My Strange Career as a YouTube Star
Some people remember me as DJ Benny B, an NYC club DJ, most know me as DJ Ben Boylan, a wedding DJ, but few know that my videos on YouTube have over 10 and a half million views and my channel has almost 50,000 subscribers.
Read on to find out how I got to this point and why I usually forget it even exists...
One of my most successful mixes
You could trace it all the way back to the early 90's when mixtapes were actually on tapes and you could buy them for $5 or $10 at your local t-shirt shop or bodega. I used to buy these religiously and my favorites were by DJs Ron G, Tony Touch and S&S.
Fast forward about 15 years and I had been making my own mixtapes for a few years but by this time I was pressing them onto CDs to give to club & bar owners in lower Manhattan (who threw them in the garbage). It was around this time that Soundcloud came out and some DJ friends told me it was a good place to upload mixes to.
Soundcloud was great but I would only get a few hundred "listens" to each mix. My DJ friends weren't that impressed by my mixes. I would give CDs out to them at parties and later see them in the garbage can when I went to use the bathroom. I would beg stores in NYC to carry my mix CDs but none ever did.
Then I got the idea to put a mix on YouTube. My "video" consisted of a picture (the mix cover) and music. That was it. I figured it couldn't hurt right?
Immediately I got thousands of hits. It was night and day. And I started to notice a few trends: YouTube viewers preferred hip-hop and R&B mixes to the indie dance stuff I was spinning at the time. I also got more hits if I described the mix in the title. And I even got rid of the word "mix" and started calling them "playlists." That's what everyone was calling them anyway...
My YouTube stats today- click to enlarge, see channel stats here
I remember the first time one of my mixes got 100,000 hits. I was psyched and put it out on social media. Not too long after, I reached half a million, then a million! And I was getting hundreds of really nice comments from listeners. So I got to work on more mixes.
But it was around this time that the record companies came calling in the form of algorithms. YouTube (and Soundcloud) started using these things to scan each video or file on their site and if it had copyrighted music they would email you to let you know which song was flagged and give you a warning.
What I was doing at the start was making super intricate hour long mixes where I focused on mashup-style transitions and other tricks. These would take weeks and I wondered if all my listeners appreciated them as much as I did. Many of the comments said they were listening to them at work, at the gym or at a store.
So I started making 3 hour long mixes with simple beat mixed transitions. To my surprise, these were really popular and this one is my most popular mix ever if you are counting minutes watched/listened.
My mixes have been played in restaurants, stores and bars all over the world (google the name of this bar for a laugh) - click to enlarge
People really liked my mixes! Years of DJing in small bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn paid off I guess. I was getting more regular DJ gigs in Brooklyn, which were probably unrelated to YouTube, but still pretty cool. My point is, I was feeling myself.
Over the years I have received millions of hits on my YouTube mixes and thousands of amazing comments. I've heard my mixes in random places and been told they were played in stores and places around the world. So you'd think I'm still making mixes for YouTube and raking in the money right? Well... no.
As time went on, the algorithm got better and they started taking the mixes down and threatening to delete my account. This was beginning of the end for me because I didn't want to get in a legal situation and honestly it was becoming a hassle.
The whole copyright thing didn't seem fair to me. I wasn't making any money off these mixes (never have). I wasn't selling them. I was just using them to promote my DJ business (and even that didn't work). And I never posted full songs. If anything, I was promoting the artists.
Heard this one in Starbucks last year
(Recently someone told me that YouTube is instituting a policy where instead of taking your video down, they will put ads on it and the ad revenue will go directly to the copyright holders in your video via the algorithm. Now that would be awesome).
But I do think that the practice helped me become the successful DJ I am today. While I don't DJ in dingy bars anymore, I am in the process of building a successful wedding business. So it's all good. And if anyone has an idea of what I can do with 50,000 YouTube subscribers, please let me know!
And people still listen to my mixes. Here's one reposted on Soundcloud by someone and it has 10,000 listens. If you want to listen to many of the mixes I made, and listen legally, head over to Mixcloud.