Formerly published in Ricepaper Magazine.
by ELLIOT.CHAN on Apr 27, 2013 • 4:23 pm
Andrew Huang’s musical mystique is an exploration. Different environments conjure different personalities, different auras and different sounds. Like a chameleon, he is able to instinctually morph to suit his surrounding, whether it is the soulful rhythm of a heartbreaking ballad or the fast-pace delivery of a tongue-tying rap song. One scroll down Huang’s YouTube channel and you could witness his musical range.
“I made my YouTube account in 2006,” he said, “just because I thought I should have one. But I didn’t put anything on it right away.” Now with over 260 videos, Huang had fully embraced the platform and not only does he consider it to be a jumping board to higher achievement, he feels YouTube might just be the next grand artistic movement. “I started seeing how fast an audience can grow there, because there was already a community. It started making sense.”
Limitation is the stratosphere determined by artists’ platforms. While some are trapped within a glass jar, Huang feels he could reach the stars with his creative freedom. Marching to his own beat, he focuses his attention away from creative roadblocks such as administrative, logistical work. “If I want to upload 10 videos in a month, I can do that. You can publish stuff anytime you want,” he said, “and anyone on the Internet can just stumble upon it.”
Despite all the fun, it is still a livelihood. The business demands a lot of him and the effort it takes to produce a product do not always yield a gratifying or satisfying profit. Huang is a brand, and he understands the dark side to marketing. “The question of how much you can get back from it is a question of how much you can engage a community and reach new people,” he said, “At the end of the day, I can be doing the exact same amount of work, but for whatever reason I get twice the subscriber base and in theory there would be twice the people downloading my songs.”
The Internet is an intimidating place, especially when artists are uploading such vulnerable pieces of work. Huang takes chances—a lot of them. Although he is fueled by positive reinforcement, a negative comment can drain the tank pretty quickly. Still, there are few put downs and snarky remarks that can keep Huang down. In a piece where he took a viewer’s ideas to use a 1000 pairs of jeans to formulate a song, he was met with a sarcastic comment asking, “how much time do you have?” To which Huang replied, “24 hours in a day like everyone else… I just have a more interesting job.”
“If you are getting any amount of views on YouTube, it is hard to avoid those hateful and ignorant comments,” said Huang, “I usually ignore it and focus on the positive. But every once in a while someone will bring up a point that I feel is good to response to.”
Feedback is vital to all artists and the same goes for Huang. But he doesn’t allow it to interrupt his creative progress. While writing a song or filming a video, the little critiquing voice in the back of his head can be an asset and a torment. “This part of the video someone is going to make fun of or the fact that I decided to wear this, someone is going to call me a name,” he said, “These things occur to me, but I don’t change the work I am doing because of those thoughts.” Huang takes compliments and criticisms when they come, but none of it is precious.
Forward is the only direction for Huang. Moving from one project to the next, he has few motives except to create. “The stuff that I’m most proud of I’ll go back… I mean I’m proud of most of it, but the stuff I really love—it is nice to be able to enjoy it from a distance,” he said. “But for a lot of it when it is done, I am ready to move on to the next project.”
But being so prolific comes with its own downfall, and for Huang it’s organization. “I love having an organized space,” he said, “but the actual sorting out where things have to go and cleaning up. And organizing in terms of events and productions.” Being a jack-of-all-trades requires him to juggle many tasks at once from printing CDs and vinyl to corresponding with other artists for collaboration projects. “It has to be done, so I do it.” If Huang isn’t bouncing from one instrument to the next in his studio, he’s on the Internet, rather emailing or searching up the latest trends.
Creativity and curiosity is the air Huang breathes. From the computer to the microphone to different instruments, if there is a blockage in inspiration, all he has to do is shift gears and keep going. “I enjoy so many different types of things,” he said, “I’m working in video and music, but I’m also doing different types of music and video. Within the world I work in different genres. The fact that there are so many different things I could be doing keeps me from those creative blocks. It’s a constant state of creativity or emailing.”
As a morning person, Huang takes advantage of the longer day, spending anywhere from eight to 12 hours being creative. But despite working such long hours, his craft is still an unknown. “It’s kind of tricky,” he described the complexity of explaining his work in a social situation, “It depends on the type of person I’m talking to. I might introduce myself as an independent musician or I might introduce myself as an Internet content creator. Or I just call myself a musician.” Regardless of what Huang sees himself as, it is always a process communicating his job to others. “I make YouTube videos for a living,” he said with an air of pride, “but there are certain preconceived notions of what that can mean.”
The Internet is a forest of celebrities, from great Sequoias to plain Danaes. With acres upon acres of content to explore, Huang believes it is the new world of entertainment. “All these people who have hundred of thousands and millions subscribers, they aren’t on TV, they aren’t in the magazines, they can walk down the street and not be recognized,” he smiled about the oasis he created for himself, “maybe one day it’ll be more than saying, oh I make stuff for the Internet.”