Interview: TryHardNinja

Igor O., the guy behind TryHardNinja, proves the strength of the niche. He has found a market for himself and his music that many probably have never thought of before. It works great for him, so he explained his approach in more detail and covers subjects like social media marketing, youtube monetization and building a fan base.

Julian Angel (J.A.): Two things I immediately liked about you is that you have found a very particular market niche for yourself and you can describe what you do in just one sentence. But please tell us a little more about you, your music and your niche.

TryHardNinja (THN): I’ve been playing video games for what seems like forever and I’ve sang since high school. It made sense for me to merge the two things I enjoy doing. I am an independent music artist who writes and sings music that’s inspired by popular video games. Being an independent artist means I’m not supported by a label or sponsored by any company. I also make music videos for my songs and post them on YouTube where I am paid from the ads Google places on the videos. I am also paid through digital sales of the songs through iTunes, Google Play, and other major digital global distributors. I’m a gamer who makes video game inspired music so I think TryHardNinja is pretty relatable to many gamers. Also the YouTube gaming community seems to enjoy my music.

J.A.: Sorry, I have to bring that question up. With your video game inspired music two options come to mind: Game companies either contact you and ask to use some of your music, or they come to sue you. Has either one ever happened?

THN: Most companies are very open to having studio quality fan made music. I’ve never been approached with a lawsuit or anything like that. I’ve recently had a couple smaller developers contact me to use some songs in their games and I’m in discussion to move forward with them.

J.A.: What is your marketing approach? Youtube seems to play a major role…

THN: YouTube is an extremely effective way for me to connect with the people who listen to my music. When I post a new music video on YouTube it’s sort of an event between me and my subscribers. People get to know me as a musician and it’s become my main platform for promotion. On YouTube I post my music videos, lyric videos and I’ve recently started karaoke videos. I also have a monthly giveaway for my YouTube subscribers. Another new thing is my Soundcloud. I release all new music there and acapella versions of my songs are available exclusively for free there so people can remix my songs if they’d like. I’m also constantly on Twitter talking to people who tweet at me.

J.A.: Is there anything special you do to promote new Youtube videos?

THN: Whenever I post a new YouTube video, my subscribers are notified that the video has gone live. But days before the YouTube release I usually tweet out some teasers. I also tweet out the progress of the video or song as it’s being produced to build hype.

J.A.: Youtube monetization is still a grey zone for many artists. Could you please give us a little insight about what to expect from e.g. 10,000 or 100,000 clicks per video?

THN: YouTube monetization fluctuates a lot and it’s kept secret. Some multi-channel networks require you to sign NDAs to not disclose the amount you’re paid. In general you get paid per 1,000 views and the rate dependent on a lot of things such as the time of year and your split with your multi-channel network. It sometimes even fluctuates depending on the length of your video. On average, most channels probably make anywhere from $0.80 to $1.50 per 1,000 views. So for example if you’re monetizing really well in December, because of all of the holiday advertising, it’s not unusual to make $150-$200 for 100,000 views.

J.A.: How can a musician make sure to cash in on youtube? Do you have a particular account or is it sufficient to use CD Baby’s Youtube monetization program?

THN: I actually don’t use CD Baby at all anymore for YouTube monetization. I’ve had my YouTube channel before CD Baby even started their YouTube monetization program. Three or four years ago, multi-channel networks starting popping up on YouTube such as Machinima, Maker or my current multi-channel partner Collective Digital Studio. These are companies that offer to put ads on your videos in return for a small percentage of the revenue. There are a lot of multi-channel networks that have different terms, revenue splits, and customer service. I would suggest contacting a few of them to see which is the best for you. For example I have my personal channel partnered through Collective Digital Studio, but I have another company called AdRev that monetizes videos found on other channels that use my music.

J.A.: Would you describe your marketing as fully social-media based or do you use ways to promote yourself outside of social media as well (i.e. do you send out press releases, send promos to websites/magazines?)

THN: My marketing approach is fully digital and social-media based.

J.A.: You ran a crowdfunding campaign last year with the highest paying item being for donators to appear as anitmated characters in one of your videos. You have outsold that item. Yet another trait of your very own niche?

THN: I thought it’d be a unique perk for donators. It was a limited opportunity open to only 8 people and so I think that was special. Since most of my songs have music videos I think those 8 people will look forward to seeing their animated selves in a music video on my channel. I think it works really well especially because most of my music videos are animated.

J.A.: According to that campaign there has been let’s say a significant demand for physical CDs. However, you don’t seem to sell CDs now…

THN: I do sell CDs actually. They’re just not signed, signed CDs were exclusive to that Indiegogo campaign. They’re for sale on my website, along with posters, at I would say 95% of all my music sales is digital while the remaining 5% is physical.

J.A.: Interesting. With me it’s just the opposite in the Heavy Metal genre. You also sell on-demand merchandise, your music is on iTunes, Amazon and the likes and of course there’s Youtube as we’ve talked about earlier. Could you break down how much each revenue stream contributes to your overall revenue?

THN: YouTube is 25%, iTunes is 50%, all other digital distributors and collection societies (such as ASCAP, SoundExchange, and others) account for the other 25% of my overall revenue.

J.A.: Any future plans you’d like to share or announce?

THN: I think it would be good to get on a schedule, so I’m working on that. I’m trying to figure out a way to consistently post 2 music videos a month. One idea is to start a Patreon account to help cover the music production and mastering services, along with any expenses needed for a music video. The Patreon would be monthly donations and donators would get exclusive access to content before release along with other cool perks.

J.A.: Which would be your famous last words to our readers?

THN: There are so many outlets for you distribute music yourself now in this digital/social-media age that you no longer have to wait to be discovered by a big label for your big break. I know it’s cliche to say but I think the best way to get started in doing something you really love is to just do it.

Many thanks for doing this questionnaire with us.

Be sure to check out TryHardNinja’s Youtube Channel and Facebook Page.

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About MusicBizMadness

Julian Angel is a chart-noted songwriter and film musician with Hollywood credits. He has successfully released six (physical) records by himself. MusicBiz Madness started as a business conference in Germany and keeps sharing hands-on advice for musicians and people in the music industry.
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