Viral YouTube producer gets his ideas from Toronto's parks
You might already be familiar with viral YouTube producer and music equipment reviewer Andrew Huang. But you may be surprised to learn that he actually lives right here in Toronto, and gets most of his ideas while wandering local parks.
"The diversity of Toronto is really special and I think it's reflected in all the amazing artists that come out of here," Huang tells blogTO.
"I have fully embraced the 'City within a Park' motto. I love living in a big city while also being able to get lost in High Park or go for a run by the Humber River, which is when a lot of my best ideas come to me."
Huang has around 2 million subscribers on YouTube and over 253,000 followers on Instagram and is now the creator of a music making app called Flip Sampler.
It's all built up from a relentless dedication to music and time spent cutting his teeth in the Toronto music scene, and a YouTube channel he's been working on since 2006.
"I grew up in Ottawa and moved here when I was 18," says Huang. "But apparently as a two-year-old I was captivated by the CN Tower and the Blue Jays and told everyone I was from Toronto."
He started out as a child learning piano and "kept falling into rabbit holes" from there, as he puts it, discovering cassette recording, turntables and synthesizers.
"I've had both formal training like classical piano and university studies as well as this obsessive autodidactism where every spare moment is spent reading about different tools and techniques or experimenting with things in the studio," says Huang.
"Video is more of a casual interest where I've picked up on enough to create what I want to create, but could actually be doing some things completely wrong and have no idea."
His videos don't come off this way. With millions of views and great editing, the relatively high-end production values are likely to change your notion of what can be created in an everyday bedroom.
He goes through detailed product reviews of various music equipment, showing off his mastery and sometimes a song clip he's produced using it. He's also not afraid to shy away from more gimmicky challenges that earn him views and subscribers.
"I initially only wanted to make music videos for my songs, but I found it was both easier and more enjoyable for me to create videos documenting my creative process or sharing some of the things I'd learned, and it's been gratifying to see that people have been able to take inspiration from that," says Huang.
While music is his full-time career, his income has always come from a mix of revenue streams, and off-the-wall creativity has always been part of what has helped him succeed.
"When I was 19 I started posting eBay auctions where I'd create a song for the winning bidder," says Huang. "They'd go for $100 to $200 and that became my job for a few years."
He eventually started a website to avoid eBay's fees, developing a following and charging more until he was able to rely on revenue from around 15 of these songs a month. That was when people started approaching him to score commercials.
"I was slowly building a fanbase for the original music I was putting out, and did alright between royalties, merch, and playing live," says Huang.
Though he stopped playing live in 2017, if you were part of the indie scene at El Mocambo, Rancho Relaxo, Cameron House, Supermarket or Horseshoe, it's possible you may have caught him as a solo act or part of a band. As for where he hangs these days, he likes Tranzac and The Rex.
Now that he's focused on YouTube, he's been able to capitalize on opportunites for ad revenue, sponsorships, collaborating on music products, and teaching his own in-depth online music classes.
"I'm pretty prolific and I have weird ideas that I'm able to execute well, which seems to be a winning combo on social media where you need to repeatedly earn people's attention," says Huang.
"I've never had anything go super viral, but have made lots of things that were interesting enough to get a few million views, for example this piece of baroque music where the notes are shaped like a unicorn. In recent years though I think it's been less about shareable novelty and more about creating content with my own particular flavour."
Over the next year Huang is planning on releasing a number of both software and hardware music tools with plugin companies and boutique synth designers. He also wants to go back to his classical roots and experiment with orchestral music.
"I appreciate every genre of music and I think all approaches to it are valid, whether you want to make songs in your bedroom or try to get a chart hit with a team of ten writers," says Huang.
"At the end of the day, as technical or business-oriented as my content might lean at any moment, the enjoyment of making music is always the biggest focus."
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