12 YouTube Stars explain how to make it big on YouTube with performing music...
#1. Do something different in your video
Andy McKee: "The video that particularly took off and was featured the most is a tune of mine called Drifting. In that video I do play in an unusual way where I use my left hand over the top of the guitar neck for chording and percussion. I'm sure the novelty of that visual played a big part in people checking it out, plus I was a bit heavier then and I had a big beard and shaved head. Seeing some lumberjack playing instrumental guitar was just curious, if nothing else [laughs]! I like to at least hope that some people were captivated by the music as well, which led them to looking at my other videos that were uploaded at that time. Drifting has had just over 50 million views."
Vadrum: "When I first decided to cover unusual songs, my intention was just to have fun and express my creativity in a different way, arranging drum parts for something that usually doesn't have drums recorded or is not intended to be played by a drummer."
Ben Powell: "When choosing a track to cover there are many things to consider. A song like Smells Like Teen Spirit, for example, is probably one of the most covered songs on YouTube. If you create a mediocre cover, then it's just going to get lost on the net with few views."
#2. …but remember good music should still remain at the heart
Ryan Marshall: "It has to be a good song! Every song is different, so there's no particular formula or process. It's just about making it your own. Try to change the song without actually changing it. That's what we do."
Andy: "All of my videos have been very simple, just me sitting there playing in front of a mic and camera. Try and write the best music you can. Have fun with wild techniques, but remember that melody, harmony, and rhythm should always be your focus."
#3. Don't be self-indulgent
Cobus Potgeiter: "I always give myself absolute artistic freedom, but I've found I progress more towards control and 'less is more' than the self-indulgent approach I had when I started years ago. I think it's healthy and hopefully is a sign of me maturing musically."
"Drifting has had just over 50 million views." - Andy McKee
#4. Swot up on video
Vadrum: "Definitely one of the reasons that first led me, and still leads me, to make drum videos is because I love every single aspect that concerns the production of a video - the birth and development of an idea, the drum arrangement, the setting up of the kit and mics, the audio soundcheck, positioning of cameras, the video editing process, the audio mixing process, the creation of the graphics."
#5. Strive for the highest production quality possible
Ben: "Production-wise, try and use more than one camera, make the angles interesting and unique, not just straight-on as it looks boring. Even if you own one camera, record yourself several times from different angles and then bring it all together in the edit."
Vadrum: "My first videos were created with very little equipment: a typical '90s video camera and the audio was recorded with a cheap microphone connected to a Minidisc recorder. Video after video, I always tried to improve the audio quality, using multiple microphones and starting to record in a multi-tracking system with a multiple channel soundcard connected to software like Cubase."
#6. Decent audio doesn't need to be stressful
Ben: "Once you get your head round linking all the equipment up it's a doddle. The way I record is pretty simple in comparison to other drummers I know. I use GarageBand which comes free with all Macs. I simply record the drums using my mics which are plugged into my mixer and then via USB record in GarageBand."
#7. It's all in the name
Steve Moore: "My video was recorded by a fan and it had been online nearly two years but some different person took the video and re-uploaded it with the title 'This Drummer's At The Wrong Gig'. That's when it went nuts. I've emailed two or three times the person that uploaded it and named it that to try and thank them, but they've never returned the email.
"You'd think after millions of hits they'd return an email!"
"The idea was to find a way to reach a lot of fans without having to drive across Canada in a stinky van for months at a time!" - Ryan Marshall
#8. Get tagging
Andy: "I just usually tag 'acoustic guitar', 'fingerstyle guitar', things like that. I uploaded a video just a few days ago of myself doing a cover of The Happy Couple by Michael Hedges. When I started adding tags for that, I found that they actually had one for Andy McKee (Musician) so I've started using that too [laughs]!"
#9. Embrace the web as a marketing tool
Ryan: "It was never really planned out [to draw attention to ourselves]. The idea was to find a way to reach a lot of fans without having to drive across Canada in a stinky van for months at a time! I think any form of social media is great for bands that don't have the ability to get content onto commercial formats. We live in a time where music is no longer just listening, it's seeing too. When people listen to music on the radio it's two-dimensional. YouTube has created a three-dimensional world of music and has spoiled the fans to a point where just listening is almost boring. A music video can't be just a band performing any more. It has to be more; it has to grab you in the first 15 seconds and keep your attention all the way through. Just make your video better than any video you have ever seen, and make your next one better than that!"
Cobus: "To get a name as unpronounceable as Cobus Potgieter out there, you have to use any and all means necessary. Kidding aside, my generation represents a bunch of kids very comfortable with social media anyways.
"I don't think enough people realise the incredible potential of online media. It's such a great platform, people watch and subscribe to content they feel a connection to - sincerity and quality will always make it to the top."
#10. Rise above the haterz
Andy: "If you upload a video onto Youtube, don't be terribly surprised if/when you get negative comments. You might get a thousand very kind comments, but it's easy to let one really negative one get you down. The truth is, you gotta put it in perspective. A lot of times that negativity is originating somewhere else. But there are times when they might have a valid criticism in there, and you can learn from that too. Maybe something about your picking hand or fretting hand that you can think about."
Vadrum: "I always pay attention to the advice and critiques of my followers (including a lot of drummers), trying to always be myself, doing what I love for my new and old friends, not just for getting views."
#11. Keep a business head on
Andy: "If you start having some success on YouTube, be ready to act on it and turn it into something more than an internet phenomenon. Take every opportunity you can find and start making a name for yourself out in the real world as well. It really sped up my career, I would say. I had started to make some good inroads within the acoustic guitar world before my YouTube success, but after the videos went viral I starting to get a lot of opportunities to perform. One of them was to open for Tommy Emmanuel in the UK. One was to be a guest on Josh Groban's Christmas album. More recently I got to tour twice with Dream Theater and then, probably the biggest thing, was performing with Prince in Australia for nine concerts. It was a tremendous honour to know that he was a fan and was interested in working together. I never could have dreamed that one up! On a more personal level, playing with Eric Johnson, Don Ross, Billy McLaughlin and Preston Reed has been absolutely surreal. Those guys inspired me so much. I just wish I had the chance to play, or even meet Michael Hedges before he passed. Perhaps in the next world...
"Sincerity and quality will always make it to the top." - Cobus Potgeiter
#12. Enjoy the rewards
Steve: "I'm the biggest drum geek you'll ever meet. It's one thing to get millions of hits, because you could just run a shopping cart into a basket of eggs and it goes viral, it doesn't really put you in a good light, it just means a lot of people thought it was funny. But to then have so many people get behind me, that's what was breathtaking.
"I was suddenly talking to people like Carmine Appice, Mike Portnoy and on and on and they actually respected what I was doing and liked it. I still can't wrap my head around that."
Gabrielle Aplin: "YouTube was really good for building a kind of core, loyal fanbase. I didn't want to be a YouTube artist, as such. I mean, there are people who are able to release albums and live off YouTube, but I felt – and not in an arrogant way – that I could be commercial and credible if I really put my mind to it. I didn't want to be a YouTube artist and I didn't feel that I suited that, in a way. I was very loyal to the fans that were loyal to me on there – and it was great to actually meet these fans and connect with them.
"Then the 'BBC Introducing' opportunity was great for me [recorded in April 2011 at Maida Vale], in terms of connecting what I did on YouTube to the 'real world'. I got a manager, and I set up a label so I could release my own music independently on iTunes, put my own tours on sale and built it from there. It just got bigger and bigger each time."