Lincolnite Bryan Odell had a pretty fine weekend.
He won $35,000, took a free trip to New York City and he turned 21. Not bad.
Odell is one of the 25 winners of YouTube’s first NextUp contest. The new program sought up-and-coming video creators throughout the U.S. and invested in their future, giving them cash for video production and inviting them to attend a four-day YouTube Creator Camp in New York.
Odell’s popular YouTube channel, BryanStars Interviews, has more than 50,000 subscribers and 250 interviews with bands and artists. His videos have been viewed nearly 8 million times. Big interviews include Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, and even a handful of “American Idol” singers. For the most part, his interviews are rock-centric.
“Here’s the thing,” said the 2008 Lincoln East graduate. “Everyone’s already talking about Justin Bieber. No one’s talking about Warped Tour or even Slipknot. I definitely go for my niche audience. There is a huge online following for these alternative rock bands. And MTV really isn’t about music anymore. So where do you go to find the next big thing?”
You go to YouTube channels like his, Odell said. He wants to be the MTV of YouTube “or even the Ryan Seacrest of YouTube, the place where up and coming artists go to introduce themselves.”
So how did a 20-something Lincolnite get access to some of the biggest names in rock?
Well, he asked.
Any time tours or concerts come through the area, he gets in touch with their management and asks if they’d want to meet up and do an interview. Most of the time they say yes, especially the bands looking for some exposure.
Odell’s camera, tripod and little microphone operation is a sharp contrast to the TV crews and radio stations he sometimes runs into at music events, symbolic of the different path he chose.
Odell chiseled out a nontraditional career after giving up a traditional career trajectory. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for two years, where, to be fair, he learned a lot of skills that helped him develop BryanStars Interviews.
But when his YouTube channel took off and he became a YouTube partner, he said, “I basically got to the point where I was making more money from YouTube than I would as an entry-level reporter. School’s great. It works for a lot of people. I learned a lot and grew a lot at UNL. But, at the same time, I was ready to move on.”