What I learned from a small success on YouTube (Update 14 – February 2022


I’m a bass player and I’m a middle child, so I’ve learned to enjoy attention in small doses.

I’m a few months into my weekly YouTube videos now, and generally speaking the doses have been pretty small and that’s fine by me. Really, if anyone takes the time to watch something that I put out, then I’m inclined to count that as a win.

This project has been an experiment for me, and I’m coming up with ideas from week to week and throwing them out there knowing in advance that most of them will get around 40, 60 views, maybe a few likes, maybe a few comments, and I’m totally aware that in proper YouTuber numbers that’s not even noise, but like I say, I’m used to being in the background, so look, I’m pretty happy with anything that’s not zero.

To begin with there was only one way that i could think of to get some people to watch my videos, and that was to rely on my existing social network, and for me that meant Facebook, for better or worse. So I put my videos up on Facebook each week and that gives me a little bump of views from my friends and family scrolling through their feed, and for most of my videos that was the majority. I’ll show you what I mean.

So this is the chart of all of the views that I had leading up till about the start of this month, and you can see all these blue? purple? – I’m color blind so sorry if I get the colors wrong – all these spikes here anyway, they’re all the external views. In other words they’re the ones that are coming from my Facebook friends, basically. There’s one or two other little bits to that, but overwhelmingly that’s just Facebook, and you can see that when you compare it to all the other ways that people might find and watch these videos on YouTube, that these facebook views for me were absolutely the dominant source of videos. Towards the last couple here you can see there’s a little bubbling of other stuff going on here, in particular the browse features which is like when you look at your subscriptions for example on YouTube, there were a few coming through from there. There were a few coming through from search, not very many, a few coming through from suggested videos, but again, you know, only only a trickle. Most of them were absolutely coming through these external views, in other words, yeah, everything’s coming from Facebook.

Like I said. I’m not too concerned about the numbers, but I’m a bit concerned that if i’m really just making videos for people that I know, then that’s not really fulfilling the intention of the project, The Mood Merchants. I’m not doing YouTube to be famous or to make money directly out of YouTube, but i do want it to be a source of activity and interest which will ultimately lead more people to my website and generate more gigs for me and for the musicians that I work with. I’m not totally clear on whether that’s going to work, or how, but I am pretty sure that I don’t have a sufficient number of sufficiently tolerant Facebook friends to carry that whole burden of making my website and my YouTube channel look to the algorithms as if they’re worth sending people to.

So as an experiment, a couple of weeks ago I decided to do a video about a camera that I use to record gigs. I anticipated, and rightly as it turned out, that it wouldn’t hold much interest for my usual Facebook faithful, but I thought it might be interesting to throw it out there and see what happened. So here’s what happened.

I’ve extended it now to include this last little period, and you can see that things have gone a little bit nuts here. Here’s all of those Facebook little peaks that I had before, but since this video here, which was my video about the camera, I’ve started to get a lot of views out of YouTube search in particular, and these suggested videos here have sort of gone a bit ballistic as well just for a little period, and here’s my Facebook ones along the bottom here. They’ve now become kind of a much less important component of the the views coming into my channel and that’s good news for me really because I can’t just rely on my Facebook friends to generate traffic on this channel. I need to reach out to more people, and most of these people, who are coming through from search and so forth, yes they’re just looking for information about a camera, but they’re people who I don’t know, people often from other countries, people who are broadening out the base of viewers that might come and watch my stuff, and I think that’s a good thing.

So that video is over 2000 views now, again barely a blip by YouTuber standards, but about 40 times what I usually get and from a much more diverse group of people. The revelation for me was that YouTube search is a useful source of attention if you can get the right video out at the right time with the right search terms in the title, preferably. Up until this video I hadn’t really been thinking about search because I suppose as a pretty heavy user of YouTube myself, I hardly ever go to the search bar. Everything I watch comes either from my subscriptions, or from my recommendations. It was clear to me that my videos were only slowly gathering subscriptions, and that they weren’t being recommended very much, and I think I was just resigned to the fact that while YouTube has enormous amounts of traffic up for grabs, there’s also just so much content that being noticed might be kind of impossible unless you manage to get a video going viral, and that viral video is much more likely to be a sneezing trombone player than a rant about some niche part of the live music business. So I was more or less content just to sit and wait for a drummer to get in a fistfight or whatever, but then when I saw those search views starting to come in, and they were quickly followed up by lots of views from the suggested videos which pop up after you finish watching something, and the YouTube home screen, well that set my cogs whirring a little bit. I thought if there are that many views available for a pretty obscure piece of camera equipment, then maybe I can insert myself into a much heavier flow of searches. So that’s how I came up with last week’s video, which was a kind of transcription and analysis of an Ed Sheeran Taylor Swift duet, and that video did not repeat the success from the week before. It did better on Facebook, but it only got a handful of views through YouTube search and recommendations, so to understand why that happened, let’s have a look at the search terms.

So these seem to be the two search terms that have led people to watch this video, and you can see this person watched the whole thing. Just four views here, there’s only two, I don’t know why that is … um … anyway, this person watched the whole thing that’s good, obviously it suited that person to check it out. My question is, how did they actually find it? Let’s just copy this search term, and i’m going to pop up an incognito window so that you know it’s not going to be tailored to my interest in particular, and if i just search for that same search term, let’s put the J in then let’s have a little look at the search results. Aand you can see that we’ve got just dozens and dozens of these videos. Interestingly none of them is mine. We can keep scrolling down. So I don’t even know how this person came to be recommended my video because I could sit here scrolling for a whole day I think and not come across the video that I made. So it may be that the person who clicked on my video was somebody who had watched one of my other videos or maybe this search depends a little bit on what other things you’re interested in or something and so YouTube thought it was more relevant to that person but you can see that there’s just so many of these videos that it’s pretty impossible for anyone to find my video even assuming that they would click on it if they did. So I think that explains why this search doesn’t really result in views if you compare that to this one here about the camera, if we go into our traffic sources here and look at the YouTube search terms here’s the most common one by far. Let’s copy that and let’s go back into and let’s search for that again in another incognito window. It’s interesting to look at YouTube in incognito. It shows you what YouTube thinks you’re interested in if you’re nobody. Okay so here’s that search in a YouTube incognito window and scrolling down you can see there’s a few reviews of this new camera and here’s me sort of only maybe ten or so videos in so for people who are interested in this thing it’s pretty easy for them to find my video and maybe the thumbnail looks okay to them compared to all these others as well and so I’m likely to get a click on that. And the other thing is that if somebody goes and watches the most popular video which is this one here then they will also probably get recommended my video up here so that’s two ways that they’re potentially going to be exposed to to that video and that’s probably what’s resulted in this one getting all those views.

So where does that leave me now? Well, Ithink it would be a mistake just to focus on what’s going to get me the most YouTube views. I could just make this into a gear review channel or whatever if that’s where the views are going to come from but I think it’s important that whatever i put on here, it’s kind of part of my whole Mood Merchants project, so if the gear is something that I actually use day to day, and have something worthwhile to say about it, then I’m happy to talk about that on here, but I’m not going to do videos about, oh, I bought the cheapest microphone on Amazon and you’ll never guess how it sounded, all that stuff, no that’s not for me. Now and then i might do an experiment that’s a little tangential like the Ed Sheeran one, you know just to have some fun see what happens and if i manage to find another niche that I can generate more interest in the channel and in the business in general, then yeah i might do more videos like that, if I can do it without the tail wagging the dog too much.

I don’t know whether it’s anything to do with YouTube or any of the other work that I’ve been doing on the website but I have had a pretty decent flow of inquiries coming through in the last couple of weeks and most of them have turned into bookings. When the numbers are very small to begin with it’s easy to get excited about a small surge which might just be a random fluctuation, but look, I’ll ride the excitement while it’s there and I’ll hope that it lasts.

If you’re a new subscriber who’s come looking for more camera content then thanks for staying this long and i hope you got something out of it if you’re a long-suffering Facebook friend then thanks for keeping things bubbling along even when Taylor Swift doesn’t come through for me and I will catch you all again next week.

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