How we make small things get loud: Creating Shorts with Lyor Cohen
Shorts have become an integral part of music discovery on YouTube and are generating 50 billion daily views as of December 2022.
Today, we are redefining what reach means for artists on YouTube. In a newsletter shared with the global music industry earlier this morning, our Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen shared that in January 2023, fan-created Shorts increased the average artist's audience of unique viewers by more than 80%. This means fans on Shorts are NEARLY DOUBLING an artist’s total reach, so they can spend more time doing what they do best, which is making great music. These updates and more can be read in Lyor’s full newsletter here.
It’s become a tradition for Lyor to create a fun, theme-based Short as part of his newsletter and today’s defintely marked this moment in time for what Shorts have done for music and artists on YouTube so far.
To learn more about the creative process in making these Shorts, the amount of time it takes and how Lyor’s Shorts always look so professionally shot (Spoiler Alert: They are shot on a smartphone!), I decided to chat with YouTube’s Creative Studio Director, Christian Haas, who has been working hand in hand with Lyor to create some of his most epic Shorts from ‘80 million subscribers on YouTube Music & Premium,’ to ‘Running Up That Hill,’ and the ‘#TSAntiHeroChallenge,’ to name a few.
Ahead of our discussion, I was prepared for big production numbers and huge shoot windows to get them done, but in fact, it was the opposite. It turns out that big or small, the magic of Shorts is that they are easy to make, all it takes is a fun idea…
The following is an interview with Christian Haas, Director of YouTube Creative Studio.
What is the creative process like when working with an executive leader like Lyor Cohen?
We need to make sure there’s a healthy supply of Cuban cigars and that all brown M&Ms are promptly removed from his green room. Kidding. Lyor is totally fine with brown M&Ms.
Our team leads creative work across all YouTube marketing around the world but we have a special place in our hearts (and schedules) reserved for Lyor’s videos.
We always start with the Newsletter outline, that’s our brief. Creatively, we try to distill the message down to something ridiculously simple that we think will be fun for people to watch. You can think of the Short as an amuse-bouche for the newsletter, it whets your appetite and leaves you hungry to dive in for more.
The best part about working with Lyor is that he’s always up for anything. We love brainstorming with him and seeing him embrace the ideas wholeheartedly in front of the camera.
Creatively, we try to distill the message down to something ridiculously simple that we think will be fun for people to watch. You can think of the Short as an amuse-bouche for the newsletter, it whets your appetite and leaves you hungry for more.” Christian Haas Director of YouTube Creative Studio
Because Lyor is always on the move, we keep the setups simple so we can shoot wherever he is at — be it hitting a snare drum in his London office, guitar-shredding at Google New York or smoking a cigar on a treadmill in his home gym (that was his Taylor Swift Anti-hero challenge Short).
For the latest Short, we had this idea of using forced perspective to show how small things can be deceiving. We found a pair of miniature amplifiers on Etsy so all we needed was a full-size Lyor.
I imagine that filming with an executive who has a busy schedule might add pressure in terms of timing and all of the gear you need to make it look top notch. Is that an accurate assumption?
His schedule forces us to be pretty nimble—which is a good thing. We shoot all Lyor’s Shorts with a smartphone, no fancy production equipment or setup. That’s the beauty of Shorts, if you have an idea and a smartphone, you are basically a YouTuber.
Lyor seems like he is game to film most things, he’s so funny in his Shorts! Do you have a favorite memory of making Shorts with Lyor over the last year?
During the “Running up that hill" shoot in London, a creative from our EMEA team was running backwards with the camera in front of Lyor and almost bumped into a dog by accident. We still have the take with a lovely lady yelling at Lyor in the background. I’m happy to say no dogs were harmed in the making of that Short.
Are there rules of thumb to keep in mind when creating Shorts versus longer form videos?
Find something that pulls people in quickly (Lyor in an 80s tracksuit will do); make it entertaining (have him running up a hill in aforementioned tracksuit); and, more importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously (have him do so while singing Kate Bush’s “Running up that hill”).
Thinking about the everyday creators and hobbyists, are there any tips you can share on how to make Shorts that are compelling?
Make it fun. If you’re not having fun making it, people are probably not going to find it fun to watch either. I like to think of Shorts as YouTube in Fun Size. Best to keep them short and sweet.