theremin promotion on youTube

Posted: 11/13/2008 5:49:30 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

As levnet readers already know, I have been exploring and experimenting with youTube over the last couple of weeks, with mixed success.

[b]Reaching a wider audience.[/b]

Reaching the blogosphere can provide a tremendous initial boost to your viewing figures. Boing-Boing is the most widely read blog. They like quirky electronics and video games (as demonstrated by Randy George) - if the video is also enjoyable it can trigger a chain reaction and make for a major success. This latter aspect is where I failed - my "faux theremin with walkie-talkies" video supplied plenty of quirk and not a lot of quality, so people were not inclined to look further. To compensate for that I added annotations (speech bubbles and clickable links,) but I did it too late to get the peak viewing period. The video has settled down on the sixth page of search results for [i]theremin[/i] by view-count.

[b]Reaching your target audience.[/b]

If you're searching youTube for [i]experimental theremin[/i] or [i]theremin music[/i] or [i]theremin music with effects[/i] then all your bases are belong to me! I totally dominate the search results for relevancy at the moment. The key here is honesty in advertising, and stating the obvious. All my Beat Frequency videos now have titles of the form "[song name] by Beat Frequency - experimental theremin music with effects."

[b]Reaching an international audience.[/b]

This started off as more "reaching your target audience." My target audience is (1) people interested in the theremin. (2) People interested in the sort of music I play. To address (2) I decided that a key phrase was "Throbbing Gristle" (For those who do not know, Throbbing Gristle were the band that introduced the term "industrial music" to the world in the 1970s, and they are cited as an influence on many of the myspace profiles of bands I like.) So I posted a little vlog (video-blog) giving my recollections of attending a TG gig as a promotional device to interest the Throbbing Gristle audience in my work. Results are still pending on that - it does not fit the bill for a running start via the blogosphere as my "faux theremin" video did. It's more of a slow burner.

But - getting to the point - someone posted a comment that it was hard to make out what I was saying. So I added subtitles. (A.K.A. Closed Captioning.) I used MovCaptioner. (, US$25, 10 day free trial, Mac OS X only. Similar products are available for other platforms.)

This is what I have learned about youTube subtitles. Making them is easy, if a little time consuming. They affect youTube search results - I can search on text in the subtitles and find my video in the results. And... most importantly... youTube will auto-translate them into a fair number of other languages. So you can reach people who do not speak your language. And you can have multiple subtitle tracks. (Which could provide a reason for people to watch it more than once, boosting your viewing figures.)

So, how can this apply to your theremin video? For a "how to" video, either theremin construction or playing, a transcript of what you are saying is the obvious choice. A second subtitle track might contain additional details. For a music video you might use a subtitle track to talk about, for example, the history of the theremin, or how it works, or thereminists that have inspired you.

It's best to write with auto-translation in mind - use your spellchecker on everything; the translashun softwere canot handel rongly speld wurds lyk peeple kan. And use short sentences with common words with a single meaning. Also, avoid idoms, or the software might get a hitch in its giddy-up and translate it into something completely hatstand.

YouTube videos with closed captioning are not very common at the moment, so it's probably best to indicate their presence with an annotation at the start of the video.

Here is the youTube help p
Posted: 11/13/2008 9:42:04 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

I just checked the French and German auto-translation: horrible and absolutely incomprehensible! That means much worse than my bad English here...

Sorry Gordon, I know that this is not your fault. I think it would be better to make your own translations (may I help you? Just send me your script in English and you'll get back the French and German version after the weekend) and upload these ones.
Posted: 11/13/2008 11:24:20 AM

From: New York - Long Island (ex London, UK)

Joined: 10/15/2008

Gordon, I've been following your YouTube experiment on Levnet with some interest. Your points are well made and pretty well researched. I've adopted a couple of your ideas with my own initial offerings. It's too early to know the effect... especially as I don't have the wealth of baseline data that your collection of YouTube videos supplies.

My own opinion of YouTube has changed somewhat recently. Up until now I've always been in reactive mode... if someone pointed me at a video, I'd watch it (standard stuff... stupid kid blowing himself up and the like), but since my theremin journey began, I've started to see it as an extremely useful tool. Providing a platform for the exposure of minority interests is where YouTube excels. Without it I would not have had such an exposure to the theremin's community, output, or capabilities. By definition, when talking of music, words can only go so far.

Taking YouTube as a whole, it's interesting to look at why people post. To a great extent "because they can" is a solid argument if we embrace the idea of the media belonging to the masses (rather than corporate entities) being the new model. This is a concept that I whole-heartedly support... and maybe there's room for a discussion about Marshall McLuhan's view in another place.

Looking more closely at theremin offerings (and excluding the likes of the theremin cat etc.) they can be broken down into a few simplistic categories:

Natural performers... people who would be the first up at an open mike night at a local venue. The world needs entertainers... God bless 'em.
Educators... having once been an educator I understand the need to share. Some of these videos are put out there simply because someone knows how to do something and wants to help others. It should be noted that a good instructional video is not as easy to make as it looks... teachers of the world, I salute you.
Community communicators... you know your audience and want to share amongst a relatively small group. Posts are made welcoming critique and suggestions. Once upon a time these people would have been the "bedsit" musicians with no outlet. Now they can share... and we are all better off for it because there are some real gems out there.
Promotion... give a taste of what you have to offer. Throw it out there on the YouTube platform with the hope that people may find their way to your other outlets. This may be for for traffic, sales, politics or whatever.
Vanity... never underestimate the power of ego. Unless clinically debilitating (at either extreme) ego is a good thing. It defines us. It's who we are.

In truth (well, in my opinion) most of the theremin videos posted on YouTube do not fall into any single category, but have a healthy mix of many of the elements listed above. My own attempts were posted with some trepidation (and a little anonymity).

I look forward to watching the developments.
Posted: 11/13/2008 12:10:01 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Theirry. as usual your English is better than you think. Apologies are not needed. :-)

You have confirmed my suspicions about the auto-translator. My advice about writing for auto-translators was largely based on my using the google translation service to translate my script into other languages and back to English. (It's a pity I did this [i]after[/i] posting the video.) I actually enjoy the William Burroughs-esque nature of auto-translated text, (for instance "Void Ship" becomes "Empty Vessels" which would be an equally good title for the piece) but it is a poor substitute for the real thing. Still - it is better than nothing.

I will send you a copy of the script by email, thank you very much. I note that there is probably more benefit to making a German translation than a French one. (Based on another dubious bit of "research" - searching for "Throbbing Gristle" on Google, restricting the search to the UK, France and Germany and comparing the results.) It will be interesting to compare a human translation to a mechanical one.

Bish. Yes, "reactive mode" - that captures the problem nicely.

I would love to get my hands on the lonelygirl15 statistics. (If you don't know, LG15 (wikipedia ( is a youTube phenomenon - a brilliant and premeditated piece of social engineering that makes my toe-dabbling look amateurish.)
Posted: 11/13/2008 12:10:03 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

[i]Double post. Oops.[/i]
Posted: 11/13/2008 1:34:33 PM

From: New York - Long Island (ex London, UK)

Joined: 10/15/2008

So what's the next step for theremin world domination? Let's assume the path on YouTube is well defined, and for the most part (with just a little tweaking) all theremin related videos will reach their target audience... and with a little more tweaking, will get out to the innocents.

Podcasts... I'm an admitted podcast addict. While Spellbound does a wonderful job of getting a wide variety of theremin music out there, the "radio station" approach is very restrictive. To have any impact, you have to be on iTunes. My iTunes-based Spellbound subscription hasn't been updated for over a month although there have been more recent shows.

Not everyone can, or even wants to, add a visual element to their theremin work (something of a prerequisite for YouTube). A regular audio podcast (or even just a tweaking of Spellbound's internet radio distribution model) would go a long way to spread the word. An hour a week of music, news, interviews, Q&A etc.

Anyone got too much spare time?
Posted: 11/13/2008 4:17:21 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Welcome to The Hook And Eye Club. :-) (*)

Podcasts? I expect it's just the same as everything else I have seen on the internet - i.e. the same basic principles as in the real world. Marketing is marketing. It's just a question of how the principles can be applied.

World theremin domination? I think that once people are acclimatised to transmats and housebots, and fly to work in hovercars we might stand a chance. Until then, we're the minority who [i]get[/i] an instrument that is ahead of it's time.

(*) Hook an' eye get to do this?
Posted: 11/13/2008 5:24:37 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

World theremin domination?

Why that?

I prefer belonging to a smaller exclusive or elitist association with selected members rather than to an undifferentiated mass movement.

World theremin domination risks to pull down the theremin on treble recorder level...
Posted: 11/13/2008 5:41:51 PM

From: New York - Long Island (ex London, UK)

Joined: 10/15/2008

Well, it wasn't really a fishing expedition... more like just thinking out loud :) In no way am I trying to put a name in the frame... least of all mine!

The logistics are quite interesting though. The initial set-up is minimal cost. A decent microphone and something like Garage Band and you're set. Solicit material from the usual suspects and make sure that everything used is legal (no one needs hassles with copyright or performing rights issues). Submitted material could be anything from performances to ed/op or "interview" stuff.

There are a number of free services that will host the podcast and supply bandwidth gratis (iTunes does not actually host the podcasts, but acts as a portal/aggregator). If the bandwidth demands ever exceeds the free service, then that means you've actually got a significant number of downloads, and can (hopefully) offset costs by trying for advertising or sponsorship.

The real cost is time and effort. Unlike minimal podcasts where one/some people chat around a mic (or via Skype), a music magazine (for want of a better word) requires much more in the way of content collection and production.

Marketing in such a vertical environment is relatively easy. Access to internet savvy people with an interest in theremin music is as easy as an iTunes podcast search. Post a YouTube video entitled "Sexy Experimental Theremin with Large Breasts" as an advert for the podcast and you've got the rest. The trick is to keep people subscribed, and that's down to content.

Theremin World Domination? - My bad...

"I prefer belonging to a smaller exclusive or elitist association with selected members rather than to an undifferentiated mass movement." - Thierry

Point well made and agreed with :) I think I got carried away with the concepts of "World Thereminization" ... and the thought of a treble recorder makes me shudder! Hordes old ten-year old schoolchildren playing traditional songs on theremins is really scary.

Now where did I put my microphone... :)
Posted: 11/13/2008 6:35:01 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

What does sound still worse than a treble recorder?


Two treble recorders!


My apologies for drifting slightly O.T.

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