By Michael Varrati
Across the board, YouTube’s most prominent personalities understand the scope of their chosen platform, but few grasp its revolutionary status quite like musician and notable YouTuber Chester See.
“We’ve been calling it the wild, wild west for years,” Chester says, referring to the seemingly limitless and untamed territory of online content creation. “The potential of YouTube and its reach is extraordinary, it’s almost crazy. We’re revealing that celebrities may not be worth as much as we thought they were. That perception we create for them, that pedestal we put celebrities on, it’s falling down. If you go to a company and you say, ‘You could use this A-list star to promote your product,’ but then, you check out their social media and only see fair numbers. But, if you then say, ‘Okay, you could use Tyler Oakley,’ and look at Tyler Oakley and his conversion of fans, comparing him to a traditional star, his reach is five times greater. When you attach numbers to those stars and assign values to them, it’s assigning perception, not actual movement. A lot of them don’t have the power to influence. The most influential people are the Tyler Oakleys…the ones that have that relationship with the audience.”
Of course, in his humility, what See neglects to mention is, much like the Tyler Oakleys of the world, he himself is a major player on the YouTube landscape. With over a million followers and counting, Chester See has redefined what it means to be a multi-platform artist since launching his channel in 2006. In addition to garnering a fervent fan base due to musical and personality driven content, See has parlayed his initial YouTube notoriety by focusing on larger projects that seek to challenge the definition of entertainment media. In addition to partnering with AwesomenessTV for the online feature “Side Effects,” See also notably teamed up with “Fast & Furious” director Justin Lin to produce the YOMYOMF Network, notable for being one of the first channels funded by YouTube directly.
For his part, See seems committed to highlighting cross-media integration, but not for the reasons one might initially think. Whereas some content creators seek to use their channel as a platform to propel them forward into the more traditional worlds of film, television, or studio recording. Chester See instead uses the integration to show his audience and peers that everything they need to create quality art/business is already available to them.
“Here’s the thing, it’s very confusing for a lot of people, because there’s so much happening on YouTube,” Chester See says of the occasional disconnect between the old and new guard. “Look at someone like Boyce Avenue, and then look at someone like Tyler Ward. They are two different animals. Boyce Avenue is a traditional band in the respect that they are putting out music and bringing people to them because of that music. Whereas someone like Tyler Ward, while also a great musician, is utilizing his personality quite a bit to engage fans. They’re different beasts. A lot of people can’t understand that delineation with the YouTube community,
where they think it is solely all challenges, collaborations, and memes. That all still exists, but it’s a lot larger. People have a hard time seeing YouTube as a means for launching more traditional types of content. For example, “Side Effects” looks and feels like ‘regular’ TV. We released 40 minutes of content all at once, which is about an hour programming in the network world. That’s not a ‘YouTuber’ thing, that’s something else. But, all of these things are happening on YouTube, they’re happening online. It’s hard for people to create lines between them, but they are all doing well and are respected.”
See’s belief in this harmonious convergence of various content creation styles, whether it be music, vlogging, or beyond, is deeply indicative of his approach to his own work. Followers of the prolific young artist know full well that Chester has dabbled in all of these mediums. His music videos showcase a formidable talent, and his passion for the cinematic arts have led to great achievements, not only in some of the aforementioned projects, but beyond. His channel routinely pulls in viewers from all walks of life and varying tastes, and his wide demographic is reflective of his irrepressible sense of whimsy. It’s clear Chester See loves the medium, and believes that there’s enough room on YouTube for everyone.
“There was a moment in time when I thought of YouTube as a place to get some awareness,” See tells me. “I hoped to use it as a launching pad to get somewhere else. Now, I don’t think of it like that at all. It’s such an amazing, unique place to distribute your content all on your own. I think there’s obviously a benefit to being part of multi-platforms, but there’s not really a need. YouTube
doesn’t have to be a place where you wait to do something else, it can be the place where you do that thing. That’s when I really fell in love with YouTube: When I realized I could wear that YouTuber badge proudly, because it’s not necessarily a stepping stone for some of us, it’s the stone we want to be on.”
Furthermore, See points to the massive viewership that online personalities are getting from work they created in their homes, far outside of a studio or network system.
“Why is there so much more money being funneled into traditional content, rather than some of the content that’s occurring online, where some of the viewership is equal? It’s a perception thing.” See posits. “It’s only the perception of the content. Those that are controlling the money and the brands haven’t switched over yet.”
It’s for these reasons that Chester See’s work and stance on multi-platform integration are so important to the forward movement of content creation. Admittedly committed to YouTube as a platform for himself, See wants to show that any kind of content that can be created is readily welcome and at home on YouTube, because not only is the viewership there, but in many instances surpasses the more traditional outlets.
In fact, Chester See’s celebration of the medium is not only one of his greatest strengths; it also ensures he is not bound by it, either.
By seeking to prove that YouTube can be the best showcase for different platforms of content creation, See continues to branch out, bringing many worlds of entertainment together. His recent appearance in the comedy film “Camp Takota” (featuring Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Hannah Hart) precedes work on his own film project, “The Brag” (which is about a viral online video, thus proving he can’t help himself from crossing concepts), which marks another move in a career of blurring lines and knocking down barriers to make art available for all.
…and yet, at the end of the day, it always comes back to where it all started for the web’s consistently ambitious multi-platform mastermind. When I ask him where he’d like to go next, his answer is a surprising back to basics proclamation I should have seen coming a mile away.
“You know what’s crazy?” Chester says, in closing. “Dead honest truth: There are all these fun things that have come from being on YouTube, but I’m most excited to relaunch my channel. My viewership is down, because I stepped aside, and I’ve been away doing other things. I’m excited to be doing a couple videos a week, where it’s personality driven and I get to reengage with my fanbase. I’m going to start putting out more songs, start releasing more covers. I enjoy that. It’s what I love. It’s where I want to be.”