On April 11, 2009, Blake Coppelson created a YouTube channel called Proximity. Within a couple years, Proximity garnered hundreds of thousands of subscribers with an incredibly loyal fanbase. You can read more about Proximity’s beginning in a 2013 interview he did with EDM Sauce. Now, Proximity is one of the largest outlets for distributing electronic music, which also allowed him to launch his own label. Standing at over 8.5 million subscribers, it is no doubt that Proximity is a titan that many can learn from.
Gravitas Create had the pleasure of chatting with Blake to learn more about the YouTube music community, what goes through the mind of a curator, and how producers can approach these tastemakers most effectively.
Gravitas Create: Hi, Blake! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. First, I’d love to talk more about YouTube as a music hub. When people think of YouTube, many people often think of YouTube personalities and vlog channels. In terms of music, why do you think YouTube is often overlooked for SoundCloud and Spotify?
Blake / Proximity: I wouldn’t say Youtube is overlooked but it changes more to a discovery tool than a consumption tool. For the more part, if it’s just general audio, people still discover a ton of music on YouTube but consume it on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, etc. But lyric/music videos still reign on YouTube.
I know YouTubers have a tricky relationship with the YouTube copyright claim system, with TheFatRat’s own song being claimed against him. Have you ever experienced complications like this? Has this system been improving recently?
100%. The CMS system (which is basically the backend software that YouTube provides record labels) can be abused in so many ways from being able to manually claim any video on YouTube that you think is using your copyright even if they are not. We have dealt with this MANY times.
Where do you see the future of music on YouTube heading?
YouTube still and always has been a music focused company. Out of the top 10 most viewed videos on YT, roughly 8 of them are music videos. I think it will continue to foster a community for music but less from a static audio approach and more of a dynamic/visual component to it.
Thanks so much for providing our readers with some more insight into the YouTube landscape. What goes through the mind of a curator? I know you’re constantly involved in a ton of projects. How do you manage your output and input?
A team! It’s important to hire out and make sure you have enough bandwidth to do what you want. It’s important to delegate tasks and believe in other people to do the work you know you can. It may not be perfect but if it frees up my time to do more curation then I’ll do it!
I’m sure you get hundreds of music submissions per day. On paper, it would sound like you have a ton of selections to choose from for your channel. However, what is your biggest challenge in terms of curation for Proximity?
It’s finding good music. Even though we get a ton of submissions, we only ever accept maybe 1/500 uploads for upload/signing. The barrier to entry to producers is so much easier since anyone can really download software and now distribute music on their own. But that doesn’t mean the quality is getting any better. It’s still finding a diamond in the rough.
When you review music submissions, does what you look for in songs vary depending on if someone is submitting for your channel versus label?
No. At the end of the day good music is good music and we upload no matter what.
Generally speaking, what do you look for in songs?
Sound identity. I love hearing songs that are incredibly unique and produced really well. We get so many of the same submissions (future bass mainly) that even when something is not in that genre it really grabs my attention.
When you’re supporting an artist, what do you look at beyond the music and pitch? Are artist’s social numbers or the story behind the release important to you?
I love the stories behind artists. I want to know the background of the individual and the brand. Why is that person and what they created unique beyond the tracks? Social numbers are not important at all.
I’ve noticed there are times you’ll upload genres that your audience is not particularly used to, such as “Street” and “Killing In The Name (Just A Tune Flip).” How do you navigate the decision to post certain music between knowing what will get likes and views versus something that may not be “on brand,” but you’re really digging and would want to share?
It’s the same reason why I don’t put genres in the title of uploads. I love a bunch of different types of genres and want to be able to upload really anything. Some things are a little left of center compared to what I normally upload but I don’t want that to disqualify me from uploading tracks that I genuinely love. That’s the whole point of curating music.
Many curators tend to cater towards specific genres and niches (ie. trap, house, etc.), which can make it harder for producers who create more obscure sounds to discover channels that are open to hearing their stuff. What advice would you give to these types of artists?
That’s a tough question because the answer is not exactly the most optimistic. Most of the genre specific channels won’t really budge, so unless you make that type of music, it will be hard to get an upload on there. I have seen a few exceptions on the major curation channels but for the most part they are hard to convince otherwise.
Aside from not personalizing their message to you, what is a common mistake you see producers make when they try to get their music on YouTube channels?
Not really doing any research in general or CCing us with a bunch of the demo submission email addresses. Also sending unfinished tracks is a sure way to not get a reply back … also spamming and submitting the same message multiple times a week doesn’t help.
Is there anything you would like to add?
To any producers reading this: Do it because you love it. Make music because you are passionate about it. And never make something with the intent for it to be successful/posted about on a certain label or platform (Proximity, TikTok, etc).