There’s this unfortunate irony that by the time you get wind of a new trend and manage get on the bandwagon, chances are the trend has already peaked. But in the case of DIY musicians finding success on YouTube, there’s still time to get on board if you haven’t already. Not only is online video becoming a dominant force on the InterWebs, but YouTube in particular has become a social network in itself that is apparently giving Facebook a run for its money.
Consider the headlines from just the past couple of days. Yesterday, Hypebot reported that in a recent study, 93 percent of teenage Internet users visited YouTube weekly, while only 65 percent visited Facebook. And just today, YouTube announced that it now has 1 billion unique users every month. And let’s not forget the recent musical sensations that just about everyone has heard about thanks to YouTube, including PSY’s amazing run last year with “Gangnam Style”, or the fact that previously unknown producer Baauer has topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Harlem Shake” every week since YouTube views were added to the numbers.
Conclusion: YouTube is currently one of the dominant influences on the web. If you a DIY musician and you aren’t tapping into that influence right now, you are wasting an opportunity.
Now, granted, given all the YouTube users competing for attention, becoming an overnight viral sensation is still a crap shoot. And besides, instant fame can be a career killer if it’s not handled properly, so you might not even want that, anyway. But that’s not all YouTube is good for these days. There are many creative people who are parlaying YouTube views into decent exposure and good, solid income without becoming world-famous. At the very least, it’s a tool to win you more fans, and at best, it’s a way to generate some income.
Take, for example, a guy named Tyler Ward—a musician from my hometown in Denver, CO that not many people have heard of. I first heard this guy three years ago playing solo guitar for a group of uninterested patrons at a local Baker Street Pub. Since then, Tyler has quietly built a following of over 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, with over 317 million total views to date, making him one of the most visited account users on YouTube. How did he do it? He started recording good cover versions of Top 40 hits in his parents’ basement and putting them up on YouTube, along with a few originals, and then began pointing the incoming traffic to other places where his music was available. It wasn’t long before this strategy allowed him to quit his day job and do music full time. He has since built his own recording studio which operates out of locations in Colorado and Nashville, has started recording and producing other artists, and has even had the chance to collaborate with the likes of Lindsey Stirling and The Band Perry.
Even with all his exposure on YouTube, Tyler Ward could still hardly be considered world-famous. But he’s found a great amount of success simply by using this resource in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. That’s something anyone can do, even if it doesn’t look quite the same as Tyler’s journey.
Will YouTube always have this kind of potential for DIY musicians and others? Not likely. The Internet landscape is always changing, and who knows what it will look like in a few years. But right now, today, YouTube offers a great deal of promise for you if you’re serious about building an audience, and there are a number of different ways to use it to your advantage. If you’d like to study this out a bit further, The DIY Musician Blog (hosted by CD Baby) has compiled a series of helpful pieces on this subject into a series called YouTube For Musicians: The Complete Guide, which you can access by clicking here. It will take you awhile to get through all the material, but it’s worth it.