This musician's video game music adaptations went viral on YouTube

I first discovered Gil Assayas, the musician otherwise known as GLASYS, when one of his YouTube videos made it to the front page Reddit. His amazing keyboard set up and sophisticated musical adaptations of well-known video game soundtracks caught the attention of several gamer subcultures, who then shared his videos widely across social media. Here, for instance, is an excerpt from his rendition of the Super Mario Bros 2 Overworld theme.

I recently sat down with Gil and asked him about how he grew his fanbase and in what ways his viral videos have translated into career success.

To listen to the interview, subscribe to The Business of Content on your favorite podcast player, or you can play the YouTube video below. If you scroll down you’ll also find some transcribed highlights from the interview.

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This transcript has been edited for clarity.

How GLASYS got his start on YouTube

Like most YouTubers, he started his channel mainly as a side project. “I had a band and the band was my main focus. I figured I’d just upload some videos that I make on my own that don't really fit in with the band’s style. I was uploading very occasionally, maybe once or twice a year. I only started taking it seriously way later.”

His channel started taking off in 2017. “One video of mine went viral on Reddit because T-Pain commented on it. And the fact that he commented and said that he loved it and that he wants to work with me, that made it blow up.” GLASYS made another video, this one featuring T-Pain, in an effort to get him to notice again. “ I took one of his songs from his NPR Tiny Desk concert, just took like a two minute snippet of that, and I recorded myself jamming over it. And that one got to the front page of Reddit and went viral.”

Those viral videos gave his channel a boost, but he soon realized he’d need more consistent output if there was any hope of building a real audience. “The internet moves at such a fast pace and people forget what they saw very quickly as well. So the effects of it didn't last as long as I would have wanted them to. It definitely motivated me and it got me excited to explore this drumming technique more, and I was uploading more videos.”

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GLASYS also saw success with Facebook video

Because his videos often feature colorful synthesizers and other instruments, they’re good at capturing the attention of Facebook users scrolling through auto-play videos. “Every time I made a video I'd uploaded to Facebook as well as YouTube. I noticed some videos do better on Facebook just because the share function is available. So if people like the video, they share it with their friends, and it can really take off, as opposed to YouTube where it's all algorithm based.”

With Facebook, you have to be aware of your audience and how they’re likely to come across your video. “Facebook videos that really grab your attention quickly will take off because people are scrolling through their feed. They'll only check out your thing for a few seconds and if it doesn't grab their attention right away, they're going to move on. On YouTube, that's more like a TV channel. People are there to actually watch.”

How his videos help his music career

Thus far, GLASYS has done very little to directly monetize his videos. “I do have Adsense on YouTube. I can maybe buy a few coffees from the money. I don't get enough views to really make a lot of money from that.”

Because he uses a lot of gear in his videos, he’s developed relationships with several companies within the industry. “I have a lot of gear sponsorships. They're called endorsements in the music industry, but usually what it means is that the company will send me some of their gear, usually for free. And then I use it in my videos. Sometimes it'll be more of a paid gig, but for the most part it just means I get free gear, which is cool.”

Why so many of his videos feature covers of video game music

GLASYS’s channel features plenty of original songs, but he spends a lot of time producing keyboard adaptations of songs from popular video games. “I love video game music because I grew up playing video games, so it felt very natural to me to just start covering video game themes. I didn't really have a strategy in mind when I started doing it. I love the Zelda music, so I just created the Zelda video and it took off. It got quite a few views on YouTube and then I realized people love it. And many of those same people are checking out my original music as well, so I might as well just keep doing both, basically creating the original music and keep uploading covers as well. The nice thing about video game music is that it's so diverse, there are so many different styles within that whole category of video game music. So I'm able to scratch that creative itch of mine and I can really explore all these different genres.”

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.