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What I Learned from Starting a YouTube Channel

“If you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.”

Damian Lillard (1990 – )

In October 2019, I decided to start a YouTube Channel about music production. At first, it was just a place for me to upload my beats so I could showcase my music but little did I know I stumbled onto something much bigger.

I found a community of people who are into music production just as much as I am and it’s so cool. I discovered that there are so many different ways of making a living online as a music producer. I’ve always been interested in making money online, but making money as a music producer has always been a dream of mine. I saw that there were so many other people who were making a killing by producing music online and I had to get involved. I started paying more attention to my channel and experimented with different kinds of videos.

I’m not expecting to make a killing like these guys, but I know I’ll never have a chance if I don’t play the game.

Now, it’s been a few months and I’ve learned a ton, not just about the realities of the YouTube game, but about myself and living a creative lifestyle.

Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned since starting my YouTube channel:

I Have No Idea What Good Music Is

I guess this depends on what I mean by good, but ever since I started the channel I feel like I’ve lost touch with (or become aware that I’m ignorant of) what people are receptive to and what good music sounds like.

I can make something and think it’s trash, but it will perform well on YouTube. Conversely, I can make something that I really love and everyone else will just be like 🤷🏾‍♂️.

What’s even crazier is that sometimes I’ll make something that’s bad and I’ll come back later and think it’s brilliant.

Music is so subjective. I almost feel like music doesn’t represent the musician at all, but that the musician is just the instrument the music uses to exist. Music takes on a life of its own and we live amongst them.

Aiming Higher Makes Things Easier

Setting my sights on bigger goals tends to make accomplishing smaller goals easier.

For example, I used to be really bad at making Type Beat videos. Those were videos that just had the song playing with some visuals to accompany it. Once I started making Beat Making Tutorials, the Type Beat videos seemed much easier to make!

After a while, I found myself making Type Beat videos when I wasn’t able to make the Beat Making videos. I wasn’t hitting my goal 100% of the time, but I was creating 100% of the time. I found the value of aiming for a harder goal. There are levels to the creation and it’s worthwhile to aim at the harder goal.

Writing this post is an example of me practicing this!! I have two other blog posts I’ve chickened out of writing this week so I can write this one, even though I used to think that this topic was too big for me to write about in one week.

Oh how foolish I am and how powerful perspective is.

There Are People Like Me

It absolutely blows my mind that there are literally thousands and thousands of music producers online, but it’s impossible for me to name 5 people in my life that are into music production. It’s so cool that there are people like me out there even though I can’t see them in my immediate community.

Everyone Can Win If You Play The Right Games

In most environments, if you are gaining something it’s usually at the expense of someone else. This is known as a zero-sum game. Typically these games urge people to be less giving but with YouTube, I see that there are ways for everyone to benefit.

At first, it felt like I was competing for subscribers with the big fish, but then I realized that if I engaged with their videos then other people would see my channel. Then it all hit me! Everyone wins when it comes to engaging on YouTube. If I leave a comment, their video benefits in the algorithm, and I have my profile picture and name attached to their video for other people to see.

For a while, I thought I was going to get crushed under the weight of the competition, and while it is still competitive, the YouTube game doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Everyone can benefit.

This discovery had me looking out for these opportunities in other domains of life!

Doing Things “Right” is an Illusion

At least on YouTube, it is. It’s taken a little while, but I’m starting to see that YouTube is really what you make it. Starting off as a new YouTuber, especially since so many other have come before me, it’s easy to want to “do my videos right,” but the truth is that everyone starts with a blank canvas and we can do whatever we want.

Yes, some things perform better than others, but not everything performs the same way. Some videos blow up after years. Some videos blow up after seconds. Some videos never blow up and that’s what makes them beautiful. Some videos blow up because their creator uploads consistently. Some videos blow up because their creator doesn’t upload consistently. It’s all okay in some weird way. All that really matters is how we define “success” and “correct.”

There Are Too Many Ways to Monetize Art

And I’m talking deeper than just ad revenue. After diving really deep into the creative space, I started seeing how different people would approach each of their models for making money off their art. There are so many things we can do, it’s almost enough to stop us from doing anything at all!

If you are creative, find a way to make money off your creations. It’s possible and it’s fulfilling as hell.

Everyone’s Audience is Different

Getting caught up in all the “cosmetic metrics” (views, subscribers, likes, etc.) is so easy, but I was shocked to discover that not everyone with over 100,000 subscribers was rolling in dough.

I was shocked to discover that some producers were making a really good living but with very little subscribers and views. They made tons of money because the people who were listening were paying them. Some YouTubers have thousands of subscribers but only 10 views on their videos. It just goes to show, we never really know what someone’s audience is really like.

Someone can have 200,000 subs, but only 10 true fans when someone else can have 200 subs but 50 true fans. Who would you rather be?

Music is One Universe of Many

I have developed a new and strong appreciation for lighting, set design, video editing, screenwriting, and graphic design. I used to think these things were cool, but now I really see the beauty in each of these crafts. The craft I’m really starting to fall in love with is video editing. It’s so fun to see the parallels with music production and deconstruct shows as I watch them.

Video Production is Foreign to Me

Keeping people’s attention is tough and it’s something I learned how to do, but relearning how to do it through video is a whole new process.

It’s like I’m taking up blogging again. Creating videos is new for me and it’s like learning how to talk all over again. The ideas I want to portray over video are far from the ideas I am able to portray, but I know that gap will close with time.

The Pressure to Deliver is Real

I would always hear the big YouTubers talking about the pressure they have to make a video every week, but I didn’t know how real that was until I hit around 200 subs.

Suddenly, I’m hyperaware of this house of cards that I’m building and if I stop making videos even for a week everyone is going to forget about me and move on. Obviously that’s a lie, but that feeling is so real and it’s something I have to talk myself out of literally every day. I know thinking that way is toxic for my creativity and can definitely speed up the burnout process.

I know it’s a dirty trick my mind plays on me and I thought other people were crazy for having it, but it’s totally a thing.

Creating Brings Me Meaning

I really like creating. As tough as it is to keep up with all the deadlines, I’d rather be stressed about my works than be stressed over what to do with myself or some other external forces. More than ever do I understand the myth of Sisyphus and why to assume he was happy. My younger self didn’t get it, but I can say with certainty that he was happy. Like I am trying to squeeze my works out week by week.

The creative grind pushes me to my limits, but it makes me feel alive.