How to be a YouTube star

Singer-songwriter DAVID CHOI is just a few subscribers shy of a million on YouTube. But he’s not sweating about numbers — and that’s his key to success

how to be a YT star

1. Plug your music.

DAVID CHOI: “I started in 2006 on YouTube, when there was a tighter community there since it was a new thing then. Back then, it was easier to promote your material, like comedy routines or music. Now, there are more than a million YouTube partners — when I started out, there was none. It’s great that there’s a platform to share your lives and talents as opposed to being famous for nothing (laughs). But [with so much competition these days] it makes it harder for people to stand out.”

2. Don’t plan on getting famous.
“I didn’t even expect to become a singer — I wanted to remain behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer. But I also wanted to see if people would like my music and get some critique for my songs, so I started putting more stuff out there. I try not to think about fame. Once you become famous, people treat you less like a human being and more like a product. It’s always weird when [a fan] comes up to me all excited. I don’t know how to react ’cos I’ve been a fan myself. I met Stevie Wonder two years ago in Nashville and I turned into a fan boy. He was surrounded by security guards and I was like, “Oh my God, I want to touch you!” But I just creepily took a secret photo of him instead.” (Laughs

3. Don’t be too obsessed about the numbers.
“The industry is all about numbers and viewership count [for videos] is a way to gauge success. The subscriber count on my YouTube channel (@davidchoimusic) has been stuck at almost one million for a couple of years. But I’ve given up a long time ago worrying about whether I’m going to hit the million mark. Now I just want people to hear my music. If I want more people to subscribe to my channel, I know that I just have to put out a cover song every week. But I don’t want to ’cos I don’t like doing covers. I don’t think anyone should buy video views and subscribers. They are just cheating themselves, and it’s not right or fair. Of course I feel a twinge in my heart — my six-digit subscriber count is so close to hitting seven digits! Strangely, YouTube sent me a congratulatory plaque on hitting one million subscribers. I don’t even know why they did that since I don’t have one million subscribers yet. They probably just felt bad for me!”

4. Don’t look like a slob.
“I’m not image-conscious at all but you need to give people something interesting to look at. I’m pretty sloppy in general. My parents stalk me on social media, and my mum tells me, “If you want people to take you seriously, don’t dress like a slob.” I thought she had a point and started dressing a little better (laughs). After my last show in Hawaii, I took a few days off and walked around the beach with my sandals on and shirt off. I dressed up just for you guys today!”

5. Have a plan B.
“It’s fine if my singing career fails ’cos I can still write music for other people. If I weren’t a singer, I’d do a tech start-up. It’d be fun to work for [CEO of Tesla Motors and PayPal co-founder] Elon Musk. I want to think of crazy things like time machines and make them. That’s a creative person’s dream! But it’s really hard. To do that, though, you need resources like money and a network of contacts.”

6. Play nice.
“What I never learnt in school was to be good to everyone. I’ve seen in my life people who didn’t treat somebody well. One day that somebody became their boss, and they had to work together (laughs)! So far in my life I’ve met people who helped me tremendously just because I was nice to them. I don’t think I could have gotten ahead without any help!”

Stories of You’s and Me is on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. 

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