Get Ready to skip the ad!
“You can skip this ad in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”.
You hover your cursor impatiently above the countdown timer.
Let’s be honest: the advertisements before YouTube videos are just an irritating obstacle, which force you to wait like a dick to watch that video of the Top 10 Pug Fails of all time.
For some people though, the ads mean a pay cheque.
Being a ‘Youtuber’ has gone from being a niche hobby, enjoyed by loud teenagers, to a fully-fledged career-path that can rake in thousands of euro a year. In fact, if you work hard and get lucky, you can make a full-time job out of creating videos that endlessly distract others from actually doing their full-time jobs!
What does it take to make it as a round-the-clock YouTuber?
First you have to understand how YouTube’s advertisements work, because they’re your main way of earning money. Ads are tacked onto videos automatically by Google’s automated ‘Youtube Partners Program’. Every time a viewer watches an ad attached to your content you earn a little bit of money. That is: you’ll earn roughly half a US cent per video, so you can expect an average of $1.50 per 1,000 views.
If a living wage is about €460 a week, you’ll need a massive 92,000 views per week to bring in enough to keep the wolves from the door. Sadly, even if you are drawing those sort of numbers, it isn’t that straightforward. Viewers have to watch at least 30 seconds of an ad before you earn anything – and we all know how crushing the urge to hammer “Skip Ad” as soon as possible is.
On top of this, ad-block software is practically de rigueur for many people, which totally rules out any chance of revenue being generated. To further complicate matters, YouTube has recently updated its policies that dictate what makes a video ‘advertiser friendly’ – so if your content is risque at all, you may be stripped of your ability to monetise it.
To increase your chances of a decent payday or two, clearly you’ll need to attract as many views as possible. This is where your subscribers come in. Subscribers are your channel’s fans: as the nomenclature suggests, they’re more dedicated than casual viewers. In effect, their views are often your main source of income. Their attention is also what will drive your channel ever further up in the ranks of YouTube’s discovery algorithm. The higher your rank, the more potential subscribers you can draw.
So, there are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles to overcome on the journey to YouTube stardom. That said, it can be done. We spoke to three YouTubers, and they told us about the highs, lows and general weirdness of making five-minute videos for the internet. Sinead Cady is the most successful female YouTuber in Ireland. She’s expecting to hit one million subscribers in the new year. Her channel, The Makeup Chair, is a beauty and lifestyle guide. Her make-up tutorials are watched all across the world and the multi-channel networks have started to take her under their wing.
“When I started my YouTube channel, I was actually trying to get into college to study to be a makeup artist. For the course, you needed to have experience; I didn’t have any, because no one was taking on someone who had just finished school – so I started creating videos.
“I got into the course – but it wasn’t long before I realised that my channel was taking off and getting views and subscribers.
“At that stage I didn’t have a clue what that even meant. But I still thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to focus on this’, and I just kept working at it – and now it’s my full time job.
“Back when I first started in 2011 or 2012, people didn’t have any idea what a YouTuber was, so I just started calling myself a blogger – then people understood. My channel is a tutorial for makeup artists and people who just want to see what the latest trends are. I like teaching the backstory as to why we do certain things, whether it’s contouring that suits your face-shape or creating different looks for different eye shapes.
“I like teaching: that’s my thing. I get a lot of inspiration from my followers. They suggest topics, asking, ‘Hey Sinéad, this is a new way to do –’ for instance contouring or strobing ‘– can you explain it to me because I don’t know what it is?’ So, I cover certain topics to make things easier for them.
“A lot of YouTubers work out of their bedrooms, but I have a separate room. I think it’s better to break it away from your own personal life. If you’re working in your bedroom when you go to bed at night you’re thinking, ‘Oh there’s that there and that camera’s there’, and it’s hard to shut off your brain.
“I’m not looking for it to grow too much.
I just want to improve and to create better quality videos – and also to have more time to communicate with my followers. If you’re starting a YouTube channel, focus on yourself. Have your own identity. Don’t worry what other people are doing or the numbers they’re getting, because they don’t really matter as long as you’re creating good content. Just focus on what you love to do.”
Gavin Dunne is possibly the biggest indie musician in Ireland. He’s released eight albums and has thousands of fans all around the world. But you’ve probably never heard of him. That’s because he works nearly exclusively through YouTube. His project ‘Miracle of Sound’ takes big video game releases, and produces songs that fit their tone and themes.
“When I started doing video game-inspired songs they were something that was just really a bit of fun to get over the fact that I was a little bit sad that my previous band had fallen apart,” he says.
“I’d been playing some video games at the time and decided to write some stupid songs about the characters for fun, to see if people would like it – and they started to get a lot of views.
“I used to go onto The Escapist (a popular gaming publication) a lot and I messaged them and said, ‘Hey, look is this the kind of content you’d be interested in promoting?’ They listened to the songs and really liked them and it was like: ‘Yep, this is something different and original and we’ll give it a go.’ And that’s where Miracle of Sound started.
“That was back in 2010. Since then there’s been huge changes in YouTube. It’s become, and I say this not with the negativity that you might expect from this word, far more corporate. There’s a lot more focus on ads and a lot more focus on selecting certain big channels to push things – and, in return, getting bigger pushes from Google.
“I think that kinda sucks for a lot of smaller channels that are just starting out, but
I’m lucky that I got in there early and
I’ve been pretty lucky with my YouTube partnerships. YouTube is the best place for me to upload things. It makes it easy for people to find.
“When people ask me what I do, I don’t even say Youtuber. I say musician. Then of course the first question is ‘what do you play’, then you have to explain: ‘Well, I play everything’ and I think, ‘Oh, I should have just said Youtuber’.
“I work from home in a tiny, little bedroom studio,” he explains. “I have a couple of guitars, a MIDI keyboard, and lots of mixing and synth programmes. I always take it as a huge compliment when people say that my work sounds like it was produced in big, expensive studio. That’s the wonder of how good home recording equipment has gotten these days. You can fool people’s ears into feeling it was recorded somewhere much more expensive.
“The funny thing is that most of my audience is outside Ireland: they’re in America, Russia, the UK, etc. It still nice the odd time I get recognised – it happens maybe three or four times a year, where someone will stop and say ‘Holy shit, you’re Miracle of Sound’ and I’ll be like, ‘Alright, nice to meet you’ – but I can tell you, I certainly don’t get mobbed walking down the street in Cork.” Conor McKenna, better known by the moniker ‘Arms’, is part of comedy sketch trio Foil, Arms and Hog. The group have been plying their brand of sketch comedy since 2008, and in the last three years have undergone a sort of social media renaissance. Posting a video a week, their content has become uniquely shareable, spreading across social media like ring-worm in a student house.
“Our original idea was fairly casual,” Conor explains. “We just thought that we’d put together some videos and put them online and show our friends. About three years ago we started to take it a bit more seriously and put them up more frequently.
“It’s all about the frequency: you just have to get one out every week, otherwise they won’t come back. We normally produce videos on a week by week basis. We do everything on a Wednesday: we meet up and all three of us will have at least one idea and we’ll work alone for maybe an hour. Then we meet up in our office at 11am, and discuss what we have.
“If we have something good we get together straight away and try and finish it by 3pm. Then we get the camera set up and by 5pm we’re filming – we shoot about two hours. Then it’s home for the edit, which we finish at about 12 or 1am.
“The Youtube comments have a reputation,” he adds, “but people by and large are extremely nice. One lad wrote underneath a video, ‘This is fucking shite’. I replied, ‘Sorry about that, hope you like the one next week’ and he wrote back, ‘Yeah, me too, I’m a big fan’. They’re your fans and they will tell you when they don’t like something. Sometimes the way they’ll tell you might seem rude but you’re kinda stupid to think they mean it (laughs).”
Sinéad Cady: make-up wizard. (Below right) Conor McKenna of comedy trio Foil, Arms and Hog.
Gavin Dunne: Is he Ireland's least known successful musician?