, like, a lot more time editing and gathering resources, so as long as you’re consistent – consistency is the name of the game really, it doesn’t have to be once a week.
Yeah. Would you agree that the more infrequent you are with uploads the higher the quality needs to be?
Well, I would think so. If you’re taking a longer time between it, I think the quality should definitely be there if people are gonna hang on to what you’re saying if you’re only putting out, like, eighteen videos a year or something, yeah. Like, for me, it was really important that, like, right now I’m at three a week and maybe a year from now it’ll be two a week. At some point too I want to, like, enjoy my life and not be working as many hours as I am because I think I was doing thirty hours a week on my channel and then forty on my job for – thirty-three and a half – and then having family time with that, it can be a lot. So, my desire to go forward is to just scale back a bit and, you know, not having to rack my brain over ideas and worrying about running out of content too.
Have you considered the exit of your YouTube channel, meaning, you know, selling it, essentially?
Yeah, I have thought about that. I don’t know how common it is, like, for YouTubers to sell their channel. I’ve gotten offers before but they’re, kind of, laughable. But, you know, at some point I think I might go down that avenue. It’s something I’d probably consider for sure. Like, it was funny when I started working where I work, I always used to joke with everybody that I was gonna retire when I was, like, 35 and quit the job. And now I’m, like, 34 and I can be, like, yeah. My dream is – to have a good quitting story would be really interesting and maybe you could film it and put it on YouTube. But yeah, the exit, sometimes I wonder, like, what’s the end game, like, with YouTube but that’s part of the fun though, I guess. You, kind of, wonder where you’re going to be in a couple of years.
Yeah, well I had an interesting exit from my job and I decided it was going to be new year’s – I was going to start a new year off in business. So, I was an employee and I decided that was it, whether I had something to go to or not, I had a cut-off and that was it. I wasn’t going to be an employee anymore. So, you’re, kind of, ahead of me in the sense that you’ve already got something to go to.
Yeah. The hardest thing is that, you know, with YouTube – with my job you get that social – well maybe not so much with Covid – but you get that social interaction, like, seeing people and actually having a conversation in real-time, whereas, you know, with YouTube, you don’t get that. YouTube can be a very lonely place even if you have a team because they’re all spread out over the world. So, that can be a little, you know, difficult. Plus, you know, with your commenters you don’t know them person-to-person, you just know them as this person behind the keyboard. So YouTube, I understand why creators have burn out or why YouTube can be, like, a really lonely place. I think that’s another reason why I go to my job is because I get that social interaction that I probably need in my life, yeah.
Yeah. There’s a regular theme with entrepreneurs that it can be a pretty lonely endeavour.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Thankfully, like, we have a full house where I live but I think I need that just to have some sort of normalcy and I feel like, it, kind of, brings you down to, like, – I think when you read most of the comments on YouTube are good but then I think you can – to me, it’s nice to use my degree as well. I went to school for five years. I might as well keep using it for the foreseeable future. Like, I don’t think I would ever quit my job in the foreseeable future.
Okay. And have you noticed any recurring theme where you’ve seen that some videos are more popular than others or perhaps some videos that haven’t worked at all?
Yeah, like, it’s difficult in some sense, like, there’s certain bands or artists who are niche enough that a lot of people – like, they’re not too niche that people don’t know about them but, like, enough people have heard about them but there’s not a lot of videos on them. So, it’s like trying to find that little balance of, like, just the right bands to sometimes do stories on but as much as I don’t want to say it, like, people seem to love negative stories which can sometimes be draining, like, you know, feuds between artists, death stories, band breakups, lawsuits. People seem to really enjoy at least the views for that, tell that story but then sometimes for certain artists it doesn’t work. But, you know, for me I find with my audience nostalgia is a big thing. So, I grew up during the ‘90s, so I find that the sweet spot for my stories is, like, the ‘80s to the early 2000s is, like, those are the stories that generally tend to do pretty well. I tried to do something that was, like, from a modern artist that’s popular today and it didn’t do quite as well. But then when I did, like, say the Beatles, there are so many other channels who probably could do more justice to the Beatles than I could. Those videos don’t do quite as popular. Same with Rolling Stones. But if it’s, like, between that two-decade period that I normally focus on, they generally do reasonably well. The other thing that I’ve done with my channel is that my audience has a lot of say in the content I create, so we allow our audience to just give us suggestions and we use a lot of those suggestions. And we see patterns. Like, a lot of bands keep coming up and the same stories keep getting requested, so those are generally indications to me that those videos will probably be more popular.
Do you encourage that in your videos as well?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Like, we created a special Google form – which I don’t think a lot of YouTubers even do – for people to request stories and I look at it, like, a couple of times a week and it’s, like, I’ve got hundreds of requests for different artists and specific stories. And it’s sometimes overwhelming but it’s also nice in the sense that okay, you know, I don’t have to worry about running out of ideas anytime soon.
Yeah, that is a problem with some creators, I think. Like, what should I create today? Whereas you’ve got a to-do list that’s too long.
Yeah, it’s a to-do list. Yeah, I get people asking me where’s this video, I requested it seven months ago? And it’s, like, you know – and then, you know, on top of the request list there’s also just stories that I want to do just to talk about. So, it’s striking that balance and I hear a lot of really good feedback from subscribers saying like, hey, you always reply to our comments, you always say you’re going to do these stories and you do them, so it’s really important to, like, build that community with your subscribers.
Being helpful to them.
Yeah, being helpful to them and just, like, I think people want to be listened to as well. Like, when I worked as a project manager, we did a lot of public engagement and dealing with the public, and the thing I learned from doing that is that people, at the end of the day whatever their situation is, they just want to be listened to, whether or not you’re going to do what they want you to do. So, I think that my normal job probably helped me with YouTube.
Do you have, like, a formula that you follow with your content or is it pretty much just based on the requests and the demands?
It’s what I’m really just feeling during the day. I try to balance out my schedule, like, for my uploads, like, I don’t want to do anything that’s too heavy towards one decade, I want to, like, have variety. So, this week we did – I can’t remember what we did this week. We had a ‘90s story, we did, like, an ‘80s story. We sometimes do stuff that’s topical, like, the super bowl is this weekend so we did a super bowl story. I try to provide enough variety. I don’t want to do all metal one week or all classic rock. So, people who maybe aren’t fans of one genre can find something that they enjoy, at least in that week. And then every week I pole my audience, say what was your favourite story this week? And that shows me patterns and the types of stories people like, but we generally do follow a pattern in terms of how we create the content. Like, you know, research is always number one and that’s probably the longest part of any video I do is finding research, finding super old articles, finding interviews, listening to interviews, and then trying to create, like, a cohesive story is, like, that’s the hardest part. Everything else after that, like, editing is easy, I find and doing the thumbnails and that kind of stuff, but I find that sometimes the creative process can be a little draining and some scripts just sit for months and months because I just don’t feel inspired to follow up on it at that point in time.
So, you like to stay away from controversy or is it something that you, kind of, do necessary evil?
You know, there are some stories I don’t think I want to talk about, like, people always ask about, like – especially stories where there’s, like, conspiracies and that kind of stuff, like, you know, Kurt Cobain’s death would be one example. I get people asking me to do that and there’s the official story and there are all these other stories that people believe. And with YouTube, YouTube has got a problem with censorship, I find. Like, if you don’t stick to one side of the story then they may not let you upload that content or you may get demonetised or something, so it’s a fine balance with that. There are some stories I don’t want to do because they’re just too controversial, but some stories I do that are controversial it’s difficult. It’s usually whether I feel, like, my audience will react positively to it or not. So, it’s a fine balance you have to, kind of, strike.
Well, it does sound, at least so far, that you’ve got a good idea of what it is that your audience wants and you’re catering to it, essentially.
Yeah. Like, you know, YouTube gives you a lot of demographic information, so most of my audience is, like, that 35 to 55 range who grew up during those two decades that I focus on. It’s funny, not a lot of younger people, like, below 18 are really subscribed to our channel, so maybe that’s why the newer bands don’t do as well because I find people my age – I don’t listen to modern radio that much so I’m not really familiar with a lot of what’s happening right now in rock and roll so much. But yeah, I like to think that I’m trying to cater as much to my audience as I can. But now, like, when the ad revenue is, like, really slow it gives me I feel like more time to be creative and focus on bands that maybe people haven’t heard of, the more obscure acts, and I find sometimes those are the best stories that people don’t even know about.
And do you plan on expanding the audience in addition to what you’ve already got?
Yeah. Like, we started doing, like, Instagram and TikTok we’re, kind of, thinking about but Instagram’s definitely a younger demographic than probably the people who watch my channel. So, we’ve been doing that the last couple months and we’ve been creating special content for Instagram and showing behind the scenes stuff and directing people to the YouTube channel, and I’m sure that’s probably been helping people find our content. It’s funny though, when I look at the stats, like, our stuff gets shared so much on Facebook especially and other websites that a lot of people, they’re probably taking our content and just sharing it on the communities they already exist on which is, kind of, nice.
It’s probably not relevant now but did you have any ambition to go out and – I don’t know – go to tours and venues and review bands, that sort of thing, or is that not something that’s on your radar?
I would love to do, like – I don’t know if reviews so much. I feel like there are people who do it much better than I would do, but I remember when I was doing my Guns N’ Roses channel, we went to LA where Guns N’ Roses are from and we shot a bunch of stuff from the places that, like, were landmarks and associated with the band and that was really fun. I would love to go do that, like, we were hoping to travel more than we did this – we didn’t really travel at all this year. But in the future, I’d love to just go to, like, these places that are, you know, rock and roll meccas and just film that kind of stuff. That would be really cool. Like, maybe going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or going to just different other locations too, like, that would be something that might be interesting to do in the future, yeah.
But maybe not right now.
Yeah, maybe not right now. I’m a germaphobe so I don’t want to leave my house if I can avoid it, yeah.
So, you mentioned thumbnails previously, it is a topic of interest with YouTubers. Have you got any thoughts to share on your approach to thumbnails?
Yeah. Thumbnails are – I almost feel, like, you know, you spend all those hours doing research editing and thumbnails are, like, the thing that the viewers spend six or seven seconds on determining whether they’re gonna watch your video and you have to come up with something that’s eye-catching. For me, I’ve always been told that I use too much text on my thumbnails and I try to minimise the amount of text. It’s hard sometimes when you’re trying to convey a story in a few words but for me, it’s really important to use an image that conveys emotion of whatever you’re talking about, especially, like, a close-up shot of somebody and, like, a lot of channels do this. And that I think is the first thing people will look at. And then having just as few words as you can to describe your story and then we use, like, a darker red background, so I think if you can combine all those elements it should be something that’s eye-catching but you should also create thumbnails that are consistent to your brand. Like, they should look somewhat similar from video to video so they, kind of, associate those thumbnails with your channel. Yeah, so I think those are the key things. Some videos I spend a lot of time on the thumbnails and some videos it just comes naturally. Sometimes I do wonder if certain videos’ performances would be better if the thumbnails were better, yeah. Sometimes I think I have a great thumbnail and it just doesn’t work that well.
Yeah. It’s an interesting topic because, like you say, you spend so much time on the video and the thing which determines the views can sometimes be just the image that you take, you know, at the time.
Yeah, exactly. And sometimes for certain bands, like, the more obscure bands, there’s just not a lot of images to go off of and then you, kind of, have to work with what you have so your thumbnail may not be as good as it would be compared to, like, a more well-known band.
And regards to new features on YouTube, are you fairly, you know, just doing your thing or do you stay quite current with what the new trends are with YouTube?
I try to stay current just to see if they’re helpful to our channel. I know one of the big new features – and it’s probably been inspired by Instagram and TikTok – are the stories that you get on your mobile app. I don’t think you can see it on desktop but I found that, like, that drives a lot of subscribers because they give you stats. Like, our stories in a two-week period get almost 100,000 views and then it shows you get, like, or 100 or 300 subscribers just from that, so we try to use the features. I find that a lot of the features don’t really relate to us but stories is something I’ve been making a lot of use of. Sometimes a lot of features have to deal with the law, like, they have these new, like – if you’re, like, a creator for stuff for kids, like, I know those creators have been hurt pretty badly by some of the changes on YouTube with AdSense and some laws that have been passed so we try to stay current on that kind of stuff too just to see how it affects us. But other than that it feels like YouTube has been generally the same, it hasn’t changed too much since when we started.
Got the fundamentals down then as long as you’re consistent…
Yeah, as long as we’re consistent then, you know, I think we’ll be fine. And you know, whenever I do have a question, YouTube has – like, they’ve improved their help, like, their staff, if you have questions about YouTube – like, I had to email them this weekend and they’re generally pretty quick to respond to you. Back in the day, it wasn’t so easy, so I think they probably listened to one of the complaints from creators.
Yeah. I had a different channel a while ago and that was a big problem. I had some copyright issues where it wasn’t justified but it was upheld just because someone made the claim, and then when you try and contact someone, it’s basically a no-reply email address, there’s just no one responding.
Yeah. Was it, like, a strike or was it just a claim?
It’s been a while now. I think at the time it was just, you know, this is our content and, you know, you dispute it but there was no – I know that it’s slightly different now, but back then it was just, like, until this is concluded that you own the content, then this other person gets the content and it didn’t go in my favour and there was no way to get in touch with anyone.
Yeah, like, I had a copyright strike recently. I’d done a video on an artist and we used, like, a little snippet of a trailer from a movie that was about the artist but we didn’t use any of the audio, we provided commentary over it. And I guess the director got in touch with me – or he didn’t get in touch with me, he got in touch with YouTube and filed a strike. And I tried to email them and yeah, they don’t respond and I just followed a counterclaim and YouTube accepted it and then they have, like, basically ten days to file a lawsuit against you. And the lawyer I talked to earlier on in my channel, she said most people are not going to sue you over a ten-second clip because lawsuits are expensive, right, and they’re a legal headache and people are in different countries, especially with Covid, it makes everything much more complicated. And yeah, I mean, most people will just let that ten-day thing expire and the video gets reinstated. And thankfully, I think YouTube has started to penalise people who abuse the copyright claim system or copyright strike system so you can’t just go file ten fake copyright strikes on people. But yeah, it’s definitely nerve-wracking dealing with that, it’s a headache for sure.
No, it sounds like you’ve done okay relative to most because I think one of the things which people, or copyright owners, what they would do is, you have three copyright strikes then your channel gets taken down. So, they do it formulaically, so they’d start with one and then they do another then another the week after and, you know, you can get your channel taken down, basically.
That happened on my Guns N’ Roses channel. I had three strikes against me and it was just a phoney copyright strike from somebody who didn’t even own the copyright. And I just counterclaimed every single one because it was commentary I was doing, and thankfully I won all of them. But yeah, I mean, people used to do that kind of stuff and it’s crazy. Hopefully, YouTube is going to improve the system where people have to actually legitimately prove they own copyright before putting the strike on you.
Okay. Do you have any thoughts on titles and descriptions? I know that titles – in my opinion, title is quite a big deal. Descriptions – they encourage you to do good descriptions but I don’t think a lot of people do, so what are your thoughts?
Yeah, like, titles for me, it’s like always I start with the band name and then, you know, there are certain words that do really well which I kind of hate to keep using but, like, tragic works really well. I find, like, yeah, tragic or the rise and fall, like, there are certain patterns that you see with the kinds of titles we use. Regarding descriptions, I fill out all that stuff. Like the tags I max out the descriptions, I put subtitles in for all my videos now, and those are supposedly supposed to help your SEO because YouTube, I think, is the second most used SEO search engine in the world. So, we try to maximise it as much as we can but it’s hard to get a sense of how much it actually helps you. Like, I think I’ve read some articles that say, you know, subtitles generally videos get 7 to 10 per cent more views than they would if they didn’t have subtitles.
Okay. That’s interesting.
So, I’ve read that but there’s really no metric, they just encourage you to do it so I just do it. It does take a little bit more time but at least I can put stuff out and be like, okay, well I’ve done everything on my end to optimise it as much as I think I can.
By doing essentially everything that you can and the rest…
Yeah, and a lot of YouTube coaches and YouTube consultants recommend doing that kind of stuff too, yeah.
When you said tags, do you mean hashtags or do you mean the tags which…
Both. Like, we use hashtags because YouTube just introduced that about a year or two ago and then there are the actual tags, like, that – I don’t know if the audience can see them but there are tags, like, keywords that you can type in. I think you can have up to 500 characters. So, we try to max those out and we use, like, a program called vidIQ which is, like, a free extension you can get and it basically ranks your SEO score on all your videos. So, it basically says oh you’re 72, here’s where you need to improve. So, that’s been a helpful tool. If you upgrade to, like, the paid version I think they tell you certain words that rank better or certain controversial words you should stay away from. So yeah, vidIQ is good but I think you should try to optimise as much of your video as you can, especially early on when you’re starting out so people can find your content to begin with because it’s hard when you’re starting out as a new person on YouTube, like, your content won’t rank very high up on the searches to begin with.
Do you use any other tools?
I think it’s important to post stuff on forums that are related. We do a lot of stories on the grunge bands of the ‘90s so there’s a good subreddit called Grunge that we post our videos on too, so it creates backlinks to your videos but it also would introduce your videos to maybe an audience who wouldn’t see them otherwise. So, we post them on there and then any other kind of communities you could post them on, like Facebook groups and Facebook pages. We remind people on Instagram that were on there, we also have a website to link to the videos and we also do, like, a newsletter as well to send out to our subscribers. One thing that we did – I think it was my wife’s idea which was just, like, a genius idea – is that in addition to having a request form where people can submit requests, it’s also a great way for people to opt into our newsletter. So, it’s a great way to direct people if they want to sign up for the newsletter. We were able to get a lot of signups through our newsletter that way too. So, we’re able to just keep reminding people that, you know, we have new content out. There’s also the community tab on YouTube where you can write messages to your subscribers or you can just post links to videos. Those are useful as well as YouTube stories we post videos too, so we try to create as many sources or avenues for people to find our content rather than just going to the YouTube homepage.
Yeah, I’m starting to see a little bit more why you’ve got so many subscribers.
Well, I started to implement, like, a lot of the stuff, you know, or early on, like – sorry, in the last, like, year or so and yeah, it does build up subscriber bases because it did feel like I was plateauing, like, I wasn’t getting more than X amount of subscribers per month, but once you start to do this other stuff you start to see, like, an increase, especially, like, once the video quality got better and naturally, like, the subscribers went up too.
Is there anything that you feel like you should be doing that you’re not?
That’s a good question. I think right now, like, it’s nice to have the space to put out less videos. Like, going forward I have a team that’s helping me edit some of the smaller videos so that I love focusing on these much longer videos. And then as we get towards the end of the year I already have some ideas for, like, maybe 30-minute videos which I haven’t done yet but I want to, or 40-minute videos. So, it’s a little scary how I’m going to tackle that because, like, when I record a 20-minute voiceover my voice is shot for, like, the next day. I feel like that’s what I want to be doing right now but I don’t feel like I’m mentally prepared to start it yet. I feel like as the year goes on I’ll probably start those much longer documentary-style videos.
Maybe if you get a meaningful topic that you really want to talk about it might be a bit easier, right?
Yeah, like, I’ve got a journal I write all my ideas in and, like, I’ve got about seven or eight topics that I want to do. It’s just a matter of, like, finding the right time to actually sit down and do that, and I know I’ll find that time, it’s just a matter of being mentally prepared. I feel like when you’re in a creative space if you’re not mentally prepared to do it then you’re not going to create a good product and your audience will see that. So, sometimes just getting in that mental frame of mind, that’s sometimes the hardest part.
Do you see a time where there’s a possibility of you not being involved or not being actively involved in the videos at all where you’ve got a team and you go, say, look, there’s a topic that I want you to create a video on? Can you go away and do this and come back to me?
Yeah, it’s funny my wife was talking to me about this yesterday and we’re starting to slowly do that, like, we have an assistant who’s helping us research some of the topics. And we’ve been really good, like, I think I’ve been able to find some ways of researching topics that I don’t think anybody else is on YouTube but it’s time-consuming. So, we’re starting to get people more involved outside of myself in the creative process, where I’m sort of more of a creative director. But I don’t think I’ll ever step away from it and just direct people fully. I still really enjoy editing the longer videos and I still enjoy doing the research myself too but yeah, I’m starting to give up more control and that’s part of finding that work-life balance. I think as you grow as an entrepreneur, like, you can’t keep doing everything yourself because you’ll burn out. Maybe if I quit my full-time job then I would maybe not have to worry about that but for me, yeah, I think you need to step back and that’s the hardest part for me is giving up control. I think you need to sometimes, like, learn that okay you have to give up control but you’re going to get part of your life back in a sense.
Yeah. That might give you the opportunity to maybe create those 30-minute ones that you wanted to do.
Yeah, exactly. Like, you know, some of these shorter videos that we’re looking at, I’m just gonna give them to my editors to do and I’ll just do the voiceovers and the script and, you know, they can go off and do a great job with editing it.
Have you got any sort of beginner’s tips for editing because, you know, I’ve been editing for a long time so it’s not a problem for me but in terms of if you wanted to start a channel and you didn’t have that background knowledge, did you have to go through that process?
You know, for me, I started editing on – I’m trying to think. What’s the default software that comes with a Mac? iMovie, sorry, I think it’s called iMovie. So, that’s, like, the default software. I taught myself. It’s a really simple software to learn. I learned probably by just trial and error and then also by YouTube. YouTube is just such a great wealth of knowledge for that kind of stuff. I think if you’re starting out the most important thing is having good audio. So, having, like, for commentary style videos getting a decent USB mic, being in a room where there’s not a lot of echo. Like, my closet is where I record all my videos because the clothes just dampen everything. And you don’t need fancy software. I think as long as your audio is good and the message is good, that’s all that matters. When it came to wanting to improve the quality of my videos in all aspects I then got Final Cut Pro and I learned that by trial and error too, but YouTube taught me a lot of things I didn’t know how to do on Final Cut Pro. And also, we went and talked to a YouTube coach about a year after our channel started and he gave us a lot of good tips about building relationships with our communities, investing in better equipment, recording techniques, and just certain books to read. So, I think the biggest thing is yeah, make sure you have good audio and just mess around with the simple editing software. They’re not rocket science. Like, I don’t know anything about technology and I somehow figured it out. So, I think the message is, if a guy like me can somehow figure it out anybody can do it, so that’s probably my message for them. And, you know, don’t be afraid to just put stuff up and see how it does, and that was, kind of, scary for me at the beginning because you’re putting yourself out there. I don’t have a traditional background in voiceovers and stuff. I was horrible when I started. somebody left me a message saying I’ve been following you for five years or three years and, you know, when you started it sounded like you were being charged by the minute you were talking, like, I was so fast-paced talking. And now I’m trying to, like, learn from what subscribers are telling me and slow down and still improving every day, but just remember there’s lots of room for improvement and you’ll get better at it, right?
Yeah. Start now and get perfect later.
Yeah, start now and get perfect later and yeah, and just have fun with it too. Like, if you’re passionate about it then it should be fun to do this kind of stuff.
So, a controversial question for a YouTube conversation. Are you on TikTok yet?
I think I put up my first TikTok and I got, like, zero views. I’ve got a lot to learn about TikTok and I just put up one post but I need to, like, do some more research and see what ranks really well. Are you on TikTok?
How have you found it so far?
Well, you mentioned the demographics, so I think it’s certainly a younger demographic so it might be your way to reach that audience. I’ve found it, as a user, to be far more engaging than any other social media platform, and I’m a big fan of YouTube. So, I’ve been on YouTube for years and TikTok has the ability to really keep people on their platform. So, I do think it’ll be well worth getting on.
Yeah. I think I need to spend more time on it and I feel like everything that my wife shows me these days is on TikTok, mostly, like, stuff she just comes across. It’s, like, very shareable content and it can reach a lot of eyeballs too.
Having said that, no monetisation there.
Yeah. Like, I’ve heard some stories of, like, younger people getting into TikTok and, I guess, brand sponsorships. I guess that’s another big way of monetising YouTube is, like, brand sponsorships.
Have you been approached?
Yeah, you know, you get approached by a lot. I’ve done, like, one, I think, on Rock N’ Roll True Stories and it’s probably in – I think it was NordVPN or ExpressVPN. You see this on every YouTube channel probably. And then we get approached by a lot of other stuff but it’s kind of, like, that rock and roll cliche of, like, selling out. I don’t want to endorse stuff that I myself would never use and some stuff just doesn’t seem like a good fit. There are some companies I have in my head who would be, like, a great fit that we’re maybe going to go talk to in the future, but I do feel like some YouTube channels are just, like, everything is, like, an ad that is trying to get you to buy something and I think people generally don’t like that. I do follow, like, a lot of fashion, like, men’s fashion stuff and, like, everything is built around an ad. They’re selling you watches. They’re selling, you know, men’s, you know, medical supplements or whatever it may be. For me, like, I don’t want to steer too much into that unless it’s, like, a good fit for my channel, yeah.
Yeah, there’s a balance, isn’t there?
Yeah. Like, you know, somebody once told me, they said maybe you should put, like, a paywall on your channel and put longer videos for people to actually pay a subscription fee. And I was, like, no, I mean, I want kids, maybe younger kids, who are just discovering rock and roll to learn something. I don’t want to create, like, a paywall for people who want to learn about a topic. To me, at least, that doesn’t seem fair.
What would a good fit be for a promotion on your channel? Do you think it would be, like, the release of an album or something, would that be…
Yeah. I did get approached by – I think it was Rhino Records who was owned by – I hope I’m saying this right – I think it’s Atlantic. They have some, like, big-name artists on their label. Their social media person approached me once and they said oh, we love your content. We’d love it if you would use some content around artists whose albums we’re releasing. So, if an album is putting out – like, a vinyl reissue is coming out you could do a story on that and then promote it. And we got into talking but for some reason it just fell apart, like, it just didn’t work. I think something like that would be cool. I think something that my audience – there’s, like, certain cool, like, rock and roll, like, fashion brands, they sell that kind of aesthetic that maybe our audience is into that would be cool, but nothing, like, that’s too far into leftfield. I think something that stays in the realm of rock and roll is probably cool.
So, I keep coming back to your subscribers so I’m thinking, like, because of your reach, why aren’t more people like that getting in touch with you? But the question that comes up for me is, how many of your views come from subscribers versus other traffic sources?
Well, I get conflicting data. Like, YouTube has one thing but then Vidooly is, like, another YouTube tracking website that I sign up to. I was looking at my Vidooly this morning and it’s at, like, 50 per cent. I’m like that number seems too high. I feel like probably 20 per cent – like, 15/20 per cent is from subscribers. Most of my views come from, like, YouTube recommendations, like, overwhelming majority. I think it’s, like, 87 per cent, so whatever YouTube’s recommending is working for me apparently. And then, you know, a small percentage comes from YouTube searches but yeah, it’s mostly YouTube recommendations, people seeing it on their browse features if they’re subscribed. I think another reason, like, maybe more people aren’t coming and asking us to promote stuff is that I feel like that works really well for personality type channels. Like, one channel I’m subscribed to is called Alpha M. He’s got, like, six million subs on YouTube. He does men’s fashion, men’s lifestyle, and he’s a personality. Like, you see his face and there are certain parts of his personality that people really gravitate towards because he’s a very likeable guy. And whereas with me, it’s more of, like, I’m telling a story. I’m, like, a segway for people to hear about the bands. I don’t know so much if I would call myself, like, a YouTube personality. And I feel like people build a kind of trust with a personality on YouTube and they’re probably more inclined to buy a product from a personality than just, like, a voiceover.
I think you are a likeable guy.
Oh, thank you.
Have you got anything you’d like to add as a close?
I always hear this thing on YouTube, like, is it too late for me to get into YouTube and that kind of stuff, like, has it peaked already. And I think the thing that’s, kind of, exciting now is that everybody’s, kind of, at home, working from home, so I find that if there’s one selfish thing that’s been good about Covid, is that I don’t think I would have been able to devote as much time as I have now to my channel had Covid not happened. Because I was going to work, you know, eight hours a day and then coming home, you know, having family time, and somehow being able to work on my channel. But now people have a lot of time to explore and try to maybe figure out some of their passions. And what’s also happening now is there are these other YouTube-like streaming platforms – like, Rumble is one of them. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Rumble. You know, with everything going on in the States with censorship, Rumble is now another video platform people can monetise. I haven’t tried it yet but apparently, you can make money off ads and there’s no censorship, and you can just literally go post whatever you want on rumble provided it’s not, like, against the law. So, that may be, like, an exciting avenue for people to explore and find a new audience. And Rumble actually promotes your content too, I think. If it’s exclusive to them, they will promote it and so you can get a jump in views too on that. So, I think, you know, now is a good time to try stuff out if you have some time to do that, and I think just have fun with it. That’s the most important thing, like, just do something that you’re going to be passionate about and you can love to do day in and day out because if this was something else besides rock and roll, I don’t think I would be as passionate about it as I am. And find that really good work-life balance. I find that having that time away from your business where you’re not always working on it is healthy because when you come back you feel refreshed, like, you haven’t just exhausted yourself.
Yeah, otherwise it will become work for you.
Yeah. It felt like that at a lot of points in my channel where it just felt like work. I was, you know, writing scripts at night, writing scripts as soon as I got up in the morning, and I didn’t have structure to my day. And recently I’ve started to, like, block off time. Okay, this is scriptwriting time, this is editing time, this is doing thumbnails, that kind of stuff. And I’ve tried to find more ways to interact with my community. Another thing that we do is that we give clues to our videos. So, every Sunday or Saturday I post the clues of what’s coming this week, and then people love to guess what they are and that’s a lot of fun. And just recently I started just doing video clues. So, I’ll, like, blur the image of the band and I’ll start giving clues about the band and then people will put the clues down below and I always get hit up by people being, like, where’s the clues video today? That’s something I don’t think a lot of YouTubers are doing. I’ve seen a couple of people do them but just having that back and forth with your community is really fun.
That’s cool. This is normally the place where I say where’s the best place for people to find you?
I, kind of, feel like that might be a bit redundant. It’s Rock N’ Roll True Stories and you’re on YouTube, yeah?
Just search for it on YouTube and it comes up, yeah?
Yeah, search for it on YouTube and you’ll find a number of different stories, like, different genres and just interesting stories I think people like.
Okay. Well, thanks for all the value. I’m sure that if it’s someone who is on YouTube or planning to be on YouTube, I’m certain they’ll get something very valuable from that, and thanks for being a great guest
Yeah, thanks for having me on, Thomas, I appreciate it.
No problem and I will speak to you soon.