Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator-focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
Today, there are loads of resources scattered around the web that can help newbie streamers establish themselves on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook. But when StoneMountain64 (aka David Steinberg) launched his YouTube channel and started building the foundations of his content career back in 2011, he had zero help navigating the still relatively new digital space. He had to figure out everything from the very basics, like what camera and screen recording software worked best for making gaming content, to the complicated stuff, like paying self-employment tax and negotiating brand deals, with no guidance.
Despite these difficulties, Steinberg fell in love with content creation. And his passion and persistence paid off. After eight years of consistently creating videos, he’s netted 1.9M YouTube subscribers and 1.64M followers on Facebook. His YouTube channel is a daily-upload repository for notable moments from Steinberg’s adventures playing popular player-versus-player games like Apex Legends and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and brings between 1M and 5M views per month, but Steinberg currently sees the bulk of his traffic come from Facebook, where he streams for four to five hours every weekday. (At press time, Steinberg is currently streaming, and has 2.6K viewers.) His income as a streamer largely comes from being an official Facebook Gaming partner, as the platform distributes regular paychecks to partners and allows them to set up supporter programs where they offer perks in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.
All of this is to say that Steinberg’s in a good place as a creator. His career is solid, his income is steady, and he’s become an expert at navigating the space.
Which is exactly why, back in 2018, he teamed up with former pro esports player and Facebook Gaming strategic partnerships manager Stephen Ellis to cofound Pipeline, a mentorship program aimed at preventing today’s fledgling gaming streamers from going through the same growing pains Steinberg (and many others) did.
We crossed over 2K members yesterday which is a huge milestone for our team! 🤯🥂
We have such a kick ass crew dedicated to building the best community in the world for streamers.
So great to get messages like these everyday from our members who are on the 🎢 pic.twitter.com/2Aye1xuj9T
— Stephen Ellis (@snoopeh) November 2, 2019
Through Pipeline, which launched in April, Steinberg, Ellis, and fellow longtime content creators mentor members with the explicit goal of providing them with all the resources they need to turn livestreaming into a full-time career. The core of Pipeline is its Playbook, an extensive, step-by-step manual created by Steinberg and Ellis and filled with everything they’ve learned over the years. All Pipeline members unlock a new part of the Playbook each month — and they won’t run out of parts, as the Playbook is consistently updated with new mentorship sessions from pros.
Other perks aside from career mentorship include: access to a Discord server where all members can chat and collaborate; discounts on things like gaming hardware and channel graphics thanks to partnerships Pipeline has formed with businesses in the space; and contacts who can help streamers handle tax concerns, legal issues, video editing, and more.
If a member pays for a full year of Pipeline access (a monthly plan is $34; a year is $340), they instantly unlock the entire Playbook, get six months of free subscription to Pretzel Rock, which offers music creators can use during their streams, and get a one-hour group Q&A with Steinberg each month.
Since May, the Pipeline community has grown to more than 2,000 members — and Steinberg is looking forward to spending the foreseeable future growing it even more.
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: Let’s dive right in! In May, you and Stephen Ellis launched Pipeline, a members-only community that helps streamers turn their passion into a career. Give us a rundown of what’s happened since.
David Steinberg: Our first launch of Pipeline in the front half of 2019 was very exciting, and it was our first time opening to streamers and telling them about what we had been working on behind closed doors for so long.
Since then, we have continued to build our content, community, and partnerships in some amazing ways. On the content front, we have a fully developed playbook on streaming, from the basics of getting set up to system development and team-building, with new additional mentorship sessions added regularly. Community-wise, we have events such as “Chill and Chat,” and channel reviews that happen weekly. And on the partnership front, now, in addition to top streaming brands such as Elgato, we have partnered with Razer on their streamer program, as well as Visual by Impulse, a design company. That partnership gets our members a much more custom and professional feel for their livestreams!
We have kept our launches contained to two-week enrollment periods that happen every few months. During those periods, we can approve and welcome new members, and then turn inward to continue to work with the community. Now, we have well over 2k+ active members in the community, and are excited to see what 2020 brings us with everything we have in store.
Tubefilter: Backtracking a bit…Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in ye olde days before joining YouTube?
DS: I am from southern California, and have been gaming since I was four years old and got my first Nintendo 64. My tag, StoneMountain64, comes from that — and from my last name, Steinberg, which translated to English is “stone mountain.”
I’ve been obsessed with games since I was little, and got every console I could, whether it was Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox, Gameboy, or Sega. I enjoyed the challenge, the escape, and the accomplishments I could achieve in-game, but I was never interested in playing games competitively. One of the most significant moments for me and gaming was playing Halo 2 on Xbox Live, and being able to connect and play with friends and an online community even if they didn’t live nearby.
After high school, I went to Cal State Fullerton to study economics and business. I graduated summa cum laude in 2014 while trying to juggle a girlfriend, online content production, an internship, and looking for a “real job” out of college. I landed a job in the investment management industry up in Washington state, so I moved and worked full-time, 50+ hours a week, before ultimately leaving that to pursue gaming content full-time.
I started creating content in 2011 in my sophomore year of college, and since then, the longest I have ever gone without posting content is seven days. Over the life of my channel, I’ve typically uploaded new content at least two to three times a week, but I often upload much more nowadays.
Tubefilter: What made you choose YouTube as the place to share your content? What do you think it offers you, as a content creator, to help you grow your platform and build your career?
DS: I started on YouTube because I was a major fan of some of the original Call of Duty YouTuberss. I loved watching them so much, I wanted to get more involved and have my voice heard besides just in their comments sections. When I first found YouTube content, I was thrilled because the only “content” I had around gaming before that was G4 TV, which often was about things I wasn’t even interested in. On YouTube, I could get much more tailored content about the exact games I was interested in!
Now, YouTube is one of the most searched and watched platforms in the world, and while “gaming” is huge, not everyone is interested in the same games — and even people into the same games may like different aspects of them. Compared to football, for example, where the rules have remained constant for decades, with a game franchise like Call of Duty, for example, every year there is a new game released, and the whole universe shifts. Opinions change, people don’t even like the same modes of it as others do, etc.
On YouTube, there are countless opportunities to find others like myself who enjoy the same type of content that I do. I can create content for them, and the algorithm sometimes helps and sometimes hurts that content.
Tubefilter: The first video you ever uploaded to YouTube is called The Start of Something Beautiful, and, looking back, that seems pretty prescient! Did you join YouTube with a content strategy, intending to turn it into a career, or was that not yet part of your game plan?
DS: My first video does seem quite prescient looking back. I always get a kick looking back at my old content. I see how much of a noob I was back then compared to today, but choose to continue to leave those videos up, as they’re part of my journey. Back then, I didn’t like public speaking or being on camera, but it really felt different when making videos, because I could edit them, and I never thought I would have a massive audience anyways, so it was like I was by myself or just talking to a few people. Honestly, today, it still doesn’t quite register with me that I have more than 3 million followers and how many people I have reached in my life.
I didn’t think this would be something that was a career, especially starting out. Like everyone, I started with zero viewers and no interest from anyone at all. But I did know it was going to be a hobby of mine since the first upload, which is probably why I made it and titled it the way I did back then. The first two years of making content, the revenue I made was never anything significant, but I was super excited that I could continue to pay for my hobby just by doing my hobby, and I loved to make videos and do livestreams.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
DS: My first check from online video revenue was from AdSense back in 2012 or 2013. I’m not sure of the exact month, because it took me a long time to accumulate enough to withdraw. I needed to have made $100 to make a withdrawal, and I was making between $5 and $30 a month.
I was just thrilled though that I could start reinvesting some of that money into the channel to get a better mic, then computer, and so on, to help me continue to drive my content growth.
Tubefilter: How did you and Stephen meet? And then fast-forward us to the planning stages for Pipeline. How did you decide to go all-in together on such a big project?
DS: Stephen and I met at E3 in 2016, while he was working at Facebook, starting their gaming program. I had been creating content on Facebook in addition to YouTube for some time, and had many videos go incredibly viral there, so when he and a fellow Facebook engineer were at a conference in front of us creators explaining they were trying to grow gaming on their platform, I was one of the only people who was extremely excited by the prospect, and went up and introduced myself.
The hardest part for the creators there to understand, was why would they ever consider putting content on Facebook when they could not make revenue? But even though there was no way to make revenue (at the time), I knew that anywhere there’s an audience, there can be a business — even if I have to create the moneymaking part of that business myself (which I did later in the form of a Patreon, for example).
Fast-forward 2.5 years, and after Stephen left Facebook, we came together and began to plan out how we could help build up the streaming community in a new way, especially supporting those earlier on in their journey. We have been very fortunate in being able to turn our passion into a career, and wanted to find more meaningful and effective ways we could help others along the journey.
Creating Pipeline took a massive amount of time and energy from us both, as well as many flights, since we don’t live in the same state. But we decided it was something we both wanted to do dedicate the resources and time to, and made the massive investment in ourselves.
Tubefilter: Why is Pipeline something vital for creators?
DS: Creators, since day one, have been making it on their own, and have been responsible for everything, from content creation and scheduling to taxes and tech support…They have to figure out how to do all of that, and usually they have to figure out how to do all of that with no help. It definitely can still be done as a one-person endeavor, but we wanted to create Pipeline to help speed up that process. So, Pipeline provides a community where creators can learn, connect, and build their content and careers.
It is extremely lonely trying to figure this all out by yourself when friends and family often are not supportive or even understand what you are doing. I know mine didn’t, and I know from the hundreds of creators at every level I have spoken to that it is an isolating position. Having a community with others on the same path is something I eventually gained over the years as I built my network and friendships, but having a community like Pipeline is only something I ever dreamed of finding when I was starting out.
In terms of knowledge, there are now more resources out there than ever, and I think we have all been searching YouTube relentlessly for answers — and even still, they often don’t exist. Trying to piece together the full picture of what it’s like to do full-time livestreaming and content creation is difficult and time-consuming, and something I have been doing since I started in 2011. That’s why we put together a playbook that goes over the core pillars of this space as a business. It is more than excellent to do this as a hobby, and that is how the vast majority start out, but at some point, the hobby becomes a business. And the more prepared you are for that change, and the more knowledgeable you are about the space, the more levers you can pull to leverage your progress into a career.
We also help in terms of partnerships, and are working with some of the key companies in the industry to help provide discounts and benefits. For example, with Elgato, one of the top companies creating products for streamers, we save our members hundreds of dollars on products. If someone is ready to upgrade their PC, we have exclusive discounts with NZXT to save hundreds on that purchase. Likewise, getting set up with some quality graphics for your channel is always in high demand, especially starting out, so we created a partnership with VBI to get our members to upgrade their designs. We also work with Razer, Corsair, and Pretzel Rocks, to name a few, and are always looking for more ways we can drive value for Pipeline members. You don’t need to spend a bunch on tech to start streaming, but when creators are ready to make upgrades, we want to help lower that barrier.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
DS: It was something that happened over time for me, and took a while to set in. Getting recognized in public, of course, is always an eye-opener for me, but I’m not sure if there was a specific moment of when I realized, “I’m now professional.”
I can say the closest moment to it was in June 2016, when I was invited to be part of the launch of Battlefield 1 and got to play in a celebrity/creator matchup on the world’s first gameplay. I got to teach Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa how to play Battlefield backstage, and then go on to play with them side by side in front of the world.
Tubefilter: How has your personal content strategy evolved over the years? You’ve been on YouTube a long time, and have had to ride out a lot of changes. What’s that been like?
DS: People get worried about being pinned into a hole of content — myself included — and it is something that, in many ways, is unavoidable. But I feel that my content is what I make of it, and I try not to let things hold me back from doing what I want to do with my content and the direction I want to take it. I definitely listen and hear requests and opinions on my content and what I do, but I try to think for myself on any of my decisions.
When I’d just started and was creating Call of Duty content, people were outraged when I tried to do Battlefield, and my views dropped. (Players had very polarizing views of each of the games, and the audiences and algorithms didn’t work well together.) But I kept creating and making Battlefield content my own way, and soon many of my viewers only ever knew me from my Battlefield content. This happened time and time again, and as you fast-forward more recently, now I am known for PUBG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends, and my content there. But not everything I’ve tried with my channel was a success, and many games I tried, such as Overwatch or Hearthstone, I could never really make work for my channel, even though I personally loved the games.
I continually shift my content, not only to keep up with YouTube’s algorithms and what is trending, but to keep finding new ways to enjoy what I create. I continue to lean in on streaming because it’s something I really love to do and still just want to do it more. YouTube and the social media landscape continues to evolve, and while there are certainly highs and lows, I never know what is coming up next for me around the corner. I just know I will continue to create in the best way I can, and find the ways I enjoy it, so I can continue doing it for as long and as well as I can.
Tubefilter: What makes you so passionate about content creation as a career? Why is this profession one that engages and excites you?
DS: Content creation online, to me, is freedom. And getting to do it as a career still often feels like it’s too good to be true. I am beyond grateful for my audience, and beyond grateful that I get to do what I do. Every day I get to create whatever I want or feel is entertaining not only for myself, but for my audience.
After sitting through school, where we have to follow such strict guidelines, and working in an office job 10+ hours a day for someone else, there is nothing better than leaving that to create, and to create around gaming, which has been such a long time passion for me.
I don’t have many interests in life, so being able to focus on the ones I do have and build a career around them is the pinnacle for me right now. I am just as much of a fan of the online content space as I am a creator in it, and for me, even meeting many of the other creators I have over the years has been more amazing than meeting more typically popular “celebrities.”
I know I’m not alone in the passion for gaming, too, and seeing more and more people turn it into a career, start organizations, companies, and even hiring teams makes me so happy, because I know it’s just as meaningful to them as it has been for me.
Tubefilter: What does an average day look like, between managing your own channel and working on Pipeline?
DS: Nowadays, an average day for me is up around 6 or 7 a.m. answering emails, followed by a frantic few hours editing videos, doing voiceovers, taking calls, writing and planning content, and meeting with my teams both for StoneMountain64 and Pipeline before noon PST, when my stream starts. I typically stream three to five hours a day, Monday through Friday, and then end the day preparing content for editors to take and finishing up anything critical.
Saturdays, I am up early and start up a 7:30 a.m. stream to get the community together for custom games or to continue on with the content from the week. After that, I do mentorship sessions with Pipeline, where I talk with creators or get more writing done or answer requests for teams. I also hit the gym three days a week to upkeep on my physical health.
I am married as well, and do try to maintain a work/life balance, so I try to end my days around 5 p.m. during the week, and take off half of Saturday and all Sunday from my work. The hard part is that this is a job that really doesn’t allow for much downtime, and often I am up late writing and planning. And there is always more to be done. The more I work, the more I can get done, but I also am in this for the long haul, and keeping a balance helps to keep me sane.
Tubefilter: Can you tell us about the Pipeline team? Do you have employees, part-time or full-time? What are their positions?
DS: We are an early company funded by our own investments. At the start, it was really mostly myself and Stephen, but we have continued to expand the team and are always looking for new talent, as well as promoting internally by raising people up from our community.
We now have a few people on full-time, and a larger amount working part-time as contractors. Roles include maintaining and improving our systems and website, community management and customer service, content editing, blog writing, mentorship classes, and design, to name a few.
Pipeline is constantly evolving, and we are always testing new ways we can improve. As we continue to scale, so will our teams, and we want to make sure we find the right person for each position.
Tubefilter: Why is the community aspect of Pipeline particularly crucial?
DS: Pipeline members interact through our website forums, our Discord server, community events, and mentorship sessions. It’s up to each person how much they want to engage, but the community is one of my favorite aspects of Pipeline and something I strongly encourage the members to get more involved in and make the most of.
As gamers, the majority of members are already on Discord, so it has been a big focus for us versus using a service like Slack, which is also common for professional communities or businesses. We curate the Discord channels for community engagement, resources from professionals, collaboration, and for help from our team and other community members.
Having others to meet, collaborate, talk to, and work with is such a major part of a creator’s journey. So many of the people I have met along the way have become friends of mine that I interact with more than almost anyone else in my life. Many of those relationships started online, or at events. Pipeline, in many ways, helps to create an experience like an E3 or PAX event, but without the travel, hotels, and lines and everything else involved. It’s a constant opportunity to connect with other dedicated creators who may attend those sorts of events.
Tubefilter: What is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
DS: I don’t think creating can be boiled down to one specific skill, but for sure one of the most vital skills is also one of the most basic skills you hear talked up all the time: consistency. Even if you have a crazy viral hit or things go well for a month, if you can’t stay consistent with what you are delivering, then things will surely dwindle. If you want to do this for eight years as I have, you must also be willing to work consistently for those eight years. Taking a year or even a few months off will diminish an audience.
If you want to be in this for the long run, you must be able to stay consistent in the long run as well, through ups and downs. Many lose interest or give up, but there is always work to be done; it isn’t always just fun and games.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you, your YouTube channel, and Pipeline? What are you building toward?
DS: It’s hard to tell in this industry what five years from now will look like, because five years ago, I wouldn’t have even imagined being where I am now. But I can say with quite certainty this entire industry is booming and there is no sign of it slowing down as the younger generations are now growing up with it and it is becoming more normal not just in North America but across the globe, and more and more people are successful turning content creation into a career.
For my content I am planning to expand my podcast, Facebook livestreams and revamps of old series on the main channel as well as the second. I recently moved and am working on improving my studio to get into some VR and exploring where gaming takes me next but it takes a lot of time to settle in when moving a business and family.
Pipeline is a major focus of what I am working on these days as well, and am building toward making this the go to place for everything streaming with the best community around whether you are thinking of getting into it or already streaming and getting stagnant but looking for new ideas. Our focus and only audience is streamers and we are building with their best interests in mind and want to help be a voice for the community and push to give more opportunities to those trying to start out and find new traction.
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