Billy Perry Talks One Million YouTube Subscribers

Billy Perry recently hit a milestone that few in the BMX world have achieved - gaining one million subscribers on YouTube. In addition to his YouTube endeavors, Billy also holds it down as a pro rider and as the man behind clothing brand FTL. We caught up with Billy to discuss how he grew his YouTube channel to such an impressive size, where it all started, dealing with criticisms, and much more. Check it - 

How did you start making YouTube videos in the first place?

I started sharing single clips from my flip phone and mom's camera in 2007 on my first channel - BillyRidesaDevice. I believe I was 11 or 12 years-old. I always loved learning a new trick and sharing it with the world. Once I figured out how to put clips together, I would make short edits. I would always upload my clips to Vital as well, haha!


Did you ever imagine it would become as huge as it has?

No. It's crazy thinking about how much it's grown because the video making process is very similar to when I first started uploading more regularly. 

Were other BMX riders actively making YouTube videos when you started?

I can't remember any from the first few years, but Adam LZ and BQR123 were among the first to start getting big on the platform. Adam and myself had a few videos together way back in the day, haha.

How does it feel to hit a million subscribers? That’s a lot of people who are in to what you do…

It's definitely surreal seeing how much the channel has grown over the years. It was always a cool feeling hitting milestones like 1k, 10k, 50k - but it was a different feeling reaching 100k and receiving the plaque from YouTube. 

The goal was always more focused on making content I was happy with and the milestones were a bonus. The thought of a million people clicking subscribe to the content I make is pretty crazy.

Aside from your YouTube life, you’re also an accomplished pro rider. Does balancing the two roles become difficult at times?

I wouldn't say it's difficult because my YouTube channel is 99.9% BMX, so it flows together. I believe there is only one video on my channel that doesn't have any riding in it. Adding FTL into the equation gets a bit tricky. If I get too into the FTL / design side of things, the YouTube uploads can suffer a bit and if I go on too many riding trips in a row, I can get behind on work for FTL. That is more difficult to balance, but as time goes on, I'm learning how to distribute my time appropriately. 

Plenty of BMX riders aren’t into the YouTube side of things. How do you deal with that?

This is something that held me back from making content for a couple years back, around 2014 and 2015, and I regret caring that much about what people thought. I had just finished my Volume 1 part with Mike Mastroni and didn't have a regular filmer back home, so I remember the day I was like "Fuck it. I don't care if people hate on me for being a YouTuber. I'm going to make the videos I want to going forward." There's always people who spread negativity and hate, but out of all my years being a "YouTuber," this anonymous hate has never been addressed in person, so the negative opinions don't hold any value to me and will never outweigh the people who appreciate the content and the ultimate happiness I get from making videos and sharing them with the world. 


How does your approach differ when filming riding for your YouTube channel to when you’re out filming with the Volume team?

When I'm out filming for YouTube, I'm typically with friends having a casual session and I'm not going to try a clip that is going to take forever and hold up the day, so I wouldn't say my clips for YouTube are always the hardest. When I'm out with Volume or Merritt and working with a filmer, the goal is usually to film the right trick for the right spot, go a bit harder, and put as much time in as necessary. 

Do you try to upload videos at a certain frequency or only when you have something you’re into?

I tried to maintain a frequent upload schedule a couple years ago, but I wasn't into it. I've seen this burn people out and ultimately steer them away from making videos. I'd rather put a video out when I'm fully happy with it. I also have a bad habit of scrapping videos completely if I'm not feeling it. It's rough this way because YouTube's algorithm is a mysterious beast that likes to be fed - even if it's bullshit content - and penalizes you for not feeding it. I didn't post for over a month recently and my next couple videos ended up getting less than half the normal views because they don't get recommended or hit sub boxes...

How has the way you’ve created content for YouTube evolved over time?

I like to believe I've found a way to make a video have a certain aesthetic. I'm by no means a professional videographer or editor, so I spend a lot of time searching for music that I'm into and testing it for copyright. Editing still takes me around six or more hours per video. 


What’s your most-viewed video from your channel?

The GoPro Waterpark video, haha... If I knew this video would acquire over 30 million views, I would have put a lot more effort into the filming and editing. You never really know if a video is going to take off or not.  

What’s your personal favorite video only our channel?

Not sure if I have a favorite video, but my Japan series is definitely something I always go back to. It was one of the best trips I've been on and I was so hyped on the footage that I would edit until I passed out at the computer every night on the trip. Also, the DailyCruise series has a similar aesthetic from when I started it a few years back and those are always fun to make.

I know the YouTube game has really evolved over time. What advice would you give to young riders looking to follow your lead?

If you enjoy making videos and sharing them with a community, make a channel ASAP and create the content you enjoy. Be yourself, be unique, and have fun with it. Don't let YouTube dictate your life and affect relationships. Also, if you're just getting into YouTube as a possible money grab, I don't recommend it.


Any big celebrations planned to celebrate hitting a million subscribers?

The day I hit a million I was out in San Diego running errands with my mom and I had my bike in the car, so I stopped at the skatepark on the way home. She ended up watching and filming some clips on her phone, which was a funny coincidence because the first video I ever posted was filmed by my mom at the skatepark about 14 years ago. I got a few drinks with my family while out in SD, but no big celebration plans. I'm doing a bike giveaway of my previous Volume / Merritt build on instagram.


What does the future hold in the world of Billy Perry’s YouTube mission?

A lot of my plans are up in the air right now due to the unfortunate current situation in the world. I would like to try and dedicate 2021 to attending or hosting as many international street jams as possible. If the COVID-19 situation improves by early Summer, I have a cross country road trip from New York to California that I've been planning with my favorite non-BMX company and I'm very excited about this. Other than that, I would like to just keep riding, making videos and getting them out to a wider audience. 

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