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An Interview with Tom Buck

Tell us about yourself and your channel.

Hi! My name is Tom Buck. As a lifelong A/V nerd, I help people level up the audio and video quality of their streams, podcasts, puns, and videos. I’m really excited about the tools that are available to create “1 person production teams.” It’s kind of amazing. I was a high school Digital Media teacher for 10 years, and I started my channel in 2017 as a project to share my enthusiasm for digital media and teaching others while having fun along the way.

How did you get started on YouTube?

I began thinking about starting a channel in 2012 or so after watching people like Dave Dugdale and FilmRiot and thinking, “Wow, it’d be super cool to do something like that!” But my nerves got the best of me and I didn’t actually get started until the summer of 2017. I posted a few videos and that’s when I met Heather Ramirez who gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get started and I did a 30 Day Upload Challenge in September 2017. We’re married now.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie creator? And what is one piece of advice they should ignore?

I always remind new creators that it’s not about making one or two videos, it’s about creating a library of work. It’s definitely a huge accomplishment to get those first videos published, but your audience won’t be able to find you until there’s a lot of material for them to dive into. And the more you can let your personality shine in a natural way the better. For me, once I started letting my cheesy jokes into my videos, it gave people a better idea of my personality and really helped to attract a community, as goofy as that sounds.

As for what to ignore, I usually caution against using the same techniques as the channels with millions and millions of subscribers. It seems like a good idea to take notes from those at the top, but in reality, they’re working in a very different world than most creators and copying them early on can lead to bad habits.

 What is your favorite video you have ever made?

I don’t think I have a favorite to be honest. I’m super proud of my Iceland Photography video, even though hardly anyone has seen it, and I had a lot of fun doing the bizarre “10 Microphones and a Casio Keyboard Into a Rodecaster Video”, but I really don’t have a single favorite. Even when I think a video is awesome, I always go back and cringe a little when I watch it. But that’s a good thing because it means I’m still growing as a creator. I wouldn’t want to look at work from years ago and think, “Yep, this is perfect. I’m done.”

What are some tools that allow you to be more effective at your craft?

I’m a gearhead, so there’s a lot of equipment. My M1 Mac mini was a game changer for speeding up editing in Final Cut Pro and my two Canon EOS R’s really deliver outstanding image quality (I know it’s not the latest and greatest, but I still think the R Is UnderRated). Ecamm Live has been a pretty big game changer both for streaming and even some recording.

And it’s an odd point of pride, but I haven’t had a typed letter on my channel Inver 3 years. All of the fonts and titles are drawn by me in Procreate on the iPad Pro.

Beyond that, the Rodecaster Pro is my channel’s hero. It rode into my life and helped me to refine my podcasting workflow, it helped me to find my audience in a very real way. Diving into that community and that world is one of the things that really helped my channel to grow. It’s no small stretch to say that, without the Rodecaster Pro, I wouldn’t be able to do this full time. Thanks Rode!

How do you continue to educate yourself in your craft? What are some of your favorite resources for learning?

Aside from staying current with news and gear, I always try and find at least one thing about every video that’s going to push my limits. Whether it’s an idea for a shot, an editing technique, or a way to process audio, I try and make sure that each video sharpens a specific skill in some way.

What has been your biggest tool for subscriber growth?

Jokes! I spent years trying to make the most useful and concise videos possible, and while people definitely found that helpful, it wasn’t until I started throwing in goofy jokes and puns that things really took off. Bad jokes have always been a big part of my personality outside of YouTube, and I think bringing that into the channel gave people something to connect and identify with. I wish I’d have done it sooner.

Do you put much time into making your videos SEO friendly?

Yes! And I hate it. Well, I don’t really hate it, but I wish there was a way for the quality of the video to be apparent without having to focus so much on thumbnails/titles/tags/etc. But if you put the time and energy into creating the best video possible, it only makes sense to give it the best possible shot at doing well by focusing on the SEO side of things. Don’t get lazy with that stuff.

Is there a trend that you are seeing emerge in 2021? What excites you about it?

It seems like we’ve reached a point where the ability to create great looking and sounding videos has been democratized to the extreme. It seems like the playing field has been leveled, and now beyond great production quality, it’s much more about the authenticity behind the channel. Who are you and why are you doing this? What’s your perspective? Viewers can sniff out inauthentic things quickly, and I think that current trends lean towards being open, honest, and down to earth (at least in channels aimed at old folks like me).

When did your channel start to ‘pay off?’ In other words, when did your channel start to make you money?

I started earning money almost by accident through Amazon Affiliate links. About a year after I started my channel, people were telling me about cameras and lenses they bought based on my recommendation, and I thought, “Hey, if I’m selling lenses for Canon, why not use an affiliate link?” Since I talk about a lot of gear and equipment, it’s only natural that people will want links to the items, and I found affiliate links to be an unobtrusive way to give them the info they want without being “salesy.”

It took a long time for me to get comfortable with the idea that my channel was earning money. I was worried that it could compromise my integrity or authenticity, but fortunately, I was wrong. You can totally earn money while staying true to yourself (you just might also have to turn down a lot of money in the process).

Affiliate programs have been great for me, and AdSense is good too, but I only use skippable ads. You’ve probably heard it before, but having multiple revenue streams is key. There are currently about 12 revenue streams tied into my channel, but none of them are intrusive to the viewer.

Have you created sponsored content? If you have, how did you get in contact with your sponsors?

I’m very hesitant to put sponsored content on my channel, so I haven’t done much. But recently, mostly due to budgetary reasons, I’ve been accepting a few more “free” items for review. This can be a tricky line to walk and I always communicate clearly with the company beforehand, add a disclaimer to my video, and click the “includes paid promotion” box when uploading. Even if money didn’t change hands, the fact that something of value was given to me is important to disclose.

I’m definitely not against sponsored content, but I want to do it right. That means working with a company that’s a natural fit and that trusts in the way that I do things. I also like it when sponsored content allows for a creator to do things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like how Gerald Undone used a sponsor to make his “Studios Undone” series happen. That’s brilliant.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I spent two months last year developing an Ethics Statement for my website. This covers everything in terms of how I approach sponsorships, brand partnerships, reviews, objectivity– everything. It’s very extensive, but I’ve found that the people I’d actually want to work with have no issues with it, so it’s a great litmus test.

It’s an awesome resource to have for me, my audience, and potential partners. I recommend everything develop an Ethics Statement (feel free to borrow mine as a starting point).