2018 in Review & 2019 Goals | Art, YouTube & Business

Is it worth it to take part in art collectives? Can you have the benefits of live streaming without being live? Time for another yearly review, where I tell your things I learned about running a YouTube channel and being an artist online.

Is it worth it to take part in art collectives? Can you have the benefits of live streaming without being live? Time for another yearly review, where I tell your things I learned about running a YouTube channel and being an artist online.

Now let's get to get to my YouTube stats from 2018, how well I reached the goals I set a year ago and what I'm planning to do in 2019. The first part is available in video format, if you'd rather listen to it, while I show you the art I made this year.

YouTube Artists Collective

Let's start with the art collectives. I took part unofficially in all of the five themes of YouTube Artists Collective (YTAC) and all six themes of Animal Artists Collective (AAC), which started back in February 2018. Both of these made me paint a lot more than I did the previous year. I don't think I set out to participate in all of them for the year, but once I'd done a few, I didn't want to break the streak. So, if you have trouble getting out finished paintings (maybe you like to sketch and get many ideas and start on multiple art projects, but don't finish many of them), taking part in a bimonthly theme like that so that you have a set deadline, can help you.

Or on the flip side, if you just can't think of ideas for your art, different art prompts like this can also be helpful. I noticed that even if some theme didn't spark any interest in me and I had to really brainstorm and do research to find something within that theme that I thought was interesting, the result actually turned out a lot nicer than I expected. For example, I wasn't that into the World in a Bottle YTAC theme at first, but I was really happy with the painting I made.

Instagram #2018bestnine
My #bestnine on Instagram in 2018 including some YTAC and AAC artworks.

Now, on to the downsides of taking part in 11 collective themes in a year. It left me with less time for my own ideas and paintings. Most of those videos were also very basic speed painting videos, which don't do that well on my channel. The YTAC videos did better, because that collective has been around for longer and there are more people watching those videos as well as taking part in the themes. I mean specifically people who are not officially part of the collective still taking part in the themes. There's more of a community around it. So, when I published a YTAC video on the same day or same weekend as others taking part in it, I would usually get a bigger initial viewership on my videos. But the videos don't necessarily keep getting views after the fact unlike tutorials that are still valid a year or two later.

So, I decided that I won't take part in these collectives in 2019 at least not in the same way I did in 2018. I still think these collectives can be beneficial to the artists and AAC also donates money from the sold original pieces to animal conservation and they raise awareness about endangered species, which I think is absolutely great.

However, I want to concentrate more on doing art tutorials and tips, calming real time sketching videos, reading and storytelling videos and sometimes videos where I'm talking about a specific topic. They're more beneficial to those watching, whether they're teaching you something or helping you relax and they're also evergreen content. All in all, I might still take part in some of the themes, if it's something I find really interesting and have been wanting to do, but I won't force myself to take part in every theme and stress out about getting the paintings finished. I'll also try to wrap the videos into a different package. Maybe it's a tutorial of some specific painting technique, trying out a new art supply or it's just real time sketching sounds and not even a finished painting.

Etsy coloring shop

Coloring calendar in Etsy
Pattern coloring calendar in my Etsy shop.

I haven't added new coloring pages to my Etsy shop in a long time. It's been a year. I did update the coloring calendars for 2019, but that's it. And it's not because I haven't made new art to make coloring pages of. I made a lot more art than last year, I have a lot of new sketches to turn into coloring pages. I even have enough animal sketches now to make a whole animal coloring book, although I'm not sure it's a good idea to make such a general coloring book. It could be something more specific, but we'll see.

I did an ASMR unboxing video earlier in the year of a drawing tablet and I decided the next coloring book I upload will be digitally inked to try and make it a better quality. However, I still haven't tried out the tablet and I'm not sure if it's even good enough for precise digital inking. So, I will test it and if it doesn't work out, I will continue inking traditionally and making more coloring products that way.

Live streaming

One of my goals for 2018 was to try live streaming. I did go through a free online course on setting up for a live stream and found out that my point-and-shoot camera* that I film all my videos with might actually work for live streaming, too. So, I wouldn't necessarily even need to get a webcam for it. But with other things going on in my life such as renovation on my apartment and having to move out, I gave up on the idea of trying to live stream.

However, when YouTube rolled out Premieres (a of a mix of a live stream and an uploaded video) for all channels, I was eager to try it. The video is pre-recorded and edited, so if it's an ASMR video you don't have to worry about not being able to edit out any loud sounds from the traffic or neighbors. But when the video premieres live, you still have the live streaming perks: live chat, super chat feature to support the creator, notifications and YouTube promoting the video more heavily.

I tried it with two different types of videos. A long, no-talking ASMR video and a short YTAC collective video. I promoted both of them the same on my social media and email list and so on. The long video did a lot better. I think YouTube is sending out notifications about five minutes late, so a longer video has more of a chance to be seen while it's premiering. The short video did badly, especially for a YTAC video, although I'm not sure if the premiering had anything to do with it, but it certainly didn't help. Hopefully YouTube continues to tweak that feature. I do see myself using it on certain types of videos, where the live aspect adds something to the experience.

YouTube stats

I started 2018 with about 845 subscribers and 180 000 views and ended it with 2000 something subscribers and 400 000 views on my YouTube channel. Just like in 2017, I uploaded about 70 videos in 2018.

YouTube analytics, traffic sources
My main YouTube traffic source is YouTube search, again.

My traffic sources have changed again. Suggested videos have gone down from 30 % to 20 % and YouTube search has grown from 30 % to over 40 %. External traffic (mostly Google search) matches suggested videos with about 20 %. Getting YouTube to suggest your videos alongside other videos on the watch page is harder than it used to be.

I didn't have many standout videos this year. The only video I posted this year that did clearly better than any other video, was an ASMR One Hour of Pencil Drawing (No Talking) video, where I compiled three shorter real time drawing videos together. It's also my best performing ASMR video overall based on watch time and will probably soon catch up to the first Art Supply ASMR video in views, too.

Most viewed videos in the last 48 hours
Real time analytics show my most watched YouTube videos at the moment include tutorials, an art supply review and a one hour ASMR video.

I kept a steady flow of 1-2 videos per week 'till the end of the summer and then I had to cut back to one video per week and I'm not planning to go back to two videos a week anymore. I thought cutting back would hurt my channel, because I saw an increase in views last year after I started posting two videos a week, but it didn't. Rather, I want to concentrate on the types of videos I make.

I started out making speed painting and tutorial videos with background music. Then I tested out making ASMR videos with real time art sounds, but no talking. Finally I completely quit making videos with just background music and switched to voice over videos and no-talking ASMR videos. Next thing I wanted to try was doing soft spoken ASMR voice-over videos. I've made a few of these so far, where I'm reading or telling a story on top of the real time drawing sounds, such as my Moomin and InkTober videos.

I feel like this makes my channel more cohesive and brings the speed painting and ASMR videos closer together. I still get asked for no-talking ASMR videos, so I haven't stopped making those. But I do want to continue experimenting with combining ASMR and voice overs and maybe making ASMR art tutorials, too.

I had plans for something special for the 2018 Christmas videos, but failed miserably due to lack of time, again. However, for next Christmas, I have something more simple planned and it's almost impossible for me to fail, because I've already pre-filmed those videos. Yes, I pre-filmed six videos almost a year in advance. It was mostly because it was easier for my to make a filming setup for them actually during Christmas rather than try to do it in October next year. Sometimes you need to take advantage of "certain filming props", while they're available... What do you think the videos will be about?

YouTube Partner Program

YouTube changed their criteria for joining the partner program in February 2018. Back in 2015, when I started my channel, anyone could join anytime, so I was part of the partner program and eligible to  earn Adsense revenue from the start. However, from February 2018 onwards, you had to have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time in the last 12 months.

I was fine in terms of watch time, but I wasn't quite at 1000 subscribers yet. I did start working hard on it, when I got the email about the rules changing and I actually got to 1000 subscribers on February 20th, which was the deadline. I suppose it was too little too late, though, because I still lost my partnership and monetization and only got it back after about four months in June, when YouTube reviewed my channel.

YouTube views and watch time graph
YouTube watch time graph shows the development of watch time and views on my channel per month going from 0 to 60 000 minutes and about 25 000 views in about 3.5 years.

How did I gain over 125 subscribers in a month, when in 2017 I was gaining between 20 - 70 subscribers in a month? Mostly through commenting. I kept my video upload schedule the same, 1-2 videos a week. The main thing I changed was to watch a lot of other small art youtubers and comment on their videos. I would set a goal of making a few comments per day and those would add up.

Obviously, you can't comment just whatever such as the classic copy-paste comment "nice video". I would find the most interesting video of the creator to me based on the thumbnails and titles and watch that and comment something about the art, the technique or the medium. Usually that lets the creator know, that you do art as well and they might check your account to see if you have a channel, too.

Do NOT ask them to subscribe to your channel. You can let them know "by the way, I make art videos, too" as a side remark in your comment, but don't make them feel obligated to check out your channel and don't make that the main part of your comment. Try to comment something useful, insightful or funny instead and they will want to check out your channel.

If you want to be more strategic with your commenting, comment on the creator's most popular or newest videos. That way it's more likely that their viewers see your comment, too, and some of them might be interested to check out your channel. 

Where do you find these other small YouTube channels in your niche? I found many of them from bigger art youtubers retweeting small creators and Lachri Fine Art's channel review live streams, for example. You can search for Twitter hashtags such as #SmallYouTuberArmy and #SmallYouTuberCommunity. There's a Discord server called TheArtRoom for YouTube artists. 

Blogging & custom domain

In terms of blogging, I started turning my best performing tutorial videos into blog posts. Since I've already scripted the video voice overs, I have a good basis for the text portion and sometimes I can use photos I've already edited for Instagram to illustrate the posts.

I also finally bought a custom domain name for my blog from GoDaddy, so there's at least something I can tick off from my 2018 goals I set a year ago.

Income sources: Spotify?

As I mentioned in the last yearly recap, ASMR videos do well in terms of watch time, but they're the least profitable in Adsense earnings. Even though the videos are longer, you can't really insert ads in the middle of the video, because it would interrupt the relaxing experience. And on top of that art ASMR content doesn't really interest companies selling high end products and services to advertise on them.

I saw some ASMRtists use Spotify as a supplement income source. I've already been uploading the audio of some of my ASMR videos on SoundCloud so people can listen to it for free without having the video on and even download the audio. Spotify sounds like a win-win-win situation, where the audience can listen to the audio for free and Spotify and the creator can make ad revenue.

Well, to get your audio into Spotify, you first need to sign with a distributor. The one I chose was DistroKid, since it was the cheapest option and I figured I'd at least make my money back. I paid for a year, edited and uploaded two or three albums and then waited for them to show up in Spotify.

...turns out DistroKid does not accept ASMR and my albums were rejected. It didn't say that anywhere on their website. It also took me almost two months and multiple emails to get a refund. There are ASMRtists on Spotify, but I don't know which distributors they're using and I'm not really interested in trying the more expensive ones and getting rejected.

Another possibility I was thinking of was Patreon. I could share the audio of my ASMR videos (and a monthly coloring page) for a low monthly fee on Patreon. YouTube also has a new feature called Memberships, which would work similarly to Patreon, but I don't know if and when it will be rolled out to all creators.

As for my other online income sources, Adsense on YouTube is still very low, but slowly going up and it pays for the filming equipment I need, etc. It's still the biggest income source I have related to my art right now. I make sporadic sales on my Etsy shop. I have not yet figured out how to get paid my Amazon affiliate income without losing a high percentage in the transfer so I keep moving the threshold of when I get paid. I also have sporadic sales on Redbubble and Society6, but the percentages I get from those sales are a lot lower than on Etsy, so I make barely anything through them.

I'm also thinking of starting a new YouTube channel, since my interests and topics of my channel are all over the place, but I'll talk more about this in an upcoming video and will reveal the topic of the new channel then.

Did you reach your goals for 2018 and are you making any goals or plans for 2019?

Happy New Year 2019!


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