Promoted by AXE
Over the past decade, a sub-genre of music stars has emerged on YouTube, artists without major record deals who are generating millions of views and subscribers rocking out to their songs. Enter singer/songwriter Chester See, who started his channel in 2007 with original and cover tunes and then added other cool content—and now boasts more than 1.6 million subscribers and 180 million video views.
Using that base, the California native and UCLA grad has also appeared on Broadway in Rock of Ages, but he’s now planning to spend more time back in the online community he loves.
So as he was shooting an AXE Shower Thoughts video in which a tuba draws a crowd (check it out below), we asked for tips on becoming a social media superstar…
“I see a future where you have an online musician not needing a record label and still being a household name. That’s going to happen really soon.”
1. Be careful what you label uncool.
I’m good friends with [YouTube personality and rapper] D-Trix Sandoval, who’s a well known dancer, and whenever I’m around him and his friends, I always feel they’re way more attuned to fashion and style than I am. I wear slacks, dress shirt and tie, maybe nothing that stands out too much. But the dancing community really has an edge to them, they’re part of the cool kids.
So in our video, this group of cool kids, these break dancers, gets shown up by what’s traditionally not so cool, the tuba player. And as a result, maybe people will now look at the tuba, the biggest brass instrument, a little differently. I play the “barker” character who hypes the team up. You see guys like him walking along the Santa Monica Pier, barking, “Hey, come check out the show, don’t miss the greatest show on Earth.” The premise is that something that is thought of as uncool is eventually embraced by the hipsters.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of YouTube.
There are a lot of success stories about YouTube musicians, okay. But when a record label comes along and makes them more of a traditional artist, in my mind, that’s not much different than being a musician in any other capacity. So the YouTube platform becomes more a place of discovery than anything else. The most fascinating thing about YouTube music is that you don’t actually have to leave the platform. There are middle-class musicians making a living on the platform itself. I see a future where you have an online musician not needing a record label and still being a household name. That’s going to happen really soon.
3. Concoct a distinctive brand for yourself.
Fans tend to gravitate to someone’s who’s posting consistently and being actively involved in the online world—for a lot of different reasons. I started out making a lot of original music, and the first thing that people latched onto was these original songs. For others it’s about the personality. Personality is a big thing online—a lot of people gain a following just based on being a really likable person, someone others can relate to.
4. Keep the content coming.
The key to success online, once you figured out your “it” factor, is being consistent in whatever you do. You’ve got to keep posting fresh, original content. It’s hard to be a fan of, say, The Office if you see one episode in April, and the next episode comes in September. It’s kind of hard to build a fan base that way, right?
5. Explore ancillary revenue streams.
Your fans are looking for other ways to support you because they’re your fans. When I was starting out, I designed my own t-shirt and sold that. And there’s a conversion there—X amount of fans are true fans that are really invested in you and are going to want to buy your merchandise. Finding multiple revenue streams is really the key to any game plan that people should have when they’re doing this online as a career.
6. Expand from your platform.
What an opportunity it was to play rocker Stacee Jaxx [the Tom Cruise character in the film] on Broadway in the Rock of Ages musical. It was like going back to college where Theater was my major and where I did musicals. I don’t think I would’ve ever got a chance to have my name on the marquee…. that version of performing on Broadway only existed because at some point there was a line I had crossed as a quote unquote “celebrity” and my status on YouTube.
7. Stay in touch with your inner artist.
Over the next year, I’d like to not be so pragmatic, and be more of an artist again. I’ve done a lot of cool things on the business side over the last while, and I’m really excited to be a singer/songwriter again. I’ve got a game plan for the upcoming year, I’m writing an album, working with great people. And I plan on being much happier this year, no matter what happens, because it’s the projects that make you happy.