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.
When it comes to the lives of celebrities, YouTube stars, and viral video subjects, Michael McCrudden is about as good a historian as anyone working today. After first making an impression on YouTube thanks to his work with InformOverload, McCrudden has branched out to launch his own channel, on which he shares video profiles of famous people. His most famous series, Before They Were Famous, offers exactly what it says on the tin. McCrudden’s channel, which is partnered with BroadbandTV, now has more than one million subscribers, which made it time for us to profile the profiler.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to have more than a million YouTube subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Michael McCrudden: The rise to one million subscribers was an exhilarating, whirlwind experience — it’s the biggest accomplishment of my life to date. I was able to celebrate with my team, my family and friends and I gotta give some major love to each and every person who subscribed to my channel. YouTube changed my life! Hitting a million subscribers has left me feeling really optimistic about the future and looking forward to what milestones I can accomplish next. Watch your back PewDiePie, I’m coming for ya! Seriously though, thanks to everyone who tunes in daily, the notification squad, and those who leave a like or comment. All of the praise, support and engagement that the show receives doesn’t go unnoticed.
TF: As someone who got work on TV before coming to YouTube, what would you say are the chief advantages and drawbacks of online video?
MM: What I struggled with originally was putting content online that wasn’t perfect in any way, shape or form. With television, there’s a big budget. Not only are there writers but a writers room, set, crew, massive post-production team, and all the other bells and whistles, including craft services. When jumping into YouTube with no budget, you have to be a one man (or lady) video making machine.
There were videos with some major technical flaws that I uploaded in the beginning but due to the faith I had not only in myself but also the future of YouTube, I pressed forward with content that was below my artistic standards. At the time it was embarrassing because I knew I could do better. The upside now is that everyone can look back at the progress Before They Were Famous has made. The transformation and growth of the channel has been remarkable!
Once my channel got off the ground and I was able to produce content that I’m 100% proud of, I became a kid in a candy store. Every day I get to create content that entertains hundreds of thousands of people (on a good day, millions). I now choose to create and enjoy YouTube content over television, seven days a week. I do miss craft services though, not gonna lie.
TF: What made you decide to post content on your own channel as opposed to InformOverload?
MM: I gotta give a major shout out to the team at InformOverload for introducing me to the world of YouTube. I spent three years with the channel, writing and hosting videos. It was there I learned everything about YouTube and the emerging online culture that surrounds it. Breaking out on my own was inevitable because I’m a workhorse who will never stop. Actually I’m more like the Terminator, so let me use a quote from the film to explain:
Kyle Reese: “Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
Replace the word dead with “entertaining and educating an audience” and that’s who I am as a content creator. Also, I do have emotions. Other than that, this is how I feel I am as a content creator. A time traveling video making monster looking for Sarah Connor, or whoever the most popular celebrity is on a given day. I’m an ambitious guy and I like to move fast, so to do this I needed to step out on my own.
TF: How much research goes into any one video and how long does one video take to make?
MM: I’ve had videos that have taken me a full week to research and write. Videos about YouTubers are the trickiest by far, sometime you gotta watch their entire catalogue of videos to try and string together their story. Other videos can be made in a day’s work.
Before They Were Famous is a biography channel but it’s also topical. When an iconic person passes away, my team and I make it a priority to produce a Before They Were GONE video as quickly as possible to feed all of the requests. Other weeks there are memes going viral like “Cash Me Outside” and those videos are too fun and topical to wait around on. These types of videos need to be made in a day, meaning four hours of scripting and four hours of editing with the hosting and uploading squeezed in somehow. With me releasing 10 – 15 videos a week on my various channels, none of this would be possible if I didn’t have a very talented team working under me.
TF: How often do you get in touch with the subjects of your videos while researching them?
MM: My goal for 2017 has been to reach out to the many stars I document while I’m scripting their video. Before They Were Famous works off suggestions from the viewers and my team and I move pretty quickly, so the majority of time I don’t hear back from the celebrity until the video has been posted. I typically tag the celebrity on Twitter or Instagram when the video goes live and every week. [Editor’s note: Michael provided us with a list of subjects who have contacted him. It includes DJ Khaled, Nelly, Lilly Singh, Russell Brand, and Dr. Phil.] Overall the majority of responses have been extremely positive.
TF: I noticed most of your videos are under ten minutes. With that restriction, do you ever struggle to figure out which information to cut?
MM: Each and every video is scripted differently due to the available content for each star. We have certain points we need to find for each video but after that, they are only as long as they need to be to make an entertaining summary of the person’s career. If we find something interesting, we always include it, so what’s been cut out is what I believe people have already heard a million times or is boring for this type of fast paced online video programming.
TF: Have you received any requests from fans that have proven too difficult to adequately research?
MM: Yes, Filthy Frank is an example. 99% of the time I can get it done, but a tricky request means that I don’t get to take time off over the weekend.
TF: What would you say is the most important part of your presentation style?
MM: YouTube is filled with vloggers or strong personality types where the content is all about them. I’m the complete opposite, my show is about everyone else. Taking into account the platform I’m working with, I do tend to share comedic tidbits about myself in every video as well as my own opinions. I think my show serves as a great gateway for viewers crossing over from mainstream media to new media and I feel I do a good job of meshing the two together.
TF: What’s next for your channel? Any fun plans?
MM: I hope to become the Ryan Seacrest of YouTube, a Hollywood host who has the latest scoop on everyone and everything. I plan on doing many more collaborations and interviews in 2017 and I welcome anyone who is “famous” to get in contact with me so we can make their Before They Were Famous video. I also hope to make more FAKE interviews, those are my favourite videos to produce. It’s a good thing that I can time travel or else I wouldn’t be able to get all of this done.