YouTube, created in 2005 and bought by Google in 2006, has blossomed into an Internet mecca with more than one billion unique users each month and more than 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. With so many users and so much video comes a challenge for users trying to become YouTube famous. Despite the competition, three YouTube personalities — Lindsey Stirling, the Piano Guys and Devin Graham (aka devinsupertramp) — started in Utah and have received hundreds of millions of views, surpassing one billion views combined.
How did a state with less than .05% of the world’s population, and halfway between New York City and Los Angeles, become a metropolis for successful YouTube channels?
“A lot of YouTube celebrities get big by cross-pollinating and helping each other out,” said Ricky Ray Butler, president of Plaid Social Labs in Provo.
Butler, whose business helps other companies connect and advertise with YouTube celebrities and channels, said many YouTube personalities in Utah have done that. He used Devin Graham (devinsupertramp), as an example.
“Devin was one of the first channels to start being aggressive from Utah and started a culture for everyone else to do the same,” said Butler, a BYU advertising graduate.
Graham, a former BYU student and Provo resident, has worked with YouTube channels such as Orabrush, Lindsey Stirling and the Piano Guys. The collaborating work has brought world recognition with hundreds of millions of views and major deals with brands like Wal-Mart (Orabrush) and Sony Masterworks (the Piano Guys).
Graham said as a social media content creator, he creates content that the Internet wants to watch.
“There is so much negative media in the world,” he said. “I try to take the opposite to make people happy and share the great things in life.”
Happy faces, laughter and smiles are characteristics found in almost all of Graham’s YouTube videos that feature daring stunts, extreme sports, unique talents and people and locations around the world.
When asked why YouTube personalities in Utah have been so successful, Graham said, “I think it goes back to the positive media and the positive community in Utah. People push off and build off each other, and it just becomes a snowball effect.”
Lindsey Stirling, a performing artist and BYU student, attributed Graham as the person who helped her start making YouTube videos.
“I had been struggling and stagnant in my progress for months when he contacted me about filming me and posting the video to his channel,” Stirling said.
The result of that video was “Spontaneous Me,” a music video with almost 14.5 YouTube million views on Stirling’s channel. Graham and Stirling have since worked on more than 20 of Stirling’s videos, resulting in hundreds of millions of views and thousands of subscribers.
On Nov. 3, Stirling won the Response of the Year award at the first YouTube Music Awards along with her collaborating artist from the video, Pentatonix. The artists’ cover of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” has nearly 44 million views. The Piano Guys were also nominated for the same award.
In January 2013, Stirling partnered with the Piano Guys for a rendition of the “Mission Impossible” theme song that has generated over 2.4 million views.
“The people here aren’t afraid of entrepreneurship, and generally I think that people here have a strong support system of neighbors and friends who care and are willing to help each other out,” said Stirling on why Utah has been so successful when it comes to YouTube videos.
Other Utah YouTube channels have seen and continue to see success, many working with one another to try new things, bring ideas together and reach a greater audience.
“Our culture here is about developing talents and being industrious,” said Butler of Plaid Social Labs. “There are a lot of artists here in Utah that are business-minded and using their art to make money.”