A Handy User’s Guide to Career-Building on YouTube

Forget the old rules, just get your content out there early and often

YouTube Career-Building User’s Guide


You cannot win if you do not play. (Did you catch the Steve Forbert reference?) Don’t be afraid. Dip not only your toe in the water, but your whole body. Reluctance is so last century. You’ve got to create on a regular basis. Once a week at least, once a day is totally fine. Don’t think of it as reaching people, but working out your kinks. It’s the beginning of your 10,000 hours. The cycle is so fast these days, and everybody’s so overwhelmed with input and time-limited, that your lame work will go unnoticed, the way the “Harlem Shake” is already history. As for people discovering your lame-o’s down the line, you should only be so lucky!

(From the pages of the April 9 issue of Variety.)


Everything. Originals, cover tunes. Acoustic versions of electric tunes. Electric versions of acoustic tunes. With unlimited bandwidth, you are not restricted. Studio time used to be expensive, you demoed and oftentimes got it wrong in the recording, whether because you were uptight or unduly influenced by a producer. Your goal is to get comfortable in front of the camera. And to keep experimenting until you find something that works. The record industry has got it totally wrong, it thinks it’s about perfection when truly it’s all about warts. You want to first and foremost be relatable, embrace your imperfections and mistakes.


You think you want overnight success, but you really don’t. You want the gradual build, you want fans to embrace you, to become invested in you. If you have overnight success, once it’s done, you’re toast. Can you say “Rebecca Black?” That does not mean you shouldn’t follow what works. If a certain style of video gains viewers, repeat the formula. Marketing is not about being on every platform, screaming your way into people’s hearts, or not. Rather marketing is about research, taking chances and seeing what works and refining it and following it up.


You can’t get on it. Not unless you’re signed to a major label and make Top Forty music. So forget the radio, YouTube is your radio. As it is for the younger generation. Did you see the NPD report? I don’t trust research, it’s inherently flawed, but if you’re the kind of person who needs numbers to confirm what’s right in front of your face, I hope you saw the NPD report that said Internet radio accounted for 23% of 13- to 35-year-olds’ listening time, up from 17% last year, and AM/FM dropped two points to 24%. The Internet already won, the only people who don’t know it are the old farts, who listen to the Internet 13% of the time and AM/FM 41%. It couldn’t be written any clearer. Until record labels are run by 20-year-olds, they will continue to tumble into darkness; they’ll get the message last.


You’ve got a smartphone, right? That’s all you need. Some of the best records of all time were cut live to tape with mistakes in place. Capture lightning in a bottle. Ever see two identical lightning bolts? Hell, you can’t even remember how every one looked! You just remember the emotional experience, how you felt when you saw them and heard the resultant thunder. That’s the business you’re in, connecting with people emotionally. And that’s all about letting loose and taking chances.


Forget everything you once knew. Albums, cycles, they’re totally toast. An artist today is constantly creating and constantly in the public eye. He doesn’t bitch that he can’t sell records, that the old model is broken, rather he explores the new avenues where money is available to be made. Piracy? Rip-offs? Imitation? That’s your greatest desire! Content ID will make it so you profit off all the imitators who cover your music! You don’t want to hold it close to the vest, you want to open it up to everybody. Which reminds me, ALWAYS SAY YES! You’re gonna get ripped-off anyway. If there are no barriers to piracy, let people do what they want. Your efforts are just fodder, starter material for others to bake their own bread. They’ll give you credit if you don’t antagonize them. And they’ll give you their money too. People like to pay those they believe in. Foster belief and you’ll get paid. Phony is history, like the deejays on terrestrial radio, if you’re playing to everybody, afraid to offend anyone, you’re playing to nobody. You want viewers, you want fans, make it easy, don’t put up barriers.