Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
Since launching on YouTube as part of the YouTube Original Channels Initiative, Pharrell Williams‘ i am OTHER has managed to tell stories that extend beyond the channel’s central figure. i am OTHER’s YouTube home, where serves as one part of a network of associated content, spotlights content from emerging producers, actors, musicians, and other creators. Of course, Pharrell uses the channel for his own purposes, too. Its most popular offering is the music video for “Happy“, which has been viewed more than 340 million times. We talked to the i am OTHER team to see what they had to say about their thriving channel.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to have one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
i am OTHER: Our subscribers have been so loyal from day one and we’re happy our our fans have grown organically over time. We wanted to create a channel for Thinkers, Innovators and Outcasts and we appreciate all of the feedback we get from them every day. We’re so thankful they’ve invested in our content and helped us achieve this milestone.
TF: What would you say is the major theme that unites all of the original content on i am OTHER?
IAO: We always wanted our channel content to be consistent with the i am OTHER manifesto which celebrates individuality, creativity, and forward thinking. Our content ranges in subject matter and tone, but it all speaks to those messages in its own way.
TF: What made you decide to bring Awkward Black Girl to i am OTHER? Is there more Issa Rae in the channel’s future?
IAO: Issa Rae was someone whose work Pharrell had followed and he wanted to include Awkward Black Girl as part of our channel launch. Issa represents everything we are about as a company. At i am OTHER, we have a slogan: “That Which Makes You Different Is What Makes You Special.” Issa’s show and career path exemplifies this motto. Issa is not afraid to stand out, and to the contrary, she uses her awkwardness as a resource. Issa is an incredible partner and we hope to work together again in the future.
TF: Why do you think ‘Happy’ caught on with international audiences in such a big way?
IAO: First, the song just makes people feel good. Music is a known healer and the song’s purity of emotion and energy just struck a chord with people. It came at a time when most media emanating from popular culture–music, news and entertainment–was rooted in darker emotions. Second, the video showed people how to enjoy the song. It was like a manual for guaranteed fun. The music video’s DIY feel and the diverse people made it accessible in a way that invited the viewer to be a part of the experience. Most produced media feels larger than life, fantastical, and unattainable. This was the complete opposite.
TF: On a similar note, would you say the current lineup on i am OTHER caters in any way to viewers who discover the channel after watching the ‘Happy’ music video?
IAO: The success of “Happy” has given Pharrell and i am OTHER a truly global audience. There isn’t a place in the world that doesn’t know Pharrell and the song. The ‘Happy’ video is a perfect example of the kind of content we’ve always aimed to do and will continue to strive for. If we can inspire humanity with our content, we’ve accomplished our goal. Our current offering has something for everyone: from Mac Lethal, who spits the news in fast rap form, to Nardwuar’s incredible music interviews, to Awkward Black Girl Seasons 1 & 2, to Style Hunt, which travels around the world to see what people are wearing in the streets, to exclusive content from Pharrell Williams.
TF: What would you say is one tip for musicians who want to engage with the YouTube audience?
IAO: YouTube has been such an amazing platform for musicians, whether it’s up-and-coming artists who are trying to expose their music to an audience, or artists like Pharrell, who curates cool, inspiring content, and Snoop, who uses YouTube to engage with fans with a sense of humor that never feels forced. The key is authenticity. The most successful musicians on YouTube are the ones who are genuine in their approach.
TF: Do you think the i am OTHER channel would’ve come to fruition without an initial investment from YouTube? If not, what was the most important effect YouTube’s investment had on the channel?
IAO: YouTube was always part of our strategy. i am OTHER was founded as a creative collective for music, film, television and multimedia projects. However, YouTube’s investment gave us the opportunity to quickly create content, connect with OTHERS on their unique platforms, and build our community. We are grateful to have participated in the YTOP program.
TF: Many YouTube ventures headed by mainstream celebrities have failed. Are there certain “bad” video-making strategies that you try to avoid?
IAO: We’ve always avoided doing anything that felt inauthentic to Pharrell or the mission of our organization. Our strategy was always to make great content we were proud of, and if we did that, no matter what the numbers, we considered it a success.
TF: What’s next for i am OTHER? Any fun plans for the channel?
IAO: i am OTHER has so many exciting projects in the works, from fashion collaborations to feature films, Pharrell’s European Dear G I R L Tour, new product launches, and our educational charity From One Hand to AnOTHER, just to name a few. We’ll continue to create content for the channel, from original series to extensions of all of the endeavors happening in the i am OTHER universe.