Since my last post, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I’ve been doing “wrong” with Matt Chat, at least in terms of building an audience. Many folks have pointed out, and I think correctly, that with the caliber of guests I have on the show–and I’ve been maintaining that for years now–the show should be doing much better. There are countless guys out there doing simple reviews and let’s play type videos who are simply obliterating my views and subscriber lists.
This whole situation reminds me distinctly of my days in a rock band in Natchitoches, Louisiana. After a certain point, we felt we had a very good setlist, good performance skills, and enjoying plenty of opportunities to “break out.” We even had a newspaper reporter show up at a show and write a very flattering review of our set–with three different photos of the band.
Yet acts who were apparently “sucky” compared to us were getting ten times the people showing up to support them. Any wannabe band playing Green Day covers would kick our ass ten ways to one. We tried to put a brave face on it, but inside, it hurt like hell.
Our fans were endlessly dedicated, always there, talking up the show, trying to get their friends to come, etc. But there were just never enough of them to keep us going–we literally couldn’t get gigs because we simply couldn’t get enough people there to justify our slot. Eventually, we just had to give it all up.
Of course, there were plenty of excuses. The most common one was, “Well, this is stupid ol’ Louisiana, and the people here just don’t appreciate what you’re doing. If you were in California, Seattle, or ____, things would be totally different.” Whatever. The only place we would’ve been successful is in our dreams.
On several occasions, I’d ask folks what they thought of the band, and what they thought could make it better. I was surprised how many times someone would say–right to my face–“Well, the band is fine, but you need a new singer.” Only problem with that was…I was the singer. I figured a few of these folks might just be assholes, but I heard that enough to finally start coming to grips with it. There are some things that sincerity and hard work just can’t get for you, and being some kick ass front man was just not in the cards for me. At that point, I had two options–either find a replacement and content myself with just playing guitar, or quit. I moved on.
It’s perhaps inevitable that so many years later, I’d find myself in a similar situation. Here I am, still that same awkward, dorky nerd, trying to delude myself into thinking I’m some kind of videogame Johnny Carson. And I’m hearing the same kind of arguments from good hearted people who (for whatever reason) are able to see beyond my limitations and actually enjoy and appreciate what I’m doing. I hate to disappoint these folks. I can’t help but be reminded of the awesome guys and gals who’d show up at our gigs, buying us beers and talking us up to the patrons there, and doing whatever they could to keep us going. I guess it must be how shitty sports teams feel; no matter how crummy you are, there are always loyal fans out there who seem to enjoy supporting the underdog.
I remember one night playing a song that required chorus. I’d occasionally reach back to push the button on my amp to turn it off and on. After the set, some old guy comes up to me and asks what I was doing. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
He comes back later and gives me his old chorus pedal. “I want you to have this,” he said. He didn’t look rich. He didn’t look drunk. If anything, he looked like he saw me as some younger version of himself, some kid who hadn’t given up yet. I thanked him. I still have the pedal. I gave up.
Here’s the facts. My videos struggle to get a thousand views. And it’s not like I’m just throwing this stuff together in a couple hours. I spend all weekend gathering material, editing, rendering, and often re-shooting scenes or commentary for upward of 12 hours or more. If a guest mentions a game, I do whatever it takes to find it, install it, get it working, and show gameplay footage at high quality. It kills me when I have to give up and just show a lame screenshot. I imagine most people watching my videos have no idea that I may have spent all day locating some obscure Mac or Atari 8-bit game, getting it running in a horrendously undocumented emulator, capturing footage on my wheezing old PC, just to show thirty seconds of footage.
Meanwhile, Mr. Popular is doing Green Day covers–oops, doing an unboxing video of shitty NES games he bought at Goodwill, and he gets 40,000 views in a day. It’s the Green Day cover band all over again.
I guess people have enough sense not to tell me “Matt Chat would be great if you had a different host.” After all, it’s a one-man operation, and without me, there is no Matt Chat. Would I be willing to do all of the work I’m currently doing–producing the show, and find someone else to replace me as the “face” of Matt Chat? The cynical side of me would love to find some babe to do the show for awhile.
In reality, though, it all comes down to one thing: popularity. Those Green Day cover bands weren’t packing clubs because people really wanted to hear Green Day covers. They came because those guys were popular, and the folks showed up because they liked them, probably wanted to be like them, or at least wanted some of that aura to rub off on them. Even if, for the sake of argument, you claim we had far more talent, it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference. Not one damn bit.
If it’s a popularity contest, the real nerd loses. Every f**** time. Story of my life.
I’ve received lots of good suggestions about ways to improve the channel. My favorite in the “Why didn’t I think of that?” category comes from Felipe. Even though I’m pretty sure Felipe is in the “your show would be awesome without you in it” camp, his idea of making a 5-minute “potpourri” video with clips of awesome quotes from interviews and such seems like solid gold to me. I’ll definitely start working on that and hopefully have it ready soon. To that end, if you can think of any awesome quotes (either from guests or hilarious moments from my retrospectives) that you think I should put in, let me know.
In the meantime, though, I’ve come to a few decisions about the show. For one, I’m going to stop whining, bitching, and moaning here about the lack of views that I or anyone else feels I “ought” to have. Instead, I’m going to focus on pleasing the fans and friends I do have, and trying to do the best for them that I possibly can. And I honestly think the best way to do that is just to keep doing what I’m doing, not let myself get discouraged, and keep the drinking horn flowing.
Given the choice between brothers or a horde of fickle, “me too!” fans, I know who I want at my back. I never have been nor will I ever be popular. But for those half-dozen folks out there in the club, brace yourself…We’re about to rock.