Ten million YouTube views (Part 1)

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A few days ago, my YouTube channel went over 10,000,000 views (and 26,000 subscribers). That is a good little milestone, so I want to talk about it for a bit.

Please understand that I am not trying to make more of this than it is. Last time I looked, my YouTube channel is ranked around 200,000 in popularity in the world. In other words, I am hardly A-list. On the flip side, it is not a small achievement either. There are something like 50,000,000 YouTube channels that are considered professional, so my channel is in the top half of the top 1% of professional channels.

I started the channel in 2007, and the first videos I put up were two behind-the-scenes look at the orchestra recording Reflections on a Journey. There are two parts because back in that time, YouTube did not allow videos over ten minutes long. The video resolution we could use back then was horrific as well. I recently watched those grainy videos for the first time in many years and cried a bit. Here they are:

Part 1
Part 2

It is really interesting to me that these two videos have never gotten many views. They have just a few thousand views between them even though they have been up the longest on the channel. That is just a testament to the reality that when you post on YouTube, you are at their mercy. They promote some videos and don’t promote others. That brings up another point. If you see success on YouTube, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are good. There are far better musicians than me that have fewer views on YouTube. Frankly, there are some musicians that are not so good that get crazy amounts of views.

Above is a chart of the channel’s views per month. Note that I went forever on the channel without getting much attention. I think it took about 3 years just to get to 10,000 views. (I will explain that big anomaly between 2011 and 2013 in a future post.) At present, people watch roughly 33,000 hours of my videos every month. That is the equivalent of doing a concert for 1,000 people every single day. As I have watched those numbers climb, I will confess that my interest in traveling has waned. In fact, the most significant reason that I travel so little these days is that I just don’t have to. The fact that I can say that as a professional musician is just astounding. We live in an amazing time.

My average video is at about 30,000 views but here are the top videos I have posted:

As you can tell, there are no viral hits and only one video over a million views. Everybody is obsessed with going viral but the truth is you don’t need to go viral. You simply need to produce good videos and think in terms of singles rather than home runs.

Note that not even one instructional video made this list but the instructional videos are actually what pay the bills. My channel is a mix of instruction and performance, but leans heavily toward performance at the moment. Essentially every song that I have ever recorded is available on YouTube.

You might wonder how people find my videos to view them. The most common way is YouTube’s suggested video feature where they show related videos in a right column. Playlists are also popular and there are a lot of people searching for my name or perhaps names of songs that I have recorded. Here is the complete list of how people found my videos in the last four weeks.

Did I ever expect to get ten million views on YouTube? No, I in fact never really expected to get 10,000 views. I remember the day that I hit that milestone and thought that I had arrived. In 2010 when I was just recording my early albums and getting 30 views/day on YouTube, the idea that my music would ever get played around the world like this seemed as farfetched as getting struck by lightning. I am very grateful for the opportunity and also grateful for the many of you that have shared my music over the years.

I don’t know that I could easily pick my favorite video on the channel, but I will point out some that are significant to me:

Soul Rest (Be Still My Soul) – My newest big orchestra piece, and what I consider to be the most beautiful thing I have recorded.

MasterBuilder (All Creatures of Our God and King) – Another new piece that I loved working on because of its energy.

Looking Up (Full concert) – I just posted this full concert recently because it is not getting much TV play anymore. It is my biggest music event that I have ever done to this point.

Solace (Full album) – A complete album on continuous play complete with nature sounds.

But Beautiful – This is a jazz standard from Lovenotes and one of my favorite songs of all time.

The Way You Look Tonight (with Melody St. Clair) – I love this video so much for a few reasons. First of all, it features Melody St. Clair who is one of my favs. If you want a treat, listen to this Melody St. Clair playlist. Second, it is an off-the-cuff, improvised moment in the studio which is something I love to do.

How to learn to play by ear in a year – I have a custom of posting an annual challenge to church pianists. This was my challenge a few years ago.

No More Night – One of my favorite Christian songs of all time. I am glad I got a chance to record it.

God Leads Us Along – A simple improvised piece featuring May Leporacci. We had just finished a TV special an hour before and were dead tired. I love it partly because it is a hymn from my childhood and partly because May did so well on it.

I am Bound for the Promised Land (with Andy Leftwich) – This is another piece from that night of the TV special in Charleston. Andy is a multi-Grammy winner and a great guy.

Playing Mood Music – I recorded this one hour free lesson to introduce people to my instructional videos. It is still one of the most effective things I have ever done from an advertising perspective.

I could add a lot more but I will stop there. One of the things I noted as I was picking those favorites is that almost all of them are collaborative in nature and involved other people. The people in music are special. I am beyond blessed to have had the opportunities to work with great musicians, producers, writers, and engineers that are also great people. I could name such people a long time, but won’t try because I would leave some out.

I want to write another post about the business side of this and how YouTube impacts other things that I do. I will get that up later in the week.