"Alright, let me start out by saying that I had filmed this 'v-log', but I forgot to turn the microphone on," a shy college freshman says to the camera in a grainy YouTube video uploaded June 17, 2007. "But the microphone is on this time, so hopefully I'll get it right."
Five years later, with 70,857 subscribers (and counting), an app, website, two full albums out on iTunes, a Twitter following 17,000 strong, and only more to come, you could say YouTuber Joseph Birdsong, known online as disneykid1, did in fact "get it right." But if you're not watching this singing, dancing, bedazzling genius, who once filmed in a dorm room just like yours, you've got it all wrong.
Q: Why did you start getting involved in YouTube?
JB:I stumbled across some vloggers on YouTube back in 2006 while searching for some tennis videos. I became hooked really fast. I liked the idea of being able to share yourself completely through videos, music, and editing. After watching for a few months, I finally started posting my own videos in early 2007. I was in my first year of college, and initially began because I didn't have many friends and was seeking a creative outlet and a community to belong to. Back then, making money from posting videos wasn't even an option.
Q: How did you start making videos?
JB:My first videos were pretty basic vlogs. It makes me cringe to even think about them, mostly because my hair was a disaster, but also because mainstream vlogging methods have changed so much over the past few years, those older videos are now pretty irrelevant. In them, I'd talk about my life and try to make it funny, but I mimicked the ways others were vlogging until I found my own style that suited me best. I also started making some college friends around that time, and we'd make silly little movies together (which are now all private). Making those videos helped me build those real life friendships.
Q: When did you realize you were starting to become a popular channel?
JB:In terms of gaining subscribers, I guess I got lucky pretty early on. I became good friends with a few of the popular vloggers who had noticed my videos, and they would make vlogs with me or push my content to their viewers. The community was much smaller back then, so it was a lot easier to be aware of all of the different YouTubers. Since then, I've just had a gradual climb in subscribers over the past five or six years. My subscriber count is nowhere near the top subscribed users. It's funny when people are impressed by your view count when, in reality, it's taken me five years to get as many views as a popular show gets in one night during premiere week on network television.
Q: What are some of your favorite opportunities that have come from your YouTube experience?
JB:I'd say friendship opportunities have been my favorite thing to come out of video-making. Those friendships are what have led to most of the really awesome opportunities. I've gotten to do videos for My Damn Channel's Answerly channel, release an iPhone app, guest-design t-shirts, intern at both a fashion magazine and TV station, travel around the country, talk about LGBT issues on the radio, and have fun making music. I hate the word "networking" because it implies you only make connections for your own future benefits. In reality, if nothing else had come out of this aside from those friendships, I'd be perfectly content.
Q: What were you studying when you started making videos? Has YouTube changed your college path at all?
JB:YouTube has definitely had an impact on my college experience When I started college, I was studying art. However, in the middle of my degree, I decided I didn't want to live in a box for the rest of my life pulling my hair out and painting pictures of cats that no one would buy. I packed up and moved to Philly with my boyfriend (who I met through YouTube). There, I went to school for fashion and was able to experience different jobs in the industry. It was during my internship at Allure magazine (which I obtained with the help of my videos) I realized I really wanted to write. Now, I'm finishing up my writing degree.
Q: Is there a favorite YouTube memory that sticks out?
JB:Pretty much any memories I have involving getting to hang out with YouTube friends in the real world are my favorite memories. This past summer, I got to go to Anaheim for VidCon and see most of my Internet friends. They're people that you talk to nearly every day but, because of distance, might only get to see once or twice a year. So when you do see them, you make sure you go all out. In the case of this summer, "all out" meant lots of dancing and whiskey.
Q: What projects are you working on now, and where do you see yourself headed in the future?
JB:I've got a few things coming up. I've been working on a second app with my friend, Luke, that coincides with my love for bedazzling and cats, and I'll be releasing a new comedy rap called "New Queen Bee" in the next month or so that I created with my friend, Sam. I'm also looking into producing more weekly videos for the Cup of Joe Show content and expanding the things I talk about. Long-term, I've been writing a book proposal for what seems like forty years, and I'm just about ready to set it on fire (metaphorically, of course). It can be a little difficult to juggle things while also dealing with school projects and other homework.
Q: Do you have any advice for college students who have yet to find the right creative outlet, or are interested in YouTube who don't know where to start?
JB:For those looking for a creative outlet, I'd recommend watching a ton of different vloggers and then giving YouTube a go. You'll never know if it's for you unless you just jump right in. However, my biggest suggestion would be to do it primarily for the creative/community reasons. If you do it purely for the recognition and money, it's going to feel just like any other crappy job you wouldn't have fun with. If you keep doing it because it's fun, everything else is just a bonus.
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