Ali Spagnola is a musician, comedian, and artist. Ali creates outrageous videos including turning her car into a Chia Pet, covering her apartment with fur, or putting 3200 PopSockets on her wall! She also creates "What If" videos where she remixes popular music into the style of another artist.
Ali Spagnola is a musician, comedian, and artist. Ali creates outrageous videos including turning her car into a Chia Pet, covering her apartment with fur, or putting 3200 PopSockets on her wall! She also creates "What If" videos where she remixes popular music into the style of another artist.
Ali has more than 362,000 subscribers on YouTube, more than 800,000 followers on TikTok, 500,000 followers on Facebook, and more than 2 million followers on Twitter.
In this episode, we talk about Ali’s beginnings on YouTube, how her first viral success came on what she thought would be her LAST upload to the platform, the frustration of catering to algorithms, and the role of Luck in breaking through.
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Ali Spagnola 00:00
It felt like I had no control. I was just making what I thought was really good art that should reach a lot of people and it wasn't going anywhere. And I do have some evidence that that was the case because after that blew up, a bunch of my old videos blew up too.
Jay Clouse 00:19
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show. Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. I made something that I'm super proud of this week. It's a new dedicated website for this show. For a long time, Creative Elements has lived on my personal website, jayclouse.com. And it's always been kind of a regret that I have, because I've become more and more of the opinion that my projects should have their own dedicated websites and my personal website will serve as a hub for my writing, and just link out to those projects. But as I'm sure you know, building a website you're happy with takes quite a bit of work, so I never fixed that mistake. But then this week, I found an awesome software called Podpage that made it so easy to make an awesome website for the show with dedicated pages for each episode, a public display of ratings and reviews and more. If you're a podcaster yourself, I have an affiliate link in the show notes that you can see what your show website would look like for free, they'll literally generate the website for you for free, and it just takes about five minutes. There are specifically two features that I would love for you to check out on the new creativeelements.fm website. First, it has a built in voicemail feature, you can record a voice message right from your phone or computer and send it right to me, just go to creativeelements.fm and click the send me a voicemail tab on the right hand side of the page. I'd love to do a listener Q&A episode in the coming weeks, so record a question you'd like for me to talk about. It could be about a specific episode, a theme we've heard throughout the show or anything else, just go to creativeelements.fm to leave a voicemail. And second while you're there, you can sign up to receive the email I sent each week with the episode where I share how and why I booked the guest. If you're trying to get better at getting in touch with people that you want to talk to these emails will help. Not to mention it adds a little bit more depth to each episode. Okay, enough about me and my website. Today on the show, I'm talking with an amazing creator whose work I stumbled upon on YouTube where she has 362,000 subscribers. Her name is Ali Spagnola, and she makes outrageous videos like covering a room of her apartment in fur or covering a wall in 3200 pop sockets or even doing ridiculous things to her car.
Ali Spagnola 02:56
Hey best Pal-y, I'm Ali. And you may remember me from such things as covering my car in blue AstroTurf. Well as I've been driving my fake grass around, I couldn't help but think fake is good but living is more outrageous. Can I turn my car into a giant Chia Pet?
Jay Clouse 03:13
Ali has more than 32 million views on her YouTube videos and joined the platform really early in 2006 but maybe not for the reason that you'd expect.
Ali Spagnola 03:23
Oh, I was using YouTube at that time for a portfolio. I was an art student and so I was putting my animations online. I was definitely not trying to be a YouTube personality.
Jay Clouse 03:35
I actually found Ali's work because of her music videos where she takes a popular song and remix it into the style of another artist. Here's a clip of her turning Good 4 You by Olivia Rodrigo into a song by Adele.
Ali Spagnola 03:48
Well, good for you, I guess you moved on really easily. You found a new girl and it only took a couple weeks. Remember when you said that you wanted to give me the world. Well, good for you, you look happy and health, not me, if you ever cared to ask.
Jay Clouse 04:20
But what I found out in researching this episode is that Ali is actually creating on a lot of platforms. She has more than 500,000 followers on Facebook, 812,000 followers on Tiktok, a Patreon earning nearly $2,000 per video and more than 2 million followers on Twitter.
Ali Spagnola 04:38
Yeah, Twitter was the main one that I was on and posting, geez, I would post like every hour. Some joke or some sort of question or picture, I don't even know there's pictures at the time but I was heavy on Twitter. I look back and I'm like, geez, I'm good if I get one tweet out a day now.
Jay Clouse 04:56
Throughout this interview, Ali talks a lot about the role of luck in her success and the frustration that comes when it seems like luck isn't around. In fact, she says a big reason she built such a large following on Twitter was being on the platform early on, and being one of Twitter's suggested follows.
Ali Spagnola 05:12
That was when people were getting on the platform and be like, hey, you might like this comedian weirdo that's fighting in legal case follow her.
Jay Clouse 05:22
And we definitely talk about that legal case, too. So in this episode, we talk about Ali's beginnings on YouTube, how her first viral success came on what she thought would be her last upload to the platform, the frustration of catering to algorithms, and the role of luck in breaking through. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse. And don't forget to check out the new website. Let me know what you think. This is a really fun episode, I bring in a lot of Ali's work throughout. So let's get into it. Let's talk with Ali.
Ali Spagnola 06:00
Well, I was a musician and realize that selling out of 500 seater would be an incredible evening. But making a YouTube video that gets 500 views would be a pretty crappy level of exposure on that platform, the amount that you can reach is so much bigger online. So I stopped focusing on touring and playing and convincing my friends to show up to shows and started making things that could reach people online.
Jay Clouse 06:28
Was that popular in the music community at the time? Because I think YouTube started in like, 2005 right? So even being aware of it two years and seems like a thing.
Ali Spagnola 06:37
That was still my space days. I was doing that too. But it seemed like you could garner some attention on the Internet. I think it was Colbie Caillat, who they said came up on my space, which is interesting. I also think she has a family member in the industry which which helped but it's a good story to say, oh, you got discovered online.
Jay Clouse 06:57
So what was your first kind of foray into YouTube for music then?
Ali Spagnola 07:02
Geez, I don't know. Did you look back?
Jay Clouse 07:04
Yeah I did, I did. Well, what came up was an album ever in front of me. We have an album, The Ego.
Ali Spagnola 07:12
Yeah, that was my pop album.
Jay Clouse 07:14
Tell me about this album.
Ali Spagnola 07:15
Well, that's interesting that that one is what I have at first. I did a Power Hour before that, The Ego was more of me being a traditional musician making pop music that's more serious. But before that, did a bunch of comedy music and had a live show. That was an interactive party where I would just invite people to drink.
Jay Clouse 07:58
I do, I do see three happy hour songs first actually 60 songs and they're all one minute long. I did want to talk about this. So okay, if that came before the album, you went from portfolio straight into Power Hour on YouTube. How did that happen?
Ali Spagnola 08:13
I was still doing that it was I was in art school and playing music around and realize that as I mentioned earlier, I was begging people to come to my shows but nobody wants to see some boring chick in a coffee shop strumming a guitar to songs you don't know. At the same time, I was also hosting Power Hour parties which were so easy to get people to come to. I would make a mix of one minute songs, this is a drinking game I didn't invent it's it's just that I would make a playlist of popular music and then everybody would come on you take a shot of beer every minute for an hour. Which first seems easy and then seems really hard. It ends up being between six and eight beers. But it's it's just a really inclusive, fun way to play a drinking game and I realized I wanted my shows to be like that. So I turned my show into that same game. I wrote one minute songs they were all funny and jokes about drinking.
And sounds like a good idea. Take off your pants and climb that sculpture crusher can with your head and yellow bouncer on jewel and sleep at Brett. racer razor shave. Good idea. Sounds like a good idea.
Ali Spagnola 10:04
And started playing that live. And it went from begging people to come see me strumming guitar to lines around the block at bars in Pittsburgh, it was so easy to market, it was super fun. Bars would roll out the red carpet and give us free beer for the hour because I knew people would stick around and make a bunch of money. And then I started putting that on the internet.
Jay Clouse 10:26
I love that, this is amazing. Okay, so the first iteration you were doing 60 second covers at first before you wrote your own songs?
Ali Spagnola 10:34
I did my own my own songs first but I also still to this day play covers as a Power Hour.
Jay Clouse 10:39
Ali Spagnola 10:40
It's kind of like a wedding band that gives up after a minute is what I say about my cover show.
Jay Clouse 10:46
I remember, so this is I see that these were posted 10 years ago. And I think back 10 years ago, that's when I was in my dorm room doing power hours. And it was actually difficult to find one that I hadn't listened to a bunch of times, it was like the same three, all rock power hours on Vimeo that I was listening to, and they were great. But it started to get a little bit sad for me since it was just like the same thing over and over again. Tell me about this first experience going into an actual bar and doing a live show. Who did you tell that you're going to do this and what was their response?
Ali Spagnola 11:16
I told my group of friends and then word of mouth, I'm not kidding. The first show had a line around the block. It was ridiculous. I was like, wow, why this is so easy. I don't know why I haven't been doing this longer. When before that playing live music felt like such a struggle. But it really was that I was throwing a party instead of trying to get people to care about my art.
Jay Clouse 11:37
And what was your aspiration at this time? Were you thinking like, I'm gonna go to Nashville eventually and have a whole music career and this is step one of that, or?
Ali Spagnola 11:46
Yeah, it was like that. I knew that I wanted to keep playing music and that seemed to be the way to play live successfully so I kept at it. And but that's also about the time that I happened to get into a lawsuit about the Power Hour. And it was an interesting story that this guy tried to trademark the term, which is like saying, oh, I invented poker and no one can play poker anymore and it's my word, which is what he was doing with this drinking game. And so I fought him but that story just happened to go viral on Reddit, which garnered me a lot of attention, which was lucky and awesome and super helpful to my initial growth on Twitter. And it just grew from there that I knew that I should keep putting things online and and creating in that space.
Jay Clouse 12:38
This is the onion I started to peel as I was reading your about page earlier today. So this guy had tried to trademark the term Power Hour, not necessarily like the medium of a power hour because you can you even trademark that? Like what was his claim here?
Ali Spagnola 12:54
I don't think you can trademark gameplay but the name, yes. He trademarked the term Power Hour within the drinking game realm. The problem is that no one at the trademark office had ever played one nerds. And so they just immediately issued it to him. And then he started defending his mark would which is you're supposed to do if you have a trademark, you have to stop other people from using it otherwise, it will get what's called diluted and you won't be worth anything and you'll get it revoked. And so he was doing what he's supposed to defending his mark, but he should never have been the issue issued the mark in the first place. And I said that in the courts after having paid $30,000 in legal fees. It was interesting, because since he was issued the trademark, I was the aggressor, I was the one trying to get it revoked from him. So instead of him being the bad guy in the situation I was so I ended up paying all these legal fees and not getting them back from him in any way.
Jay Clouse 13:59
Wow. Okay, so how did you receive notification that this man was saying, you've got to stop doing this?
Ali Spagnola 14:06
A personal email from this gentleman.
Jay Clouse 14:09
From the person directly not like a lawyer, he was like, hey, and what was his tone, was he?
Ali Spagnola 14:13
Oh, he may have made a fake lawyer email address that I pretty much established was him. But yeah, it was just very formal. It he said you got to stop doing this. And I and that was my full time thing at that time. I mean, I was I was still in college, but I was doing it and making money and it was it was my job and he just took away my income.
Jay Clouse 14:39
Yeah, it'd be a super bummer. I mean, a lot of times you'll get like a cease and desist or like I guess I'll cease and desist. But a lot of times, it's not also their living that they're, you know, really leading into right now. So you said I'm going to fight this and you just said that I kind of went viral on Reddit, tell me that story.
Ali Spagnola 14:56
Well, everybody loves the traditional story of a young girl fighting an evil man trying to stop people from drinking, don't we? I mean, it's like the perfect setup to go viral on on specifically Reddit. And then a bunch of people just got behind me and I'm like, yeah, fight this guy. And so I spoke to a lawyer and the lawyer in no way had any idea that it would end up being that amount that I said $30,000 it was, it was supposed to be quick and whatever. And, and I knew that I was gonna win so I went for it. But he dragged things out, took as long as possible kept spending my time which is my lawyers time, which is my money and the money is kept ballooning up. But you know, when you're in a tunnel, and you're like, well, I've gone this far. I'm not going to stop now. That was some sort of logical fallacy. I forget what it's called where you've already said.
Jay Clouse 15:54
Ali Spagnola 15:55
Sunk cost, there we go, literally costs and I'm sitting there being well, the end of the tunnel is almost here after after $2,000. I should definitely keep going. And then somehow we get to 30k but I won.
Jay Clouse 16:08
After a quick break, Ali and I continue her winding journey to online video creator, and spoiler, it has not been an easy road. We'll be talking a lot about burnout. So stick around and we'll be right back. Welcome back to my conversation with Ali Spagnola. After Ali won her $30,000 lawsuit and freed the term power hour to be used by herself and others. I wondered what she did next with this heightened public profile.
Ali Spagnola 16:35
I did a Kickstarter, it was on Indiegogo. And I said well, power hours free now I need to do a tour of the country playing them all across the US. Thanks for all the moral support. And I raised 40k and toward the US in an RV getting drunk with America. It was pretty crazy, gosh, and it was, it's so hard to pinpoint. It was really fun too because I was touring with a DJ so not a full band. It was me and my DJ and then an opening act, I would have to say that's the highlight. I found an opening act online I did an open call for any weirdo that wanted to warm up a power hour crowd so that's a pretty wide call. It ended up being an air guitarist and he is so he would play insane 80s music it's like lip synching but physical dance. It's he's so impressive. It was just like an incredible opener to get everyone amped is this weird, performative art thing. And the three of us got an RV and went around the US. It was really fun.
Jay Clouse 17:50
Amazing, what happened at the end of this tour?
Ali Spagnola 17:53
It's all slow and overlapping. There's no one moment where I'm like, this is my big thing that did whatever. And now I'm this it was just continually creating stuff, putting it online, trying different places. I mean, I was even a pretty big Viner at the time, let RIP. And so I can't say that anything was more calculated than just keep making things and putting them public.
Jay Clouse 18:23
Were you inspired by or modeling after any other kind of early digital creators because YouTube was early when you start uploading things on YouTube? Power hours were like just a thing when you have this legal suit, then vine, short life sounds like you were there from the beginning. What were you looking towards to say, okay, this is what I'm gonna try next?
Ali Spagnola 18:44
Yeah, I mean, there were when I started on YouTube, there were always some pretty big names on there. I mean, pretty big for the time, right? But what was really big was vlogging and jump cuts. And I think that's just because of the medium that nobody's gonna have a two camera shot and make really smooth movements between CameraCuts. But it also helps I think, with the comedy and so I leaned into the jump cut thing to try and make abrupt changes, especially on a joke to heighten the unexpectedness of a video, and basically make it more funny. I honestly will tie my jump cuts to to heighten my own crappy jokes at times.
Jay Clouse 19:28
Up to this point, we've been talking a lot about all the things that Ali was making during this time, but I was curious if she was full time on her art or if she was working a job through this time as well.
Ali Spagnola 19:38
I had a couple of jobs, I worked at a couple of startups. I was in Pittsburgh, I was a lead artist at a video game company. I worked at Google remotely for a while. I sort of definitely did the whole nine to five thing but then from five to nine I was doing music and videos and putting stuff online, is it wasn't until five years ago that it was clear that I didn't, I shouldn't do the normal job thing anymore and devote all of my time to the internet art.
Jay Clouse 20:12
And that was because the internet art was going so well or because it was difficult for those two things to coexist.
Ali Spagnola 20:19
No, I got really lucky. And the company I worked at went under, it was a startup that failed. And so I was laid off and I was on unemployment and it wasn't succeeding at all. I was not making money online, but I had time to keep working on it because of that. So it was kind of making unemployment and then posting a lot of stuff. And that sort of helped me transition because I don't know I'm kind of not a risk taker, even though it seems that I'm so bold online. I don't know if I I would have left my job for quite a while because I didn't that because the internet wasn't supporting me.
Jay Clouse 21:00
What was keeping you going if you felt like monetarily, this isn't supporting me. Like I can see where that would be a route you could go down your head like how am I even doing this? So what kept you going?
Ali Spagnola 21:10
Cuz it's awesome. The same reason you're doing this podcast it's so rewarding internally. It's fun to make something and then say hey, look what I made and the internet is created just for that.
Jay Clouse 21:23
Okay, so in 2017 I know you started your Patreon.
Ali Spagnola 21:27
Hey best Pal-y, I'm Ali. And what I do for a living is make the world more outrageous through the help of people like you. Sweet. What does that mean? I create cool stuff online, music, comedy, fitness. Basically, I make silly epic decisions in my everyday life because it's funny and spreads happiness and how do I survive by making outrageous full time? How do I pull this up? Because there's an awesome team of people ehem could be you my desk pallies that believe in what I do. It's kind of like these people are my outrageous record label. Like they decided that artists we know she makes cool stuff. Let's invest in her so she can keep making that stuff like are you kidding me? That's dope.
Jay Clouse 22:09
What was the signal that, okay, it's time to start the Patreon. Was it because this job had left and you need to do something or did you have some feeling that this will work now?
Ali Spagnola 22:19
Oh, I didn't know how well it would work goodness that, I guess you could call that a turning point because holy crap it it works people supported me and from then on I was a full time creator. I did it because I don't know I known some people that had and I knew I was making stuff consistently already and I thought it would help me to consistently make more because now I'm held accountable to this page, are the people that are watching and so as an experiment I just launched and tried it and my patrons are amazing, and it's been amazing since then, holy crap.
Jay Clouse 22:54
Well today, I can see that you have 360 subscribers on YouTube. I don't know.
Ali Spagnola 23:01
360? Oh man.
Jay Clouse 23:01
Ali Spagnola 23:05
Jay Clouse 23:05
With a K.
Ali Spagnola 23:05
I mean it's still good, I'm very happy.
Jay Clouse 23:05
With a K, do you remember any of the metrics at the time pre-Patreon? Or like right before you launched the Patreon?
Ali Spagnola 23:13
Yeah, maybe like 15,000, 10,000.
Jay Clouse 23:15
Ali Spagnola 23:16
Jay Clouse 23:17
So growth has been crazy since the Patreon?
Ali Spagnola 23:20
No, no, that's also not so, because it was really still slow growth. For the longest time I was at 30k for like years, I think. I did have a viral moment I guess on YouTube specifically, that took me from between 30 and 60 to where you see me now.
Jay Clouse 23:40
Crazy, what was that moment?
Ali Spagnola 23:42
So this is another luck thing. I made a video, my last video on YouTube. I emailed my editor and said this is it, we're done, I'm never making another YouTube video. And this one was one that I did for myself. I was like, this is fine. I'll just do something that will bomb again but I want to do it so I'm doing it. And I turned to Billie Eilish Bad Guy to a Meghan Trainor song. I really like it Bronx guy just can't get enough guy just always pumped guy. Make your mama sad. I'm the bad guy. Of course. Which is another lucky thing. I was gonna title it. What if Billie Eilish or what if Bad Guy was a happy song and I and I spoke to one of my friends who's also a YouTuber and she said no, put Meghan Trainor in the title that'll help. And I'm wondering if it hadn't. If it wouldn't have blown up had I not just happen to switch it last minute. Anyway, that got 4 million views, which is the most I've ever had on YouTube. And I look back at that time and even my other youtuber friend Christopher bill agrees. He said doing Bad Guy at that time was the cheat code to YouTube, no matter what Bad Guy title you video you had, if you had that in the title, it was just go viral. And I thought at the time, whoa, I stumbled on something great. I'm making things that work on YouTube. I'm gonna keep doing this as a format, which I did now. Now I have a series called What if where I change one song to a different artist style. But really, I do think it had nothing to do with that format. And it was just that anybody who did Bad Guy blew up, which also got me a bunch of subscribers really helpful. And of course, I leaned into that, but otherwise, I was done on YouTube, I was not gonna make anymore there.
Jay Clouse 25:47
So many paths I want to go down here so that was the first What if video?
Ali Spagnola 25:52
Yeah, which wasn't considered a format, I was just thinking that that song was crazy and I wanted to play with it.
Jay Clouse 25:59
What was going on? Like, why did you send that email to your editor, say I'm done on YouTube?
Ali Spagnola 26:03
Because such the slow growth, I was not being rewarded on platform, it felt like I had no control, I was just making what I thought was really good art that should reach a lot of people and it wasn't going anywhere. And I do have some evidence that that was the case because after that blew up, a bunch of my old videos blew up to which had, for example, my last video where I turn my room into a fur room and I cover Florida ceiling in fur I made that and I was like this is this is great. This is definitely viral potential. This is a good watch, it should reach a lot of people and it just bombed absolutely fizzled, like everything else I was putting on there. So it was really frustrating because I just find myself figuring I don't know what good is. But then when the other video went viral, then that one took off and got over a million views too. And so I don't know what was happening there. But YouTube decided the video was bad, and then decided the video was good. And that lack of control is why I wanted to give up and why I still want to give up at this point sometimes.
Jay Clouse 27:12
I feel this on such a visceral level. And I think a lot of people listening to this will too, because you'll make something and you'll be like this actually is good. Like this is one I'm proud of. And then you're like, here we go, I'm pushing the button, I'm sending it out. And then just nothing.
Ali Spagnola 27:26
Jay Clouse 27:26
And that's not necessarily a mark on the quality of the thing like we live in this magical, frustrating time of distribution.
Ali Spagnola 27:35
Yeah, it's a slot machine, that they put rats in a cage. And then they they made this button to push and sometimes the button gives them food and sometimes the button doesn't. And it is random. And the rats go insane. They go clinically crazy pushing the button, because they don't have control. And that's the definition of a slot machine. And that's also the definition of how I feel YouTube works.
Jay Clouse 28:01
Were you also giving up on other platforms? Or were you going to say I'm going to just focus my attention over here instead?
Ali Spagnola 28:08
Yeah, it was that this platform isn't serving me I should do work focus on one that is and it still kind of is a case I do way better on other platforms with something about, I don't know, maybe I just like an abusive date because I focus so much on YouTube when it's not the one that's serving me the most. It's also weird though, to say hey, I'm a Facebooker, no, you say I'm a YouTuber, so maybe there's just some sort of cultural thing in that too, that I want to grow on there and optimize for that platform.
Jay Clouse 28:37
When we come back, Ali and I talk about the other platform she creates for, her process for creating videos and the challenges that come with being consistent across all those platforms, right after this. Hey, welcome back. Before the break, Ali told us that she was at a breaking point where she was going to give up on YouTube and focus on other platforms that were serving her more like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Tiktok. But her recent viral success drew her back into YouTube, where she says she actually begins the creative process for other platforms.
Ali Spagnola 29:11
That's where I start my concept where I I start with, honestly the title and thumbnail if I can't think of what would be clickable, because that's the first thing that shows to people even if it's a great story if I can't summarize it in that, it's not worth making. So that's where I put most of my time on my long form videos. And then from there, I'll re-cut and make things fit the language of the platform in other places.
Jay Clouse 29:41
You said Facebook.
Ali Spagnola 29:42
Jay Clouse 29:42
Now, you're on Twitter.
Ali Spagnola 29:43
Jay Clouse 29:44
Ali Spagnola 29:44
Jay Clouse 29:46
Tiktok is where it's happening?
Ali Spagnola 29:48
No, that's the biggest slot machine ever, oh my goodness. That is all based on luck.
Jay Clouse 29:52
Well, yeah, I know it's like universal content distribution is the buzz worthy thing people say about Tiktok, but this does seem like your style of videos. Seems like something that would work really well on Tiktok.
Ali Spagnola 30:05
And they're brilliant. You have anxiety without telling me you have anxiety, I got 3, 200 pop sockets and made a giant fidget wall. They're optimized perfectly for Tiktok and speaks exactly the language that it needs to whatever or or I don't know what I'm talking about.
Jay Clouse 30:26
In real quick use you're on Snapchat as well that's where you're documenting a lot of this, right?
Ali Spagnola 30:29
Jay Clouse 30:30
Ali Spagnola 30:30
Snapchat then those go to Instagram stories.
Jay Clouse 30:32
So you're on like all these places and there's some there's some efficiencies here for sure.
Ali Spagnola 30:37
Nothing is efficient, my goodness. I definitely need to be faster at my my distributing things.
Jay Clouse 30:45
Well how do you think about managing all these then because you could just say like, you know what, I'm just going to do double the output on YouTube and not spend the time cutting these into different formats for Tiktok and Snapchat and Instagram and all these things. How do you think about that?
Ali Spagnola 30:55
Well, previously in our conversation we spoke about vine which was a decent chunk of my income at the time. I took a big hit when that disappeared and also emotional hit like what what what okay, I was I felt like I had a sort of personality there and now that that's gone I just didn't want that to happen again. And it almost did right? Tiktok was almost gone which I was kind of like, everyone, so I get I'm such a jerk, like laughing and people panicking.
Jay Clouse 31:04
That was such a good laugh.
Ali Spagnola 31:30
But yeah, I focus on all these platforms because I've seen them disappear and not just going away but sometimes my Twitter is is just not doing well because it's after the holidays and nobody's on there or whatever and so then you have to focus on another one to to get by but dropping any of them feels unintelligent, business wise.
Jay Clouse 31:54
So how do you think about the business as a whole then, what how do you think about the thing that you're building and like the engine that you're building? When do you know it's healthy versus something needs to change?
Ali Spagnola 32:05
Healthy business, right? We're not talking about my mental state?
Jay Clouse 32:08
Ali Spagnola 32:08
Jay Clouse 32:09
Yes, we can talk about that next though because that's an integral part I'm sure.
Ali Spagnola 32:13
Funny. Yeah, it's tough because I should be a better business person I think. I should be thinking about 10 years from now, 5 years from now, 5 days from now even yeah, this is again me sort of taking things as they come and and this luck thing about being being open to what happens and opportunities as I see them so I don't know what's the next thing that's gonna go viral on Twitter or Tiktok or if I should change from doing so much music to doing DIY stuff like my art pieces? And I guess it is more reactive which makes me feel like a bad business person. But it really yeah, I really don't have that sort of long term idea of where this is going.
Jay Clouse 33:02
What about the feedback loops you have from people on different platforms whether it's the YouTube community or Patreon you know, you said sometimes you'll make something and it will kind of just fizzle. I would imagine that a lot of your like subscribers and the people that are paying close attention or seeing just about everything that you're putting out so how do you gauge from them on what's what's good or what they like? Do you what what's that feedback loop?
Ali Spagnola 33:29
Oh, god, my Patrons are worthless those oh, those jerks like everything I make, they're so sweet. No, I do I have a Discord, I'm very active in it and we all hang out in there. And it's my very close pallies that, join through Patreon. And I will show them early stuff, I'll ask their opinions. It's all very positive and it's tough. And like I said, I do music and I do art. And I feel like that almost screws me in the algorithm of trying to convince the slot machine to show me to people they don't know if they should show me the music fans or our fans. And so they show me to no one. So I should maybe decide which one I should do. But I honestly I'll do a poll and it'll be 50/50 keep doing them both, we'll love it. And so yeah, the feedback loop is fantastic for my ego, but maybe not for my algorithmic discussions. Yeah, it's so tough because you know, it seems like it would make sense the people who already love my stuff, there's got to be just like a ton more of those people, right? So if they love this stuff, there should be a ton of people that love this stuff, why doesn't it get in front of them, but I hear what you're saying about like, the slot machines want specificity and predictability. So that's that's got to be kind of challenging. That's why I started a fitness channel because it's only fitness health kind of things. And I know that that that serves the algorithm better and also it was it's good to get that out of my at least art music channel because it is so different and then I can be so specific over there. And girl that that type of people they want to watch that and not annoy the people that like music with me lifting.
Jay Clouse 35:07
How long has that channel existed?
Ali Spagnola 35:09
Over a year, I've been doing that.
Jay Clouse 35:12
It has that specificity have you seen like a return on that?
Ali Spagnola 35:17
It seems easier to make stuff it's I can't say that it's grown like crazy after a year plus it's 25k or something it's still kind of a passion project but I it's stuff that I would be doing anyway, you know, I would be experimenting with new fitness tech or doing workouts or whatever so it's cool that I have somewhere to put that.
Jay Clouse 35:40
Well I love the art stuff, I love the music stuff. I think I found you initially because I fell down a Alex Melton rabbit hole of like this music and this style and then there was a crossover video guys did and I found your stuff.
Ali Spagnola 35:54
Hey best Pal-y, I'm Ali. And a 17 year old is having insane success with a hit song right now so my jealous self is here to turn Olivia Rodrigo's creation into something she never wanted. A punk song that sounds like it's performed by naked dude. So welcome to my attempts to turn Driver's License into a Blink 182 song which Olivia wasn't even alive when Blink was popular, which is good music get off my lawn okay joke but actually driver's license is a beautiful piece of artwork from a child. Vocals are just so delicate and lovely and emotional. Oh vocals this musician Alex Melton did a Blink 182 cover of Semi-Charmed Life which I saw multiple times because so many of my friends texted it to me being like hey, have you seen this guy? So my jealous self emailed him saying what I want from you is your voice and he agreed heck yeah, so he's putting his vocals on this track.
Jay Clouse 37:18
I'm like yes, this is the stuff that I'm looking for. The what if style videos, I love that stuff. I don't know why I'm about to genre on YouTube yet but it should be or at least like a peloton ride playlist, you know. So did you try to do another tour after that initial Kickstarter tour?
Ali Spagnola 37:36
I didn't because again, like I said, though, I mean, I was playing 100 cedars in that one and, and I was putting out videos make reaching millions of people. So I went with the millions reach. I know, it's a different, emotional kind of thing but yeah, it just seemed like that was where I belonged, mentally, artistically,
Jay Clouse 37:58
Mentally, artistically, all these platforms, creating all the time for 15 years. How do you avoid burnout?
Ali Spagnola 38:06
I don't, I just live in it. I'm living in it right now. Are we done yet? I gotta go get to work.
Jay Clouse 38:13
This is a serious question though, because
Ali Spagnola 38:15
That's a serious answer I'm not okay.
Jay Clouse 38:18
Tell me about that.
Ali Spagnola 38:19
Jay Clouse 38:19
What, what prevents you from taking a break?
Ali Spagnola 38:22
Honestly, it's not a fear of losing my income or like being a bad business person because I know people worry about that and say, well, the money will be there when you get back. That's not what's I'm not motivated by that. It really is a motivated by reaching people and I've heard so many things about, you have to post consistently for these algorithms to serve you. I feel like a lot of my business is trying to figure out artificial intelligence and what it's doing and serve it correctly so I can reach more people, you know, figure out the slot machine, try and create luck that way. And it's tough because I don't feel like I have control but the one thing that everyone says is be consistent in your posting. When I launched on Patreon, I said, okay, well, I'm going to post every Thursday and I haven't missed a week, and now it's twice a week since then, not once. And that is what drives me is to trying is not losing my reach.
Jay Clouse 39:22
Yeah, I feel like people underestimate, I've certainly done this. Underestimate just the, the ongoing cost of the commitments that you make that are like consistent commitments, whether it's okay, I'm gonna post this often on YouTube and also on Tictok and also on Instagram and also have an email newsletter. It's like suddenly, your whole week is filled with something that you have to create once a week.
Ali Spagnola 39:42
Yes, more than once a week, oh, you got an email newsletter too, huh?
Jay Clouse 39:47
Hell yeah. Everybody's got
Ali Spagnola 39:48
Once a month but it should be more that's another thing. I mean, there are YouTubers that are posted three times a week is what I've heard optimal. There are there are gamers that post three times a day and I'm out here working my butt off to the last minute to try and publish every two weeks on my main channel now and it feels like not enough, you know, it's never enough. And I know that that certainly isn't healthy, but you know, that I still am rewarded mentally there's definitely so much positive about it. But the the feeling that I have too, is pretty rough too. And I also feel like even if I didn't have to, I would probably still make it this blinding speed, you know, but the fact that it's there makes it more stressful.
Jay Clouse 40:35
What about the the Patreon side of things with this is what I think about if if you know, myself or other creators want to move towards a membership model, whatever that looks like that can admit to the people who are supporting you can also feel kind of constraining at times, I think, you know, I think I've talked to creators that paid newsletters, for example, where that's kind of burning them out because they know well, I would take time off, but this is literally the deliverable that people are paying for so I have to put that out there. Do you feel any of that pressure?
Ali Spagnola 41:06
I do not. Once again, my patients are such jerks. And the other day, I think I undercharged for a month and one of them just ven mode me being like, hey, I noticed you trying to not take my money. It's ridiculous but I think this is a result of the community that I built. So hopefully this could help some people that are aiming to launch on a paid subscription kind of thing, or paywall, or Patreon or whatever, only fans. I've built a community that is there emotionally, not for stuff so nothing in my deliverables is a physical thing or something where you could analytically think, hey, is this mug worth $25 it is just all tweeted you will be super excited in a video for you. You get to hang out with all of us in a Discord, there are only emotional rewards. And so I know that everyone is there just because they want to see me keep making stuff and they want to be a part of it and they are awesome. And so even if I don't make things I know they would still pay, they would still support me now no one ever gets disappointed. If anything, they're like, would you take a vacation, they're gonna watch this and be like, stop burning out.
Jay Clouse 42:22
I love that and you know, Patreon is a place where you don't have to worry about a slot machine to be able to reach those people like you have that consistent ability to do that. Have you thought about that in or explored that and other platforms or aspects of your business to say like, actually, I want to move people from YouTube over to this space because I can be more reliable and maybe that is Patreon but that's obviously behind the paywall.
Ali Spagnola 42:46
Right, yeah, I do want to consistently move people to Patreon. I don't know any other platform that is more reliable because all of these big ones with their artificial intelligence or the way you get a wider reach of new people so even though I feel like I have this consistent reach on Patreon to grow, you still need Tictok, you still need the algorithm, those those platforms that that are slot machines.
Jay Clouse 43:13
Totally, I mean, there's very little discoverability in podcasting because it is direct is an RSS feed but you have to find it you have to subscribe to it. There are like you know, podcast players that will recommend things and have a discover section but there's almost no like organic discovery in podcasting, which is frustrating, but I know when I put this episode out, anyone who's subscribed to it's gonna show up in their feed, they're gonna see it. That's nice.
Ali Spagnola 43:37
How have you tick growth on podcasting.
Jay Clouse 43:39
It's tough, you can really only convert people who have demonstrated they want to listen to audio, to listen to audio, like it doesn't work to get a plug in an email newsletter, whether it's free or paid. Like it's just too much of a barrier to say, oh, I like podcasts. I'm going to click through to that. There's not even a very easy mechanism from internet link clicking into opening the episode, that episode in the player that I want. Like there's even just like a linking challenge. It's bizarre.
Ali Spagnola 44:09
I don't know how any podcast girls, honestly.
Jay Clouse 44:12
It's all it's pretty much all word of mouth or getting featured in those discovery sections. Like a lot of the growth of shows come from being featured in stitcher or pocket casts or cast box or Apple podcasts at one point, but not for a long enough period of time. What are you thinking about for the future of your creator business? You know, you said you like live in a perpetual state of burnout at times it feels like but you're creating constantly and the videos are really high quality. So what what is pushing you now? Do you have any measurable, like thresholds of this is the next goal I'm trying to hit?
Ali Spagnola 44:43
Yeah, what the bottleneck is me right now I, lands on and a lot of things and I need to build a team to maybe not remove that burnout, but at least make things faster and easier and better. Like you said, I appreciate this, thank you on the production comment, I want to make bigger and better things and more of it. So I the thing to do is to get more people in on it. And that's actually really tough. I'm terrible at interviewing and even writing roles so that's, that's been tough for me.
Jay Clouse 45:20
You mentioned it earlier, you got an editor. What's the team look like now?
Ali Spagnola 45:23
Me and said editor, who's awesome, by the way, she's freaking fantastic. And I've been through maybe a dozen to get to her. That's another thing, that's another barrier. I like it was so hard to find an editor that I liked and that we work so well together, and I may lose her at any point, then finding more people for that team. It's just seems like a really big hole in my skills.
Jay Clouse 45:46
How long does it take you to produce one of these videos like talk to me about just the process front to back?
Ali Spagnola 45:51
I mean, I want to say my most recent oh, my, my chia pet video, I don't know if you saw how I turned my car into a little living chia pet. That took months, that was a lot of preparation and testing and actually getting the thing to grow. It's funny because in a lot of my videos I just wear the same outfit the whole time so people think I do it in 24 hours. But yeah, that things like those elaborate DIY projects take a really long time, the music stuff, I can crank out a little faster. It's about a week or two, depending upon how crazy I get with a music video. But yeah, it just seems like they're they're all back to back. As soon as I hit publish, I've already started on others and they're all kind of going at the same time.
Jay Clouse 46:39
I was I was just rewatching the, The Lizzo and Mumford Brothers video. And I was watching the back and forth the way you cut it with your collaborator, and you'd cut back to you and you're wearing the same thing, it's like, how does that work?
Ali Spagnola 47:32
You know, we just din it in an afternoon, it's fine. I don't think anybody thinks that hard about it. It really is just that I'm I don't want to think about wardrobe more than once for a video so I'll just wash it and put it back on. But that yeah, that was over the course of a long time. She actually came to LA. We did a video for her channel. But it seems like oh yeah, I just emailed her a track and then we finished the song that day. That's not what happened.
Jay Clouse 47:54
How do you decide when to do a collaboration?
Ali Spagnola 47:57
Well, Alex was a decision because a bunch of people texted me being like, did you see this guy? And so I just called email. Thanks, goodness, he wrote back. But yeah, it just seems like whomever I feel like it would we could make something cool together. And there are a lot of times where there are people that I know that are creators that I just, we can't think of a concept so we don't do anything.
Jay Clouse 48:20
So it sounds like a lot of times you're working on several videos in tandem.
Ali Spagnola 48:23
Jay Clouse 48:24
How many typically?
Ali Spagnola 48:25
Right now, I have three at various states in progress. That's good, I'm getting better. I'm honestly trying to batch more to possibly be able to have some room to breathe, but it seems more like now I just have multiple projects running at once.
Jay Clouse 48:42
If people were looking to get started on, say YouTube today, because that's where we talked about the most. If you were starting from scratch today on YouTube, how would you approach it to give yourself a good shot?
Ali Spagnola 48:52
Jay Clouse 48:52
You're grimacing. I need to call that out for people
Ali Spagnola 48:54
Jay Clouse 48:54
who are watching.
Ali Spagnola 48:55
Oh, yeah. This is not video you're missing some visual gold people. I'm in a full clown costume. Okay, I would say don't, okay, that's crappy. You got to go where the luck is. So maybe try and find the next Tictok be the one that hits the jackpot on a new platform or even Tiktok because right now they're still jackpots happening. I don't know if they're jackpots happening on YouTube, necessarily. If you're growing on YouTube, it's probably because you're famous on Tick Tock and then started doing YouTube stuff.
Jay Clouse 49:31
So interesting. So yeah, you think that the biggest opportunity to get started and grow quickly today is a platform that's more new, and then trying to put the audience
Ali Spagnola 49:41
But also be stupid lucky. Like Charlie D'Amelio even admits this. I was just watching her reality show. It's she's just, she's just a girl that was at the right place at the right time on the right platform and now she's an empire. It's awesome. But yeah, I mean, not saying that she's not talented and etc. because obviously you have all of that, you've listened to every episode of this podcast and you know that you need talent and resilience and habit forming and whatever else that you've learned. But you also need that luck element so good luck.
Jay Clouse 50:22
I'm really grateful that Ali shared so much in this interview about the challenges she's faced, overcome and still faces today. It's easy to look at her creative platform of nearly 400,000 subscribers on YouTube, 2 million followers on Twitter, and our Patreon and think that she has it all. But as she shared with us here, there are constant challenges internally, externally, large and small and burnout is a real threat. No matter how big your platform is. I'm glad we touched a bit on her team too, more and more I hear creators tell me that they feel like they are the bottleneck in their business. But we don't talk enough about the team supporting these creators or the teams needed to support these creators that haven't been assembled yet. In any case, I absolutely love the music that Ali puts out and I encourage you to check it out yourself. Links to her YouTube, Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter and more are in the show notes. Thanks to Ali for being on the show and letting me sample some of her videos. Thank you to Emily Clause for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you liked this episode, you can tweet @jayclouse and let me know and if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. And remember to check out the new Creative Elements website creativeelements.fm and leave me a voicemail for a future episode. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next week.