The Musicians on YouTube panel took place on Sunday at Summer in the City 2016. It featured creators such as Dodie Clark, Tessa Violet, and the Midnight Beast, and was chaired by Benedict Townsend.
The panel took place in Panel Room 1 and featured creators Stefan Abingdon, Ashley Horne, and Dru Wakely from The Midnight Beast, with Dodie Clark, Tessa Violet, and Toby Randall. Topics such as the difficulties of being a musician on YouTube, the influence of viewers on what the musicians create, and what they discover through creating their music were discussed.
On the subject of the difficulties of being a musician on YouTube, Dodie mentioned how the YouTube algorithm favours frequency and length of video uploads, adding that this is “not how musicians work”. Stefan said that it is important to “trust your gut” when creating a song and Toby mentioned that he will end up “picking out things that are wrong” with his songs, making him hesitant to upload them. Ashley agreed saying that The Midnight Beast have a lot of “dead songs”. Writer’s block was established as a common difficulty. Dodie referenced her video series A Lot of Songs in August, advising “force yourself to make stuff” while Toby said that sometimes his ideas “will just float away”. The panellists also mentioned the difficulties of performing live, with Dodie and The Midnight Beast revealing that they sometimes lose confidence halfway through a performance. Tessa Violet mentioned that she has the opposite reaction to a set starting off badly, saying that she will “fight that voice” that tells her to stop playing.
Discussing the extent to which their audiences affect their songs, Toby said, “I always check suggestions”, and added, “I always pick songs I connect with”. Tessa said she takes a different approach, saying, “I tend to just make the songs that I want”, mentioning how she felt that, if she just made videos based on what her audience wanted, her audience would notice that she wasn’t enjoying it. Stefan said that, at the beginning of their YouTube career, “we weren’t looking at comments”, which he believes helped them to be sure of what they were creating, especially since there would be three people to agree on an idea. Ashley added: “It’s good to surprise the audience.”
When asked about what they discovered about themselves and their own opinions through creating music, Stefan said that the band “try and write about stuff that we do feel about”, but Ashley admitted that they had limited knowledge of politics when writing their song House Party. Dodie answered that she finds writing “like a therapy session”. Toby agreed, saying that, when listening to music that he would like to cover, he connects songs to his own life, while Tessa described it as “exorcising sad feelings”.
An audience member asked if the panellists would ever leave YouTube in favour of mainstream media. Tessa said, “I do desire mainstream success”, and added that creating YouTube videos when she may not do it full-time in the future “could be very overwhelming”. Dodie mentioned that she thinks that “mainstream media doesn’t take (YouTube) very seriously”, and Tessa added, “YouTube is being bold enough to say, ‘I like my songs. Consider me.'” On the subject of record labels, Dodie said, “I never want to be told what to do or what to make.” However, Toby, who said that he has recently been signed to a label, added, “YouTube has given me so much, why would I leave?”
Photos by Rachel Kiki.
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