Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
When his YouTube stats told Marc Jones his upload was bringing in 250,000 views an hour, he figured the site was glitched.
The traffic seemed impossible, partially because the video was only 36 seconds long, but mostly because he’d hardly put any effort into the clip. A software engineer by trade, he’d occasionally dabbled in vlogging with his family, so he was familiar with how much planning and production videos can take.
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But this upload wasn’t planned. It didn’t have ultra high-quality production value. Jones had just been looking for a way to test his new iPhone camera.
His son, who’s four, loves building marble runs, and offered to let his latest creation–a simple, brightly colored funnel on a long stand–be filmed. Jones recorded half a minute of a green marble swirling around a bright-red funnel, uploaded it as a YouTube Short in December, and moved on.
Then he noticed the views. 250,000 per hour, racking up to millions over just a few days. Now, it’s up to more than 78 million–and still climbing.
The reaction to Jones’ video might have baffled him, but the fervor is understandable. He uploaded his clip not long after YouTube began serving content from Shorts–its TikTok competitor–to more users via their home feeds. And, perhaps more importantly, his video fed into an already popular craze: marble runs.
Part ASMR fodder, part Rube Goldberg machine, marble runs are custom-built contraptions (usually made from Legos, wooden blocks, or similar components) that send marbles down tracks through dizzying swirls and tight tunnels. Some are tiny desktop versions, no larger than a foot or so wide, while others can span entire rooms. Over the past year, marble runs have become increasingly popular on YouTube as a kind of intersection of toy channels, model-makers, and folks desperately trying to entertain themselves while stuck in isolation.
Jones’ video struck with the right content at the right time–and though he’s produced dozens of videos since that 36-second clip, it remains his channel’s most popular fare. Five months after upload, it’s still pulling in more than one million views per day.
For Jones, the surge in viewership (his channel, The Mesmerizing Collective, is now up to 80 million lifetime views) and followers (150K subscribers) was a sign that he shouldn’t let the video be a one-hit wonder. Since December, he’s been investing in more complicated marble runs, making taller and more complicated pieces with multiple tracks for proper marble competitions. These he turns into videos–some Shorts, some longer–and uploads at least three times per week.
Jones says his family’s goal, if the channel’s traffic keeps trending upward, is to have his wife leave her job later this year and work on YouTube full-time. And they already have loftier future plans: If The Mesmerizing Collective proves successful, they hope to parlay that success into creating their own toy brand.
Check out our chat with Jones below.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you get up to outside of YouTube?
Marc Jones: My name is Marc Jones and I am a principal architect for an IT company in the U.K., so a million miles away from what we do on YouTube. I’m married with a son who is four. We absolutely love being outdoors and travelling, so this is something we are looking forward to doing again as soon as possible.
Tubefilter: You launched your channel five months ago. What made you want to start a channel? Why did you choose YouTube?
MJ: The whole thing is one happy accident. We had a small family vlog on YouTube which we were still finding our feet with, so we weren’t totally new to YouTube. Then, at the end of November, I got the new iPhone 12 Pro Max, so to test the camera my little boy wanted me to film his marble run that he had made. He wanted me to upload it to YouTube for fun, so I uploaded it to my personal channel and forgot about it.
About a week later, the video had something like 12,000 views, which to us, having tried to get a vlog off the ground, was massive.
Tubefilter: Is that why you chose marble runs as the focus for your channel? Is this a hobby you and your son share? Did you think they would do well as a content niche on YouTube?
MJ: Building marble runs and crazy tracks around the house was something we loved doing before all this started, so making content around this wasn’t such a leap.
After our first video, I did some research and realised there was this massive niche around marble runs, so we made another video for fun and little to no expectation of anything happening. That video got traction as well, so there was a lightbulb moment. I realised that there were channels in the niche with huge subscriber numbers and massive amounts of views. It was very much a moment of, “If these channels can get success in this space, then so can we.”
Tubefilter: Your channel has recently seen a noticeable boost in subscribers and views. Do you know which video or event triggered this increase?
MJ: Yes, our second ever video ever was a short I made, again testing the 4K on my new phone. I uploaded it and it got tens of thousands of views and pushed us to a few hundred subs. Great, I thought, what a result. Then out of nowhere, I logged in to YouTube Studio and realised it was getting 250k views an hour. I honestly thought something was wrong, but this continued for weeks, then months. The video was generating so much engagement that YouTube just kept pushing it. People either loved it, or hated it, and as such, were compelled to comment or like/dislike.
To this day, the video still generates around a million views a day, and it’s been pointed out to me that, with the exception of one video, it has more views than MrBeast‘s shorts–amazing, right?
Tubefilter: Why do you think that particular video caught on?
MJ: It was definitely in line with where we were planning on taking the channel. I think the video caught on because it divided people so much, which generated loads of engagement. The video is 36 seconds long, and around 20-25 seconds of this is waiting for the ball to drop in the hole. It’s a hook, plain and simple. People were watching to see what happens, so the retention was great as well.
People either love it or hate. I’ve had people tell me they love it and its so relaxing and satisfying, all the way to people telling me they hate me (and worse). I’ve also had Justin Bieber fans telling me that the video had more likes and views than some of his videos, and people always point out that a marble has more views than MrBeast’s Shorts, which blows my mind. I’d heard of MrBeast before all this started, but only recently have I really started watching his channel. He is the king of YouTube, and what he does for good causes is second to none. So to even have our channel mentioned in the same breath as him is humbling.
Tubefilter: You’ve produced a lot of videos in a few short months. What’s your production schedule like? How long does it take you to put together a video, from brainstorming to upload?
MJ: Our production schedule is still working itself out. We upload every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. We always plan to batch film on a Sunday, but real life gets in the way of that quite easily. So, we always at least aim to have the videos planned out, come up with a shot list, and go from there. On a good week, we will have the videos lined up and ready to go by Tuesday for the rest of the week, but of late, we’ve had lots of late nights filming and editing the day before upload.
Now, we are at a point where things are getting somewhat serious, we are aware that how we run the channel has to change. I’m confident that over the coming weeks/months, we will be a well-oiled machine. The ideal scenario for this year is that the channel grows to the point that my wife can work on it full-time.
Tubefilter: Has your recent engagement uptick changed anything else for you? Do you have any other new plans or goals for your content career?
MJ: It’s changed everything! What started as a single video to test a camera has now completely spun our world upside down. I’ve always been ambitious and determined once I get an idea in my head, and making The Mesmerizing Collective one of the biggest marble channels on YouTube is only part of our goal.
I watch a lot of YouTube educators, particularly Sean Cannel/Think Media and Nick Nimmin. And one thing that resonated with me that Sean said once: Start with your million-dollar idea and work back. So that’s what we are doing.
Beyond YouTube, we want to spin this idea in to many different avenues, such as our own marble sets, build out our brand, and so much more. I have hundreds of ideas for what The Mesmerizing Collective can–will–be!
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content on YouTube?
MJ: We love brainstorming new and creative ways to produce content we hope appeals to everyone. We are trying to find our place in the marble market, and researching and developing our ideas is really fun. I also find editing really relaxing. This all linked with how it brings us together as a family is something we’re really enjoying.
Tubefilter: Are you making content on any other platforms, or are you mainly focused on YouTube?
MJ: We are currently solely focused on YouTube, but we do have some near-term plans to expand to other social media platforms as part of our growth strategy.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel?
MJ: Our current plan is to focus on the content and to keep improving every aspect of it. We have massive ambitions for this channel, so what’s next is all focussed on that. We are investing in areas we need to and working harder on the content.
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