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.
Three months ago, Korean-American YouTuber Terry Song started uploading animated shorts to his channel. Since then, his storytelling skills combined with the eye-catching art style of his main illustrator, Reikenma, have netted him more than 520,000 subscribers, putting his channel firmly in YouTube Millionaire territory.
Like many YouTubers, Song got his start in the popular reaction video genre, but soon, other creators’ animated videos sparked his creativity. As an experienced writer with a degree in film, he knew he wanted to turn his hand to creating fully illustrated shorts — but he also knew shifting his channel from reaction content uploaded five to six times per week to animated stories uploaded only once per week would be a monumental change for his established audience.
Still, he took the plunge, and by the numbers, it’s clear his animated content is more than capable of pulling in an audience of its own. Song garners between 10 and 15 million views per month, and augments the AdSense money earned from his content by running a Patreon, where subscribers can pay creators a monthly tribute to receive rewards like behind-the-scenes footage, scripts, and art prints.
Song currently has a number of patrons who support his weekly videos, and is still gaining hundreds of subscribers each day. He sat down with Tubefilter to talk about his YouTube origins, what it was like to completely change his content strategy, and how that strategy will change again in the future.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Terry Song: To reach one million subscribers was a dream I had a long time ago that became so far-fetched, I didn’t even register I hit one million when I did. Nonetheless, it feels amazing to know so many people have clicked that button to tune into my videos. To my fans, I’d like to say thank you for sticking around, and thank you for continuing to support me through the good times and the bad.
Tubefilter: When you first started on YouTube, you primarily did reaction videos, but now you’re up to posting a full-length animated short every week. What made you decide to take the plunge and start posting animated shorts?
TS: It’s true. When I started my YouTube journey, I focused on making reaction videos, because that was something I saw was trendy, sustainable, and a format I could do for the time being. I never really wanted to make reaction videos to begin with — I always wanted to make deeper and more meaningful content. After all, I did study film in college. But when you’re just starting out on a huge platform with a lot of competition, you can’t simply “make what you want.” You need to adhere to the rules and follow the trends. Take cover artists, for example: they don’t rise to fame by making original music, they do it by covering famous artists’ songs, because that’s something people are actually searching for. That’s something that’s trendy. I knew reaction videos would get me started, but eventually I’d need to find my own way.
After about a year of making normal reaction videos, I started veering off into voicing and reacting to webcomics and horror mangas, like comics from Line Webtoons or Junji Ito. I was just trying to do something where I could utilize at least some skill I was sort of decent at — that being voice acting. And to my surprise, the webcomic videos started taking off, and people really started to like them. I was happy with the transition for a while. Everything was going smoothly. Then I checked how many scary stories I had left that I had not read, and I realized I in fact had a limit on how long I could do this. Once I realized this, it hit me pretty hard. I slowed down on making videos, lost the passion, and even tried making other types of reaction videos (aka the commentary videos, which wasn’t my best era, lol).
But one day I was browsing YouTube, and I saw some animated storytime videos pop up into my feed, and I thought, This is pretty similar to the comics I used to narrate and react to, minus the reaction part. I think I could make a video like this! I felt inspired to try something new for the first time in a long time. Having experience in the webcomics world as well as YouTube, I felt I had what it took to create something in between. Something where I could really use my directorial and screenwriting abilities.
Over the next few weeks, I contacted some artists I knew from watching my videos, and started working on my first few animated shorts. At first, they were slow to pick up speed, but after a few weeks, they started blowing up! I was shocked at the response, because I’d never had so many people actively watching my videos, let alone something I wrote and directed myself. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since.
Tubefilter: What do you think makes your channel’s artwork and your voice stand out despite all the noise on YouTube?
TS: I think my style of art stands out on its own because it’s simple yet effective. I’m very lucky to be working with the people I do — they do such a good job at bringing my stories to life. Along with that, something I’ve always prided myself on is my reading, narrating, and voice acting abilities. And I try to really put my own spin on any character I’m voicing. Although I don’t claim to be a professional, I definitely believe that my voice and art together make for a very unique viewing experience you really can’t confuse with anyone else’s work.
Tubefilter: What’s the video creation process like?
TS: Since I work with a small team of artists, we have a system of how we make videos. Typically, I’ll start by brainstorming and writing a script over a day or two. After that, I record the voiceover and edit together a rough cut with no music or effects, and send it to my artists. After they’ve listened to it and seen the script, we have a group call and go over the video frame by frame to figure out panels, jokes, and any additional things we may put in. While I do come up with the stories and the base of the video, it is a collaborative effort.
Tubefilter: How long does it take you, on average, to produce a short for your channel, from start to finish?
TS: It typically takes one week: a day to write/record the script, five or six days to finish all the panels and at the same time edit the video together.
Tubefilter: What are your major art influences? Are there any YouTube artists who inspire you?
TS: The video style isn’t really influenced by any YouTubers directly, but the art style itself is based on the own unique style of my main illustrator, Reikenma, for which she herself drew inspiration from comic artists such as 손털 and Kanekoshake.
Tubefilter: Do you consider YouTube your full-time job? What else do you get up to in your daily life?
TS: YouTube is and has been my full-time job for the last two years, and I love it! But outside of that, I also livestream on Twitch to interact with my viewers more. If I’m not doing that, I’m probably playing League of Legends or walking my dog, Max.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content specifically for YouTube?
TS: Probably being my own boss. But on top of that, it’s truly great to spend a lot of time on something and then instantly see people give feedback.
Tubefilter: In your Patreon description, you talk about how going from several videos a week to one video a week has taken a toll on your AdSense earnings. Can you talk a little about the changes you’ve seen your channel undergo?
TS: Doing YouTube and making videos every day became a habit. I was financially secure because I was always making content, and so people were always watching. Once I made the change to once a week uploads, it definitely impacted the channel revenue. But it’s not to say it didn’t have its perks. Now I have a lot more time to relax and socialize. And when my videos perform well, I can potentially make more than I was when I uploaded daily, as my videos now get more views overall. However, I don’t like the idea of depending on whether or not the YouTube algorithm is currently favoring my channel or not. Because there will be times when it’s not. And that’s why I opened my old Patreon account again — to gain at least a little more financial independence.
Tubefilter: What’s next for your channel? Any fun plans?
TS: Eventually, I’d like to get into more in-depth animation videos. Right now I’m happy with what I make, but it’s more animatic. And coming from someone who has a passion for directing, writing, and storytelling in general, real animation is eventually the way to go.
You can add yourself to the ranks of Song’s more-than-a-million YouTube subscribers at his channel YouTube.com/TerryTV.