In this new monthly feature, I recap the month in my content and life.
August was a month for wrapping up loose ends, and laying the foundation for the future of my content. At the beginning of the year, I was sure that I wanted to return to a full-time job by the fall – maybe with a platform like BuzzFeed or Tastemade – but after attending VidCon and having some in-depth discussions about my content with some new connections in the industry, I have found a renewed excitement to keep doing things on my own. I know how to make really good content. I just have to be smarter about it.
Jack of all trades
Someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure.
A big challenge – and possibly part of the charm – of my YouTube channel is that it has always been about variety. Music, travel, skits, videoblogs, comedic, and serious content. There have been daily videos, and then there have been weeks without any video at all. I’ve always stayed true to what I felt like doing and what my schedule would allow, and I’d like to think that my true fans have always appreciated this. And in a perfect world, I would only have to cater to them.
Of course, I’ve had to accept the fact that creating content is my job, and part of my job is to make sure that I am growing my audience and influence. Personally, I feel famous enough. I literally can’t step out in Toronto anymore without running into a fan or someone who has seen Canadian, Please, and while this may seem like a humblebrag, just know that I’m still blown away every time, because fame was never my goal. I feel incredibly successful in that regard. But “trust me, I’m famous” is not enough and those numbers and metrics are important for a lot of future opportunities, so I need to make sure that I’m growing.
As the digital space becomes more saturated and algorithms determine the fate of our content, I have felt a growing pressure to more clearly define what my content and my channel are about. How can I be the best at something when I want to do everything? How can I make variety seem intentional, rather than “all over the place” as it has once been described? What’s my elevator pitch? How can I (and my supporters) convince someone who has never seen my stuff before that they should subscribe?
I’ve sat back and watched so many of my friends figure out what they’re doing on YouTube, and eventually surpass me in subscriptions and opportunities. And that’s ok: someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure. I’ve been very lucky to have just as much success, albeit on different terms. But now I want to figure this out.
We all grow up
It took a while, but I’ve finally settled on the two pillars of content that I want to – and can – make indefinitely: music & travel. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, as these are two areas that I’ve focused on for the better part of the last four years, but until now, I haven’t managed to balance them with any consistency. There have been months where I’ve only released travel videos, and I’ve seen how that negatively impacted my music releases, because some people thought that I’d given up on music entirely.
To be honest, I lost my spark for music in 2015. It became a chore rather than an outlet. Magical Girl suffered many delays because of some behind-the-scenes drama and also the fact that I just didn’t have the time or resources to produce an album to my standards while I was on the road. It was finally released to very little fanfare, and while I am extremely proud of the work that I did, I had to wonder why I was making music in the first place. I didn’t enjoy it, and it wasn’t commercially successful. It was just there.
As many of you may know, I’ve very reluctantly defined myself as a musician. I write, produce, and perform all of my own stuff, but it’s not what I want to do with my life. To build a YouTube channel entirely of music content is hard. You either have to be an extremely talented performer (which I’m not) or have a team to help you (which I don’t). You have to stand out somehow. You also have to be committed, disciplined, and determined, and I just don’t have that kind of passion for music, at least not 100% of the time. I’m a slave to creativity, I don’t like to make music if it’s not fun. Up until last year, I’d been spoiled because I never had to create something if I wasn’t feeling it.
But music is my first claim to fame and the best introduction to my channel, and it has been a challenge to try and pivot my content to suit my new interests. I had thought about separating out my travel content, and starting fresh on a new YouTube channel. I have long suspected that after 10 years of variety and inconsistencies, I’ve somehow ended up in the bad books of the YouTube algorithm. Furthermore, there are viewers who just straight-up don’t want to watch my travel stories – even though I am so proud of them and love making them the most.
Ultimately, I realize that I can’t please everyone: we all grow up and our interests change. But I also shouldn’t ignore the segment of my audience that wants more music. I want my YouTube channel to be a reflection of who I am. And who I am, right now, is both a “musician” and world traveller. I focused on travel and branded content in 2015, and I’m hoping that with more consistent music uploads, I can find a way for both of these types of content to co-exist on my channel, if not intersect somehow.
Starting in August, I’ve committed to uploading twice a week: on Mondays, it will be music, and on Thursdays, it will be travel. Occasionally, there will be a giveaway on Fridays, and a videoblog on Sundays. This more consistent uploading schedule does mean that not every upload will be a slick production and I’m ok with that. I’ve had 10 glorious years to upload only once I’m ready, but now I’m ready for a new challenge: be consistent.
Branded content for August
This month, I released three branded videos that had been in development throughout July. They all fit under the music and travel/adventure verticals.
Google Play #GotMeLike was a fun campaign in which I got to showcase a track that I’m working on for an upcoming release.
I teamed up with Honda Canada to produce this piece about the Honda Indy in Toronto. This was a bigger budget production, so I was able to hire a team of friends. I was very nervous to interview James Hinchcliffe and I wondered if my viewers would even be interested in this type of content, but the feedback was very positive and I’m so proud of what we ended up with. I want to encourage my audience to experience new things, and I appreciate that the agency and brand let me tell the story of this world in my own voice. It’s a strong piece and I’m very proud of what we produced.
In my second video for the HP #PassionProject, I reveal the winners of the customized prints and we also gave away a printer to one lucky viewer!
Music videos for August
August saw the return of music content to my channel, and while the videos are admittedly not as high production as I would have wanted, I’m just happy to be creating music again. The video part will come in time. I just need to find right help.
Beef Tank is a song that continues the tradition of lyrics written by viewers. I had originally recorded a different video, but due to some technical issues, I ended up dubbing over the original video call for submission which I actually think worked out better in the end. I may continue this trend (making things much easier for me!)
This My Heart Will Go On cover was produced in a couple hours after I had to scrap a different video that was planned for the week.
My last music upload for the month is a cover of Coupure Électrique, by Britney Spears. It’s a French track that I made a few modifications to. The song and video were recorded in literally two hours on Monday.
Travel & adventure videos for August
I took two trips this month, and they were both roadtrips to Blue Mountain! This may be the first month out of the year that I didn’t get on a plane.
Being back in Canada gave me a chance to finally sort through my back catalogue. I uploaded this video shot in July, exploring the Anaheim Packing House, one of my favourite spots in Anaheim. This was a more casual “vlog” style video.
I teamed up with the Blue Mountain Resort and Westin Trillium House to produce one of my favourite travel stories for Blue Mountain.
And because the Blue Mountain video was delayed, I came up with the idea to produce a video about the 5 reasons why you should travel solo, featuring Tiare, a solo traveller whom I met on my last Contiki trip.
The new new new gunnarolla.com
This month I also relaunched (for the third time) this website, gunnarolla.com. I want it to be a showcase for my work, but also a resource for travellers. I spent a few days learning WordPress and came up with what I’m calling Destination Guides, which expand on the video content that I’ve already created. So far I have created two:
It’s a lot more work, but I think it’s important to have written resources to support the video content that I’m creating.
Part of the reason why I didn’t travel as much this month (or summer, really) was because my sister got married!
I actually passed on a major opportunity to host a series this summer, and while I’ll always wonder what could have been, I’m ok with this decision, because it actually opened me up to other opportunities and meeting new people.
Was it effective?
When you work in a creative field, you have to be prepared to embrace instability. Part of your job is looking for your next job.
I uploaded more content this month than I have in a while and while my view count and watch time have gone up, my subscription base has actually gone down. However, I’m not going to reverse course. I’ve plotted out my weekly content for the next two months and while I may not follow the calendar to a tee, I’m just excited to finally have a plan and to take my “job” more seriously. I’m confident that if I can stick to this music/travel upload schedule, I’ll eventually find an audience, while hopefully also servicing my long-time viewers who want to see more, and who have stuck with me after all these years. Let’s do this!
I don’t have any brand or hosting gigs lined up for the rest of the year, which is slightly terrifying considering how many projects I had on the go at this time last year, but even if nothing transpires, I’ll just have more time to work on a new album and make sure that every video that I post from now until December will be a great one.
When you work in a creative field, you have to be prepared to embrace instability. Part of your job is looking for your next job. Look at all those downswings as an opportunity to work on passion projects, to travel, and to reconnect with the friends and family that you neglected when things got busy. Just make sure to be responsible with your money when it does finally come in so that you’re not a big ball of stress when you have no income I’m definitely not talking about my current situation right now nope nope nope 😉
Thanks for reading, and as always, I appreciate your feedback so let me know what you think in the comments below! A la prochaine.