If you haven’t heard of Mike’s Mic before, get ready to meet your new BFF and the pop culture MVP for your next quiz night.
Mike started off as ‘the science and maths kid’ who got a Bachelor and Masters in mechanical engineering before moving across the country from Perth to Melbourne to take a job as a software engineer. After casually starting a YouTube channel in 2015 (with just two subscribers, one being him on a different account and the other his sister), he shifted to making content full time in 2020 and is fast becoming an iconic Aussie pop culture commentator – now knocking at the door of one million subscribers.
If you want to quickly get to know Mike, watch the story of the time he ‘nearly died’ in a plane crash while suffering from food poisoning.
I was on a family trip in Europe in 2015 and we were in Rome and I got food poisoning and heat stroke on the same day… and then got on a plane… that went vertical.
Still need to know more? We got Mike in front of the mic to interview him recently, and here’s what he had to say…
What was the first video you posted and why did you share it on YouTube?
It was 2017-2018, and I’d just moved across the country for work and didn’t know many people, so I had a bit of free time and I started uploading more to my YouTube channel.
But, I actually started the channel in 2015 with a video called – this is so cringe – it's called seven things to do when bored. The seventh thing I said in that video was ‘make a YouTube channel’, which is the joke – like hahaha so funny – but then, that's pretty much why I started it.
And your favourite thing (number six) is to marathon a show -- spoiler much?
Yeah, so I just started going more into the things that I like consuming on the internet and just media in general. So reality TV, pop music, movies and TV shows. The kinds of the things that got me into YouTube – that's what I'm focused on with my channel right now.
So what did that evolution look like?
I would say when I started making videos, I was purely making videos for other people or stuff that I thought other people wanted to watch because they were already watching similar content.
I think I might have taken down videos two through 50 because when I looked back, I was like, ‘mmm, these just aren't very good and I wouldn’t want to watch them’. They were me just trying to replicate whatever was trending.
But then in 2017, I started making videos about reality TV – so that was clips from Big Brother from multiple countries, from way back in 2008 or 2009. I was talking about things that were older than what everyone else was talking about. I realised that a lot of the pop culture moments that I really find interesting, were out of that era – so I started making more videos about content from the early 2010s. And there was a positive response and people liked it.
That's when I really pivoted over to talking about movies and TV shows. And then at the end of last year , I decided why not just pivot a little further and go into long form content with something that I'm absolutely passionate about - Pretty Little Liars, Glee, and that kind of stuff.
It sounds like you learned a lot about yourself and your channel over these years.
The main thing I realised, that helps me a lot, was if I'm passionate enough about something and I'm willing to engage with that content for hours on end while scripting, filming and editing it – then, there are other people who will enjoy it.
The biggest lesson was trusting my gut and believing in myself and what I'm making. That took me a while to learn but I think I'm there now.
I'm at the point where I'm proud of what I make on YouTube.
What does long form videos and YouTube allow you to express?
So when I was working on the Pretty Little Liars video, I wasn't sure people were going to engage with two hours plus of content, but I really wanted to do it because in my head, I had about six hours worth of things I wanted to say. There's so much content in a TV show that's been running for seven seasons, right? And if I was going to talk about a show that has such a complicated plot then I'm not going to just gloss over it and not cover all the things I want to cover.
So I thought, okay, the best way to do this would be to go really in-depth and initially I was going to do one six hour long video. But I thought the risk was too much because I would take too long to make it and I couldn't be sure people were going to watch it – so I decided, let's do it in parts.
Now, I can feel myself kind of carving out my own little area in the long form genre on YouTube.
And I think I've still got more things to do in that area — but also, this might sound ridiculous, I like to think of myself on YouTube in terms of Lady Gaga. As a pop star, Lady Gaga did The Fame, The Fame Monster and then she went into Born This Way, Artpop and Joanne – like she went from pop to country back to pop and jazz. So I did short form, then I pushed into long form and there's something else coming. I haven't decided what it is... Maybe next year I'll pivot into something else, just to keep it fresh for my audience and for myself.
What is your favourite video you’ve made?
I have three things that I like – movies and TV, pop music and pop culture. So if I have one per category, it's the Pretty Little Liars video, my video that I did as a deep dive of Artpop, and then the video that I did that was like really obscure pop culture moments – like stuff from 2015-16 that trended for one day on Twitter.
And what’s your process for making a video?
I’ll speak to the Glee part two video, because that's what I've been working on.
The first step is watching the show and while I am, I’ll write things about the plot and take notes or screenshots about really specific things or key moments in the episodes that I want to mention.
Then I go through the episodes again and read plot synopses, and start compiling my script with the things people need to know.
Initially my scripting was just key points, but with longer videos that talk about plot – if I mess up a tiny bit, someone will pick it up – so I have to be careful that I'm covering everything. These longer videos I would say are 80% scripted and then if I can think of a joke on the spot then I'll chuck it in.
I think props are important for long form content too. If I'm just sitting on a stool talking for two hours, then I would prefer that as a podcast because why do I need to watch that when I could just listen? That's why I try to have one big prop per series – the Pretty Little Liars wall, the Glee board, that kind of stuff.
It comes back to: I'm trying to make videos that I want to watch that I can't find on the platform already. And if I was going to watch a hot recap of Pretty Little Liars, then I want to be able to see how all these interactions between the characters in the plot lines work.
And then editing?
So for Glee part one, which ended up being just over two hours long, I had something like 12 to 14 hours of footage, including reshoots.
Looking at your own face for 12 hours, I mean… and that's just part one editing and reviewing 12 hours down to two hours, then there’s part two.
That's one of the things that I tell people, when they're thinking of starting a YouTube channel and they're not sure what to make content about.
Make sure you're talking about something that you're not going to get bored of easily.
Because by that point, I've spent like 60 hours watching it, 40 hours writing about it, 12 hours filming it, and then I've got all the editing to do – so you wouldn't want to be sick of the content.
I tell you what, by the end of it, I'm just like, ‘get off my screen, you need to get off my screen, I'm sick of looking at you’, but then I watch the final video and it’s okay, it’s good, it’s fun – you can go, you can be uploaded.
What do you hope people take away from your videos?
When I make videos, I want people to feel good afterwards. I just want people to have fun. That's the crux of it.
I have fun making them. I only talk about things that I think are fun. I just want people to switch off for however long the video is and listen to me talk about something that they either know already or something they want to know more about.
You have over 700K subscribers and millions of views - can you grasp that, and how does it feel?
So when I hit around 250,000 subscribers, I tried to visualise 250,000 versions of Remy from Ratatouille on Photoshop. It was the same picture 250,000 times and just looking at the image, I couldn’t comprehend that number – that number of people watching and engaging with something that I've made, and that's tripled since then.
Where are these numbers coming from? Are these people even real? But then sometimes I'll be walking around Melbourne and someone will come up to me and recognise me from YouTube and every time that happens, it is so wild. It will never not be weird to me.
Is there a moment that stands out to you, where you realised you were having an impact on other people?
Something that I get a lot with the long form content is, people will message me saying that these are their comfort videos and that these are the videos they put on when they’re really stressed.
When I first started getting those messages I was like ‘how? I'm so high energy and chaotic in these videos!’. But then people were explaining to me that it's just because they kind of know what to expect when they click on one of my videos. They know that I'm going to be having a lot of fun and it's very low stakes, but still entertaining, and that just helps relax people. I thought that was really cool.
Another surreal moment was when I went to London a couple of months ago and I was just walking down a street with my mum and three people came up to me to talk about my content. It just blew my mind. I was in a different country and people knew who I was. And every single person that comes up to me is so cool – I mean, they are so much cooler than me – so the pressure is on because these people who watch my videos are awesome.
Do you love real-world feedback like this?
Seeing what people are saying in the comments, or talking to people when they come up to me in the street about a really specific moment from Glee season two – I love that. It’s one of my favourite things about what I get to do.
The fact that people go out of their way to suggest things for me to talk about and give me ideas, I think that's really cool because they like my content enough that they want to see me talk about something that they love too.
What motivates you?
I just want to talk about stuff that I am passionate about with people who are equally passionate about it.
The stuff that I am passionate about just happens to be movies and TV shows that I watched 10 years ago and pop music.
I’m also motivated by simply wanting to be creative and do something fun that I couldn't have otherwise done. I realise how ridiculous my job is – I can spend three weeks researching Artpop and make a video about it.
How do you balance what you want to talk about with what your audience wants to watch?
I test content. So if I have an idea for a series then I'll either mention it in a YouTube video or respond to comments specifically about that, or ask a question on one of my other social channels.
I used this when I was pivoting into long form videos as it was such a big decision because it would take me two to three months to make that one video that was going to be two hours long. It was a big risk and I didn't know people were going to watch it and if I went three months and uploaded a video and people didn't respond to it, then that wouldn't have been great for my channel. So I went through the data on my 20 minute videos and saw which ones had the longest retention and it was the stuff that was related to plot. So I thought, ‘okay, maybe this is a viable option’. I just went with it.
What do you hope to achieve over the next year?
Reaching a million subscribers is one of the goals that I have for the next year. The prospect of hitting a million is ridiculous to me, because I never expected that I would get there. I never even expected to get a thousand subscribers.
I also want to do more of these recap series and then I'll pivot into something else, and we'll see how that goes.
Do you have any other tips for anyone starting out on YouTube?
When I talk to some people who are thinking of starting a channel, one of the things that they say is ‘I don't have the equipment’. I think that how the person is delivering the content is more important than what equipment they use to do it.
I've had the same camera for five years and I've done so many different types of content. And if you show through your video how much you want to talk about something, people will pick up on that while watching it – that's all you need to do to start and then if that takes off, then you can start investing in equipment.
The initial investment doesn't need to be big at all. You just need to have an idea and the drive to get it up on YouTube.
But if you're going to go into commentary like me, and ask people to watch a video that's 20 plus minutes long, then you probably need to invest in a good quality microphone to make sure the audio quality is better. But that’s it.
Basically, if you’re thinking of making a channel, just do it because you have absolutely no idea where it's going to go. When I started, I had no idea this is where I was going to end up and I'm so glad that I am where I am now. So, just start already.
Finally, who are you watching on YouTube?
It’s Kurtis Conner, Damon Dominique, Eve Cornwell, ContraPoints, Jenny Nicholson – they are absolutely excellent at what they do. When I watch their videos, I'm so glad that they are doing this because they’re so good at it.
And then I have other channels where it's this slowed-down, sped-up or reverb versions of songs. soap eater, that remixes Nicki Minaj songs with songs from like Mario games, I absolutely love it.
And that’s what you missed on… Mike’s Mic. xoxo