Youtube is oversaturated with music but can be the breeding ground for tomorrow’s stars. ALIX NORMAN meets one of the few Cypriots who is a dedicated Youtuber
Most of us use YouTube to watch tutorials, our favourite musicians or the odd cat compendium (guilty!). Over a billion users – that’s one third of all the people on the internet – use the platform on a regular basis, with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. But how many of us actually know someone who posts?
“YouTube is a bit of a bubble for those of us with a channel,” explains Iacovos Argyrides. “You never know quite what’s going to happen. Lately there’s been a bit of an issue with advertisers withdrawing their support and then just because you have a lot of views or subscribers doesn’t mean you’re going to make money…”
A professional musician and sound engineer, Iacovos is one of the few local talents making a full-time career out of the platform. Known for his unique take on film and series theme tunes, he’s a bit of a local sensation – followed by nearly 2,000 subscribers and with video likes in the hundreds of thousands. And while this may be minimal compared with the top YouTube channels (Swedish commentator PewDiePie boasted over 54 million subscribers; titular musician Justin Bieber has nearly 30 million followers), it’s not too shabby for Cyprus. Though, apparently, the majority of views come from abroad…
“My audience is mainly people between 18 and 34, and mostly from the United States – actually Cyprus is one of the last countries to come to my channel!” Iacovos laughs. With subscribers from as far afield as Indonesia, Vietnam, Hungary and Peru, the YouTuber admits it’s “amazing to reach people all over the world – but music seems not to evolved here in Cyprus, at least not the type of music I’m doing.”
Iacovos’ main style of music is rock – “it’s the one that expresses me the most, the style I feel is most complete” – though he does combine different genres to create his unique sound; a sound which is, unlike many covers, produced from scratch: “First thing I do in making covers is place the track in my audio software, arrange the chords on guitar and electronic instruments in midi form and build the basis of the song on which to lay the rest of the instruments. Then I record the guitar, and add the drum track to it, and add the vocals myself.” Unusually, Iacovos re-records and rewrites everything himself, eschewing the use of samples or pre-recorded elements: “I try to achieve even the smallest of details in the song completely by myself. Everything in there comes from elements I’ve put together.”
His first big success was the Westworld cover: a captivating take on the haunting theme of HBO’s latest smash hit series. “I was prompted to do the Westworld cover by the second episode: a lightbulb went on in my head and I knew the show would be great; it has the same composer as Game of Thrones, HBO is making it, and it’s going to be a huge success – I made the cover in two days flat.” That was in October 2016, and since then Iacovos has posted 22 covers (the last being a take on Soundgarden’s classic ‘Black Hole Sun’) and approximately 40 originals.
The ultimate aim is to build a fan base to promote his own original music (Iacovos has been involved in a number of projects over the years, but decided the best way to bring his dreams to fruition was as a single entity rather than a member of a band or music group) and that should, he hopes, allow him to make a living. But the going is tough, and for now, covers seem to be the way to go.
“I do covers at the moment because that’s the way YouTube works in terms of search engine optimisation: if you do an original piece nobody will bother much about it, but covers seem to bring in the views and subscribers. Plus, it’s the era of the superhero genre, which is lucky for us geek types, because a lot of what I watch and turn into videos is from sci fi and fantasy shows – I find it more inspirational, more cinematic and musical to the ear.”
Of course progress is, Iacovos admits, very slow. “My initial goal when I started, about a year ago, was to reach 1,000 subscribers in a year. And when I achieved that in just under a year, I decided I couldn’t wait another 12 months for the next 1,000 if the endeavour were to be viable. So I set a timeframe of six months for that next 1,000; I know I can’t be doing this for five years and only have 3,000 subscribers – it’s just not going to work. Music is a very oversaturated market on YouTube, and nobody seems to have any faith in music labels anymore; everything they can do, I can do by myself, other than provide the money to market and advertise.”
Entirely down-to-earth about the whole ‘being a YouTuber’ thing, Iacovos is definitely a talent to be reckoned with. But he knows that success is far from guaranteed. “I feel elated, exhausted and yet determined,” he concludes. I know I have to make a plan for my life, and while I’m hoping for the monetisation and sponsorship that spell success, I’ve given myself until June to reach 2,000 subscribers. And then we’ll see!
“The best bit about being a YouTuber is making covers I love; there’s always original content in every cover and that’s one of the best things to do, it’s when I feel expression as a musician. But it’s a real challenge to keep making a multitude of videos without having a significant income from it. You wonder why you’re doing it – it’s a bit crazy to do something without making any money. But at the end of the day the incentive is huge in terms of global reach; it’s kind of what keeps you going. Here I am in my studio in Cyprus and a guy from Indonesia is commenting and liking my video – that’s pretty cool. That’s YouTube!”
For more information on Iacovos’ YouTube channel, visit www.youtube.com/iacovos or the Facebook page ‘Iacovos Music’