By Kyle Malinda-White & Erny Luiza Kartolo
For popular British YouTube Stars Alfie Deyes and Marcus Butler, one would think that their videos are a walk in the park to create: just take up a camera, carry it around with you and film everything. Right?
Not so. In an interview with Popspoken on the sidelines of the recent Digital Matters conference, Alfie and Marcus both revealed the amount of work it takes just to strategise, keep up with other business ventures and stick to upload schedules.
“We are making silly little videos at home but it’s been six years of work behind it. I’ve just been doing it gradually – it’s the amount of hard work behind the scenes and in meetings and talks. You can see a video and think, “oh, he’s just messing around for 15 minutes” but there’s so much stuff behind the scenes that people don’t know,” said Alfie.
“I recently got an office and work until 3am every single day because I love doing what I do. Sometimes, I realise I haven’t even seen my girlfriend outside of work for two weeks. Because (the frequency of) YouTube is so immediate, some viewers may not take in all the hard work that goes into the business behind it.”
Marcus, who recently launched a subscription-based organic food box service Sourcebox, finds himself working for 10-12 hours a day sorting out business matters and coming up with ideas for future videos. His business background comes in handy for his start-up.
“I find it sometimes difficult to switch off from work and be in chill mode. I do SourceBox because of a passion for healthy eating,” he said. (Marcus calls himself the “kale king” on his Twitter page.)
All the effort that goes into creating constant content has led Alfie and Marcus to become global superstars. And it seems they can’t escape the limelight everywhere they go – over 300 fans greeted them at the airport when they landed in Singapore at around 5am.
Recounts Marcus, “It’s little moments when we arrive at the airport – you walk out and experience the shock. You see your numbers online in the millions, but you don’t visualise that. If you take the airport fans and multiply it by thousands, it’s insane.”
But they are unfazed by the popstar reception they get at events and meet-and-greets, because they know that every fan is still a human being.
“Our fans know us because we’re not acting when we film our lives – they know more than any of our friends will. They get excited but after a few minutes of talking to them, they’re just like normal friends in a conversation. 99% of our audience are just 18-25 year olds who like watching your videos and won’t come down to scream and shout for you or buy your books. But the 1% of our audience is very intense.”
The craziness of YouTube culture can get quite heady at times when online parasocial interaction transforms into offline engagement, but Alfie stresses that there are only positives when it comes to his young viewers looking up to him.
“I always promote positive messages of working really hard, doing things that make you happy with life. I film the not-so-good aspects of my life just as much as I film the good things. If somebody was to say I’m their idol, I don’t take it as thinking that I’m so good. I take that as hopefully, they will listen to the positive things I say in my videos,” he said.
“People say it’s weird that viewers shouldn’t be shouting or screaming when they see you in the flesh, but some of these people have been watching me for five years – I’d be excited if someone I followed flew to my side of the world. I used to go to YouTube events and be excited to meet people like Ryan Higa.”
In just over a decade, YouTube has grown to become one of the world’s biggest cultural phenomenons. The Internet stars it has spawned have sometimes been on the end of much scrutiny, as their claim to fame has been compared to the likes of those that did not go through the YouTube route.
Do Alfie and Marcus feel that they will forever be labeled as “YouTube stars” first before their other ventures? It may not necessarily be a bad thing.
“For now, because there are still people just trying to understand what a YouTuber is, the label will still be around. When people do things around it, it’s not for the sake of doing it. If you look at it from a financial point of view, I’m working on other business ideas so I’m sustainable,” said Marcus.
Alfie added, “I think the label could easily go away – I don’t think Troye Sivan will be known as a “YouTube star” because his music is bigger than that. Even radio stations in Singapore are playing his music. I think with a lot of early YouTube creators, fame wasn’t the aim. I didn’t start making videos for that.”
It is for the early-stage success of YouTube that Alfie and Marcus both feel that they’ll be sticking around as YouTube creators for a while.
“YouTube was around for 10 years. When TV was around for 10 years, it was still in black and white. So I still think YouTube’s in its early stages. I think it will evolve, but I don’t think it will go. Subscription services will come in and things will change and adapt, but it’s too powerful to go anywhere,” remarked Alfie.
But Alfie did add that if he feels his YouTube career is no longer a passion, “I’m going to stop”.
— POPSPOKEN (@popspoken) December 4, 2015
Until then, it’s all fair game for the YouTubers, even when it comes to the bad side of their lives. Alfie confidently said that he tries to be “as honest as I possibly can” in his videos – if he cannot film a bad experience happening with his family, he will at least talk about it in his videos. It is to the benefit of his viewers.
“I can’t imagine stopping my vlogs. People like looking back at family photos, but I’ve got a video of every day of my life to bring up those memories. For me, the fans experience everything I experience and that’s the whole point of a video diary. I like that they know me,” he said.
That being said, there is a line drawn in the sand when it comes to their private lives. For Alfie, a strict “no fans outside his house” policy applies.
“If I’m in a restaurant and people take pictures of you while you’re eating, that’s too personal,” said Marcus.
Despite the crazy lives both of them lead, if they see themselves on the end of not being as popular anymore, it’s all in good stead.
Said Marcus, “If people stopped watching our videos, I’d take it as a life experience. I’d look back and think, “Remember when we made videos and people cared about us? That was crazy.””