The Rise of the YouTube Celebrity

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  • #212786

    I have to ask, with the advent of more and more mountain bikers starting their own channels on YouTube to promote their ride videos, am I the only one that is getting tired of the genre? A little clarification: Nate Hills and similar videos are great because they show a first person viewpoint with little to no commentary.  It’s just a well edited video that shows the best parts of a trail.

    The latest genre of YouTube celebrity is a a guy with a gimbal, GoPro, bike, and access to great trails along with a logo and Patreon account to make a few extra bucks.  Riders like BKXC started out making videos of their rides and nothing more, just way trail footage.  That has morphed into edits with way too much voice-over and worthless footage.  I don’t care what you ate for breakfast on day X of your New Zealand trip.  I don’t care about your latest “bike check” where you tell us about your current rig and your new grips.  When the videos become less about the trail and more about you plugging sponsors or potential sponsors, I lose interest.  I really lose interest when the videos are 5-10 clips pieced together with your voiceover narrating like an 18th century British coroner determining cause of death.  Nate Hills is successful because he just rides, let’s out a random “that was gnarly, I almost died” quip, while showing the full unedited video because he and Kyle Mears are pros and can ride a trail from start to finish without stopping to pretend someone didn’t eat shit.

    In BKXC’s latest video, he runs across Greg in Outerbike so I have to ask, am I the only one that despises all that he and similar producers represent about our sport? It seems to me like we are becoming a bunch of attention whores that insist everyone view our latest edit.  I like watching guys shred, but I want to watch original/Epic trails and nothing more. Just ride.  Don’t try and sell me chamois cream during the first 5 minutes, this isn’t a podcast. If you shred, then by all means put out a video and send it out to potential sponsors.  Just don’t be like these other guys that are hoping for advertising dollars to sustain them while they quit their jobs and ride recreationally.

    Greg, care to weigh in and possibly discuss this in a future podcast?

    #212800

    Hmm this is quite an interesting topic. Glad I spotted it! I’ll share a couple thoughts, and while I don’t think it’s my job to defend what Brian is doing, I may weigh in with what I know.

    In my opinion, it appears to me that the Youtube personality thing is exactly like what happened when blogging came on the scenes in the early 2000s. You had people all over the internet starting blogs about every topic under the sun–including mountain biking. Everyone was sharing their own perspective, their own flavor, and clamoring for attention. And that’s still going on–it just seems like these days, it’s easier to ignore 🙂

    Then along comes Youtube, and Youtubers making essentially video blogs (vlogs), even if they don’t call it that. And now each Youtuber wants your attention as well.

    On the internet, time and attention is the most precious of all resources. You need peoples’ eyeballs, you need an audience, or you have nothing.

    With Brian specifically, I caught up with him later that day at Outerbike, grabbed a beer, and heard his vision for what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. And you know what? The guy is smart. He’s doing it right. He knows all the ins and outs of the internet trade. And he has a plan for making himself unique from all others.

    That uniqueness is his commentary.

    My personal take is that his approach won’t resonate with everybody. His videos generally don’t resonate with me because my attention span maxes out at about 2 minutes (if I make it that long). Heck, I don’t watch most of Nate Hills videos start to finish either. But Brian’s work obviously resonates with plenty of folks out there who love what he’s doing!

    Again, this is like the blogging revolution. Back in those days, you connected with some bloggers and commentators because you liked their style and how they conducted themselves. You didn’t connect with others for the same reasons. The same is true with Youtube vloggers–I think some vloggers will connect with one audience, and others will connect with a different audience.

    At the end of the day, I wish everyone trying to make a living doing what they love the absolute best! Making a living on the internet is a tough job, and it’s only getting tougher. If you can make a go of it, kudos to you! But, for some folks out there, I think the hard reality of what it takes to create a viable business will hit them like a bus one day.

    @arbysauce if you haven’t caught the podcast with Seth’s Bike Hacks, you should definitely give that a listen–it may answer some of your questions/thoughts:

    Behind the Scenes with Seth’s Bike Hacks

    That said, we should get Brian on the podcast sometime. Dude is well-spoken and knows his stuff!

    #212802

    @arbysauce, how old are you?  You don’t have to answer that, but I’m guessing you’re over the age of 35 like me. 🙂

    These types of video blogs (vlogs) are really popular among the under-35 demographic. I’m actually kinda surprised it’s taken so long for people to start doing this for MTB.

    If watching vlogs isn’t your thing (and it’s not for everyone), don’t worry. People will keep making shred videos too.

    #212809

    Very well said, Greg! I’m just looking for my people, and my people love what I’m doing. I’m with Jeff as well, it’s pretty nuts that no one was trying this in the MTB space when every other niche is loaded with full-time YouTubers.

    For someone who despises me you sure seem to have watched a lot of my videos.

    #212817

    The current under 35 generation is obsessed with self importance and self-promotion therein. Both of my sons are all about their friends and their own YouTube channels and the like regarding everything from gaming to cats to faux Jack-Assery. Personally, age aside I have never been a voyeur. I detest watching sports (sportsball, all of them…boring) including cycling simply because I want to do it not watch it. Yes, porn too. In fact, I am not one for sitting still to be entertained. At most I can tolerate mountain biking clips for maybe a couple of minutes, but that’s pushing it. If the kids today mostly become  couch-locked morons so be it. Kudos to those who’ve figured out how to make a buck off of them.

    #212819

    Yeah, you can choose what to watch on YouTube, it’s pretty cool!  It’s like real TV, you can change the channel but on YouTube you can search by interests.  I always love the “people on my TV are annoying” as if they’re being forced to watch.

    I watch Nate Hills because of the speed and insanity of his riding.  I used to watch Seth because he was funny and weird (riding a fat bike on water, downhilling a Wal-Mart bike, etc.) but his channel has evolved and I like it.  I also subscribe to BK-XC as I feel he’s more like me.  His last video he rode Navajo Rocks at Outerbike like I did, he claims to be out of shape like I do and he’s probably riding more at my speed.  My wife isn’t as big a fan of his talking style but for me his words engage me a bit when the riding isn’t as great.  My only gripe with BK-XC is he says “shit” too often so I can’t watch with my kids around and his videos can be a little long if it’s not a trail I’m interested in.  Singletrack Sampler is hit or miss but when he’s on his game his videos are pretty entertaining too.

    So I subscribe to them all and watch all of Hills, most of BK-XC and Seth and some SS.  And then I watch some Fail Army and Epic Meal Time and see what talk show hosts are up to or what DevinSuperTramp or GoPro or Dude Perfect are up to.  That’s probably a better hour of weekly TV watching than a couple syndicated reruns or the news or a couple innings of baseball.

    Thought it was cool when I rode a rock that Seth struggled with but rode at Santos or when the YouTubers ride trails I’ve ridden.

    So when does Singletracks launch their own first-person riding channel?  Now I just need to get more than a dozen views on my channel (which is mostly not riding or mountain biking.) 😉

    #212836

    I agree that a Vlog will hit a certain age group better than others. My nephews can literally watch Vlogs all day while me personally may have the sound running but be reading a separate page. As Andy Warhol said “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes”. It seems like youtube really gives the illusion that anyone can achieve it relatively easily. Obviously that is not the case or everyone would be famous from Youtube (but there is real money if you find yourself successful). You can see it if you read the comments to any newer video with people saying “can you please subscribe to my channel ” and pleading for subs. I prefer a more rounded video with multiple points of view and condensed format  (think shorter edits) but will watch from time to time watch the more raw gopro edits.

    That being said I can see why BKXC is so popular though. He is articulate and his personality shows in the videos. He clearly has a grasp of what a youtube audience was looking for but hadn’t yet found.  He is accessible. As much as i love watching pro Dh/Enduro go-pro videos i can’t really relate to their raw speed as i am a novice at best. Plus BKXC use of a gimbal and video quality really allow you to analyze a trail better than any video of Aaron Gwin crushing a trail (for someone that is at my snail speed). He has a very common man appeal that makes it easier to relate to and live vicariously since he visits places i definitely wont make it to.

    My only concern comes to your lower level privateer racer or local pro. At no fault to the Youtube personality i can see if your a marketing department for a mid-level bike company or component brand why i would be more interested on a youtube guy with more viewers than a pro with limited press. In the age of words like “brand-activation” and “social-media reach” results aren’t the only thing companies look at. You really have to have that connection with the audience. Interesting to see how what little money in mountain biking support from companies will be spread throughout the next few years.

    #212922

    If someone has the patience, time, energy, finances, and wherewithal to keep up a YouTube vlog on Mountain Biking and all that entails, then more power to them. Who am I to criticize what they do and why? The internet is just like the TV, if you don’t like what is playing at the moment simply turn it or turn it off. No one is holding a gun to your head to watch. The very fact that we’re even having this conversation is asinine to be completely honest. I enjoy watching certain kinds of mountain bike youtube channels as they each offer something new, different and unique than others. I’ve learned a tremendous amount watching them over time. If you can make a little $$ doing this then knock it out of the park! I’m sure a little $$ sure goes a long way in helping finance this endeavor.

    I have one YouTube MTB channel that I really enjoy called @MTBdropIn by a dude out in California named Tony. He’s down to earth, funny, educated and isn’t afraid to show his own mistakes and vulnerabilities on his bike riding. If he bites it, he shows  you. But the most important reason I watch this young man is because he has a young daughter with special medical needs and being the stand up Dad he is, it drives his passion to provide and take care of her. All the MTB YouTuber’s have a “reason” WHY, this one is his and his alone.

     

    #212923

    I just want to clarify a thing or two about my post.  First off to Jeff’s question, I am 38 so good guess about my age.  As for Brian’s comment, I don’t consider myself a hater or despise you, I just feel like your earlier videos were more “pure” whereas your later videos come off (to me) as a video diary with a lot of product placement.  I didn’t mean to single you out in my bitching and moaning, I should have clarified by specifically mentioning the number of new self promoted youtube channels that seem to pop up weekly on Reddit.  I applaud guys like Brian who can quit their day jobs and ride exotic places around the world.  Kudos, but I just feel like in order to do that, your videos, to me at least, feel like they have become a long advertisement because you have to plug your sponsors in order to keep up that support.

    As for Mark’s comment about youtube being great because you can basically “change the channel” and choose what you want to watch, I guess I am just frustrated in seeing the amount of commercialization that is creeping into videos.  All of the riders with any decent number of subscribers seem to be incorporating more and more sponsor mentions in their videos. It’s only a matter of time before Google starts injecting ads you can’t dismiss in every video along with a 60 second commercial that you can’t skip to start every video.

    I’ll quit bitching now and go ride my bike.

    #212927

    My kids watch youtubes all the time, more than they watch regular tv actually. So I guess its an age thing. I find YT useful though when I’m researching reviews on components or some DIY. Hey, an 8 year old even claims he learned driving on yt 🙂 … so keep doing it guys.

    #212945

    To the OP, you’re simply not the target audience.  The primary goal to the channels you see are monetization.  Who wouldn’t want to make a living doing what you love?  The videos you don’t care for are by orders of magnitude the most successful type of channel-subscribing video out there.  You don’t just watch them ride but you also get to see them eat, drive, get dressed at the trail, talk to their bros on the truck ride up the hill, adjust their junk and pontificate on subject matter while riding.  If it’s not your bag, there’s a few hundreds of thousands more channels to check out if you don’t mind digging and if you do mind digging, there’s a lot of other stuff to be watched on the internet that isn’t created by average Joe’s looking to pay the bills.

    Or maybe you’d rather just go for a ride and meet some friendly people on the trail 🙂

    #212955

    We are spoiled with quantity and quality of MTB videos available today. For seasoned riders it is boring to watch all that B-roll, that show pedals, shoes, shifters etc. But those who just consider to join a sport it could be a valuable info source on what to buy and how to learn a new skills.

    Now, I know many will disagree with my personal opinion, but I don’t understand why Nate’s videos are so popular. Sure, he rides cool trails and he’s a skilled rider, but POV video is lame to me. It doesn’t show true difficulty of the trail and doesn’t require a lot of effort to make such a video.

    it could more fun to watch when different camera angles used while filming.

    #213449

    I’m kind of surprised that you’re surprised at so much product placement is creeping in. At 38 I bet you can still remember a time you went to the movies and didn’t have to watch one commercial before the movie started. Sure there were previews but no commercials. Now I don’t know how many you have to watch before the main movie comes on. Same with YouTube. When it first started you didn’t have to watch any commercials. Just like anything marketing is all about what can the companies get in your face. Vloggers would be stupid not to exploit that and get their piece of the pie.

    #213463

    I’m 48. Pure Mark-one, mod-zero Generation X, and completely impervious to YouTubers and “vlogging,” whatever that is.

    IF I’m watching a video, it’s so that I can learn something. Usually, it’s just ONE thing, like scoping out a trail video before I go ride it. This was tremendously helpful in preparing to ride at Mulberry Gap, so I always repeat that pattern.

    Mostly I’m about riding. If the video is about anything other than riding, I won’t last ten seconds.

    Go play outside.

    KO

    #213470

    I stopped watching BKXC when it felt like it was more about him as a “brand” than shredding trails.

    On the other hand I know nothing about Nate Hills. All I know is he shreds and I love it.

    To be fair it seems online video needs persistent eyeballs to be viable, you can’t output a quality edit once a month.

    I guess quantity over quality is the name of the game for now. But maybe like Netflix, online content can transition from flooding us with whatever, to focusing more on delivering quality over a regular period of time.

    But seeing the direction of YouTube, and the type of content they push, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Just like Netflix beat traditional media, we need a another HBO/Netflix to compete with Traditional YouTube. Maybe we can get a Netflix-U or Netflix-Indie for an extra $3 a month that has quality small content creators.

    I’d pay $3 a month for one or two quality adventure edits a month. But paying $3 a month to watch 12 vlogs?No thanks.

    #213490

    I’m 38, and have watched most of BKXC, Seth’s Bike Hacks, Skills with Phil, and Singletrack Sampler. All those dudes seem like great guys I wouldn’t mind hanging out with on the trail. Though I think I could only keep up with Brian, thats the thing I like most about his channel, he’s just a regular schmuck learning to ride his bike better, like me. Seth makes great videos in general that make riding appear very fun (which it is) and focused on the widest segment of the riding populating, the entry level. Phil Kmetz is very entertaining, and seems like a very sweet goofball, and can also ride the hell out of his bike. He’s much like Seth in that there is a very instructional slant on his videos, just kicked up to a higher level. SS is the wild carefree spirit, exploration driven, living the dream so to speak.

    Yes the videos have changed in nature a bit. What started as a guy with a day job doing a video on the side for fun has turned into a career path for these guys. And while that kinda stinks because the videos aren’t quite as pure, it also massively improves them from a technical standpoint. I for one can’t watch ANY trail video not shot from a gimbal, I’ll get motion sick. But all these guys are rocking fancy gimbal setups that might cost more than some of our bikes that I think should be mandatory for anyone posting POV trail footage in this day and age.

    It also improves them from a content standpoint. BKXCs recent Outerbike vids were the best POV footage of some of those trails I’ve ever seen, I actually got an idea of what they were really like (I think, I’ve never been there) for the first time. The fact that they can monetize all this allows them to travel to far off lands, drop money on a rental rig, and pedal some dirt to show off.

    I agree rig rundowns (bike checks) are lame, but the skills videos are awesome, and seeing good footage of some of these places are priceless for us mere mortals trying to plan some appropriate riding on our next family vacation or what not.

    Some of my favorite biking the net moments so far, in no order…

    Seth and SS bike packing to key west.

    Seth and Phil on a tandem.

    BKXC getting lessons from a riding coach.

    SS dislocating his shoulder and Seth popping it back in.

    Seth, BKXC, and SS on the Moab trip

    Thanks for playing bikes with me

     

    #214185

    I’m seeing great feedback on this subject and that’s important.  It shows that people are taking notice and expressing how they feel about what some believe is probably a rather bizarre phenomena.  It may come across as harsh criticism to some, but I see it as criticism nonetheless.  I learn a lot from my successes, but I learn a lot more from my failures.  And if someone offers criticism, harsh or mellow, it behooves me to at least consider their ideas.

    I, too, am a YouTuber with the desire to take my channel as far as I can take it.  To explore things I never thought I’d see.  To wonder if I have what it takes to be great at something that currently seems daunting and overwhelming.  Sounds a bit like mountain biking, wouldn’t you agree?

    Although I’ve been riding for over 20 years, my adventure with a camera and an audience has only recently begun.

    When I think back on my riding career, one thing has resonated deeply within me: to learn everything about mountain biking.

    From before I even bought a mountain bike (the heavy drooling phase as I like to call it) to my first year of riding, learning to wheelie.

    My second year, learning to wheelie drop.

    Fifth – how fast is too fast?

    10th – Holy crap I could probably get hurt pretty bad at these speeds.

    15th – great, now I have 4 pieces of metal and 28 screws holding my left leg together.

    20th Anniversary – I’ve been riding how long?! Shit, I’m just getting started!

    And to this very day, my eyes and ears are keen to find knowledge about what I’ve literally spent more than half my life pursuing.

    My videos are a mixture of solo rides where I share dialogue with my audience and rides with my buddies, which usually have less dialogue but we still talk about bike parts, other trails or whatever comes to mind.   The dialogue I share with my audience is the same as if you and I were riding in real life.  It’s real and it’s honest.   Hell, I’m 43 years old….I’m too old to give a damn about much other than riding with my buddies at this point.

    My videos are for guys like me who can’t always ride their bike as much as they want to, so they search out the next best thing.  For me, that’s awesome videos.  My channel isn’t about me, it’s about my audience and how my rides can improve their riding experience.  Be it from just watching, to seeing me turn around (sometimes several times) and keep trying a feature that is challenging me or some random dialogue while I’m riding solo.   I want to share 22 years worth of riding with whomever is willing to listen, because I ain’t gettin’ any younger and this lifestyle is hard on the body.

    I can’t begin to count the number of jobs I’ve quit or been fired from because my heart belonged to mountain biking.  The best mountain bike trips aren’t always planned, they arise in an instant and when they do you have to chose between the ride or the job.

    I’ve lost lovers because I spent too much time on my bike.

    I gave up not one, but two, six-figure salary career opportunities because there weren’t good places to ride where those jobs were at.  Because those jobs would have taken more of my time than I was willing to give. Those jobs didn’t support my ride.  Today my salary is ridiculously modest compared to what I walked away from.  But I did it for the ride and I don’t regret it for one moment.

    My day job is a commercial photographer but I’m really just a dirt bag who lives for the ride.    So the concept of bringing a camera along on my rides wasn’t a stretch for me.

    I don’t know if I have anything on my rides that resonate with you, but you’re always welcome to join us.  I have a few videos on here so I’m not gonna pimp myself out but I thought I’d offer my two cents on the subject.

    And a little shout-out to BKXC, Seth, Phil, SS and of course, Nate Hills…thank you for opening my eyes.  The trail is bright today.

    #214234

    I watch pretty much everything from Brian, Seth, Alexander, and Phil. I also like GMBN, but their self-imposed obligation to publish a new video daily has started to lead to forced and/or repetitive content.

    With that said, I like them all for different reasons.

    My take on each of the channels I follow:

    Brian has outright acknowledged that his videos are not for everyone.  He is his target audience.  As a 34 yr old professional (although i feel weird typing that. I often forget that I’m perceived as having an ‘important’ job…) who doesn’t hesitate to say “fuck” in front of his 3 yr old, and who fancies himself an aspiring XC racer, I can relate to Brian the most out of those guys.  But Brian has a lot fewer obligations than I do.  I love that he’s making ends meet by riding and filming, but I couldn’t do what he does.  I am sure I couldn’t support the aforementioned 3 yr old, or her baby sister doing what he does.

     Seth’s bike hacks is the only channel of those listed where my wife (not a rider) will watch along with me, and remain entertained.  Seth has greater appeal to non-riders, which is ultimately HUGE for the sport.  Talking about tacos and trail dogs is a big part of that.  Voice-overs, music backgrounds, and obscur(ish) topics keep things interesting.  Without looking, I bet only 1/4 of Seth’s videos are actually primarily about riding a bike.

    I can’t find a label or simple descriptor for Alexander, and I expect he’d like that.   The guy reminds me of my brother (who quit a job with Boeing 3 years ago, and currently trades labor for lodging, and leads mountaineering trips on the side), crossed with Jesus, crossed with that annoying fucker who always seems like he’s had 2 coffees before you’ve gotten yours poured.    I find Alexander to be inspiring and positive.  It’s also cool that he rides bikes pretty well.  His is more of a “lifestyle” channel than a mountain bike channel.  He’s said it a few times, but he’s “building a community.”  Mountain bikes are what they have in common, but “live free, ride hard, get stoked” is the real mantra.   For whatever reason, I can’t get my 3 yr old to repeat that on camera…  Then again, I’m probably better off without her repeating much of what I say, given my propensity for casual cursing.

    Phil has the most riding knowledge, and I think he’s the best about staying “on-topic” with his videos.  “Skills with Phil” almost limits what he can post, but I find his explanations and advice helpful.  I think a lot of us forget he’s 26.  I was a goddamn moron at 26.  I may have even gotten married that year 😛  Phil has been smart enough to realize that professional downhill racing isn’t a great career move, but it’s a good way to generate YouTube fans, and remain relevant in the riding scene.  I think Phil stands to be an amazing resource, because he’s an exception to the “those who can’t do, teach” assumption so many people make.  This is only a ‘second career’ for Phil, because his first career as a downhill racer started so early.

    They all have likeable personalities.  That’s really what will keep people watching. Plus they aren’t SO famous that they’re annoyed by attention (yet?)

    #214267

    Truthfully, if it were not for the videos I saw on youtube from Nate and Brian I may have never got bit by the mountain bike bug. I can’t wait to see the new videos that they put out and I love my Patreon access for BKXC! After watching the videos and realizing that I was not getting in shape riding my KTM dirt bike, I got online and ordered a Trek. Since that day I have gotten in awesome shape and can now ride for over 2 hours on the forrest service roads, through the mountains here in Washington State. I loathe the TV programming that Hollywood “thinks” we want to see! It’s garbage! But Nate and Brian, Alex and others keep me focussed on activity, not a Krapdashian!! Thats it for me, I love the videos they produce because they are real, they let me see visually what is possible on a mountain bike AND, I have lost over 150 lbs since I found the videos and bought a bike. I get up every morning and search for videos, have my coffee, eat some breakfast and hit the trail. Rain or shine, I am in the woods on my mountain bike. Thanks to youtube. Oh and when my day is done, it’s back to mountain bike or dirt bike videos. It takes enormous amounts of effort to do what they do and I respect that far more than some fake reality show or a Jerry springer knock off. I rarely watch the news anymore aside from the weather. I even bought a toy hauler and a Dodge Ram 2500 to pull it so I can go ride! Keep the videos coming! It’s all good.

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