YouTube music channels have come seemingly out of nowhere to be one of the most important gatekeepers in dance music. To find out more about their world, we speak to four key channel owners.
It used to be that only Radio DJs and magazine journalists could make or break a record. Since the rise of YouTube however, music channels have edged their way into contention to be one of the most important gatekeepers in dance music.
The numbers of people channel who subscribe to their channel often dwarf the numbers of readers who buy traditional dance music media magazines like Mixmag or DJ Magazine (Editor's note - both of which we buy without fail, each month).
And with good reason. With thousands of tracks released each month, an array of online stores and multiple streaming platforms, the need for someone to filter out the musical chaff and dish up the good stuff has never been so great. As the music listening public continues to turn to YouTube music accounts in ever greater numbers, channel owners are finding themselves in a powerful position.
Some are using their brands to push their DJ careers, a natural transition for their selector skills. Others are selling merchandise to loyal fanbases, who proudly wear their t-shirts or tote bags at parties, or are using their channels as one of many extensions of their brands such as record stores or labels.
And, where once channels operated like rogue outlaws of the internet, posting music unlawfully, now many find the labels are coming to them to help promote their output.
Number of subscribers: 143,381
HATE is managed by two guys, Mike and Szymon, based in Poland. The channel was launched in April 2015 and in less than three years became the most popular channel for underground techno on YouTube.
“There are no other channels specialising in techno with the same amount of subscribers on YouTube as ours. This number is real and is the result of daily work digging and talking with labels and artists. We receive so many requests for uploads every day from popular artists and labels and from new labels too but we select our stuff very carefully.
We are not interested in mainstream techno, like Drumcode. We are currently representing many labels and have deals/permissions to stream on YouTube and promote releases on Facebook. It's very important for us to keep the quality high on our channel and organise our work in order to give the best exposure to each release we promote. That's why we have a well organised plan, where we schedule the time and day of each release weeks before the release date.
We create YouTube playlists for each single release, so it's easy to find the right release of that catalogue. It means that if a person searches one single track, YouTube shows also the other tracks of the same release. In this way we increase the possibility to listen and buy the full release. Other channels are just sharing tracks without playlists.
We created probably the world best and most updated archive on YouTube for techno tracks called "NEW TECHNO TRACKS". That playlist has reached more than five million views. So if our uploads guarantee a huge exposure, adding the same uploads to that playlist will give an extra-boost in terms of exposure.
We started out as simple music lovers on Youtube and [later] decided to work in a professional way (even if this is not our job and the work is still done in our free time). We work about four to five hours a day but the channel is not making money from advertising at the moment. The ads you see are automatically generated by Youtube after the request from the distributor or by the label/artist so they could get a revenue on the stream on our channel. Sometimes it happens we receive little donations from the guys who really appreciate and support what we are doing. We take this opportunity to say thanks to all of them.
Last year we started our HATE podcast series on Soundcloud too. It's a recent thing, but in this short time, we have nearly 15,000 followers with less than 64 mixes with many good names. And that number is growing each single day with many comments, reshares, likes. Our podcast series was mentioned by Telekom Electronic Beats as one of "10 Techno Podcasts Every Techno Head Should Know.
If it's not still clear, all this work is done for FREE, we are great listeners and music lovers, we do it for passion and our purpose is only to promote the scene by selecting the best releases. Nothing more."
To subscribe to HATE, click here.
Number of subscribers: 11,000
A fast rising YouTube channel is just one extension of kingpin Romanian brand, PlayedBy and its owner Cristi Klebleev.
Playedby started in the summer of 2014. It began with a Facebook page called “tracks playedby Romanian DJs” that developed into playedby after the website launch in August. In three years of activity, we managed to get over 30k followers on facebook, 98%+ organic. We rarely boosted any of our posts.
I admin - by myself - all playdby platforms and the YouTube channel was launched last year. In nine months it managed to get almost 10k followers. It grows very fast. We have agreements with lots of labels and artists that send us their music released on vinyl to upload, mostly from Romanian labels. Our most important partner is ourown.ro, distribution and booking agency from Bucharest.
Ricardo Villalobos's Widodo on a:rpia:r has nearly 105,000 views.
With ads placements on the videos, right now with 300k views in month the channel makes somewhere between 100 to 200 euro per month. We don’t make a living with that, but it has helped us develop further our project after three years that was only time, work, passion and money without any financial income.
Last year we started also our vinyl- only record label. The next step is a record store. I think the whole project changed my life, and as it grows, it’s getting better and better. It’s more about passion for music, than business.
To subscribe to playedby, click here.
Number of subscribers: 25,000
Dublin based channel owner specialising in abstract vinyl jams who was closed down for copyright infringement but restarted with a fresh approach and now plays out under his channel name.
I started my channel as my hobby and continue to do so as it's my passion to share music I love. It started with my personal email account, uploading rips from my record collection. I just felt so nice while listening and wanted to share this feeling with more people, so YouTube was the best way to spread that [feeling.]. Then record diggers started to follow me and it became addictive looking for music every day until late and uploading rips. The channel was taken down for copyright infringement and started again from scratch a few years later under my Do Funkk DJ name.
I decided to upload stuff if I know the distributors and label managers rather than stuff from the 80s and 90s that was distributed by big corporations like Universal Music, Sony, and Warner.
It's nice to be able to share good music with not just friends, but with the world and also helps the artist to understand that they don’t have to focus in one generic dance style as people from different cultures, nations and backgrounds may love their stuff as it is. I am very open minded regarding music and I have no specific genre of style and I love abstract and trippy sounds.
And nope, there is no way you can make a living with YouTube. I work in advertisement for my normal job and they are the most abusive to publishers regarding revenue. You have to get billions and billions of views to make a living and they can also change the rules of the game (cpm, ad distribution, etc) at any time they like.
So [as a subscriber to my channel] you get some tips for records to buy each month but I usually spend ten times what I get from the channel on buying music from record stores.
In the last years, I have met loads of friends in festivals and parties in different countries. They are music enthusiasts like me and, therefore, some of them have launched their labels, some became producers and they keep sending my music. I also get music from people I don’t know and listen to them and, if I like it, I’ll upload it.
To subscribe to Do-Funnk, click here.
Number of subscribers: 82,000
Darren Simpson's YouTube ode to the big tunes of trance's yesteryear is one of the most popular channels of them all and thrives on dance music nostalgia.
Our Youtube channel 'Trance Classics' started back in May of 2012, a short time after the fan page. As a massive fan of [trance's] older sounds and anthems, I felt there was no real home dedicated to classics on Facebook. There were of course plenty of other Trance related pages, but the majority of them I found were posting only the latest tracks, or tracks I’d barely even consider Trance music.
Trance Classics was born, and after a struggle to gain fans in the beginning, things eventually started to take off. Initially it started because we thought it'd be good to have all of our favourite tracks in the one place online to share with our fans. It also saved us hunting around for tracks, we'd know the audio quality would be lossless/320 minimum, and as well as that, we owned a large number of classics that didn’t appear to be on YouTube which we felt people should hear/be reminded of.
To begin with, it was just myself doing everything, but once we gained enough popularity I began to recruit some admin for the page. We’ve seen a number come and go over the years, but Mark Winstanley is one guy who has remained throughout, and today it’s just the two of us that run both the page and the YouTube channel together.
At the moment we are experiencing our first real troubles due to copyright claims. We actually had our whole channel of over 1600 uploads (including tracks, our old radio shows, heartfelt tribute videos toward the likes of Robert Miles) etc., all gone in an instant and thought that was it gone for good.
We barely had a strike in six years, and then bang three in two days. I guess it’s a risk that’s always there to an extent with uploading content you don’t own the rights to.
Tiësto's Traffic has had nearly 15 million views on Trance Classics.
Luckily, I'm friends with the producer who owns one of the labels that put a claim in, and he got everything sorted out and the claim retracted. We were back up and running the same day, but still have two strikes which don’t expire until May of this year. I’m hopeful of getting at least one of these removed too, so we aren’t walking such a thin tightrope.
Other than this controversy, we simply add an old track or so from our collections when we have some time and share on Facebook interacting with fans and so on. I think we may lay off the uploading for a while though at least until this copyright business is sorted.
We don’t earn a single penny from anything we do with the channel, and rightly so. Sadly some people are misinformed or not genned up on how YouTube works and we do get the occasional “f**king thieves making money from others work” type post sent our way. We’re simply passionate fans like everyone else on our page who want to share their favourite tunes with other like minded people.
I think the vast majority of not only our fans, but the original producers can tell we only mean good with what we’re doing. We think of ourselves as helping to keep these tracks alive, putting them back in the spotlight. A single upload will be seen by 70,000 plus subscribers, it will include a link in the description to buy legally from Beatport/Juno (where possible) and then it will then be shared to Facebook to near 40,000 fans.
If the copyright owner wishes (which they most often do nowadays) they can simply monetise the video (check out content ID match) on our channel and they earn from placing ads etc on each upload on any third party channel. We actually tag most of the original producers in our shares, and they can often be seen sharing from our page themselves, as well as commenting and even thanking us for the support.
To subscribe to Trance Classics, click here.
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