The Chainsmokers: Building a global fanbase, one video at a time

Aug 9, 2017 - Artist Stories

“We learned how to produce watching YouTube videos,” explain Drew Taggart and Alex Paul — better known as The Chainsmokers. “So we felt it was important to give back, and do some of our own.” And give back, they have: For the past 5 years The Chainsmokers have invited their fans to join them for each step of their journey to the top, uploading tour diaries, explosive live performances, comedic sketches and the aforementioned how-to clips to complement their record setting music videos. “Those videos are jam packed with memories, and moments that mean so much to us” the pair tell YouTube. “But we are the same goofballs now as we were at the start, doing our best to translate our passions for what we do to our fans.”

With over 8.3 billion views across YouTube, The Chainsmokers currently rank amongst the largest acts on in the world. A steady stream of over 200 uploads has helped Alex and Drew build a dedicated and passionate subscriber base, with YouTube’s recommendation system connecting them with new fans around the globe every day. As a result, the duo have seen massive numbers in places like the Philippines (675 million), Brazil (510 million), Indonesia (450 million), Mexico (430 million) and Poland (190 million) alongside the United States (1.3 billion views). Their lyric video for "Closer" has amassed more than 1.8 billion views alone, making it YouTube’s most popular lyric video of all time and one of the top 20 most viewed videos across the platform. More recently, The Chainsmokers set a then-record for the biggest lyric video debut with their Coldplay collaboration “Something Just Like This,” racking up over nine million views in just 24 hours. And with over 12 million combined subscribers and counting, the milestones are likely to only keep pouring in.

“When we first started uploading, we honestly had no idea what we were doing,” the duo admits of their earliest YouTube uploads. “Making videos was a great way to blow off steam, be weird, and get our mind off of work. We thought it was funny.” Drew and Alex’s initial tongue-in-cheek clips quickly developed into more polished productions, culminating in the pair’s 2014 zeitgeist-embracing clip for “#SELFIE.” The breakout hit exemplified The Chainsmokers’ DIY spirit and off-the-cuff humor. “We basically guerrilla-style filmed in the bathroom of this club,” they recall. “We kept blowing the power outlets with our lights. But it was worth it.” Fueled by the video, the song went on to peak at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning over 500 million views across YouTube and a 2014 Streamy nomination.

After the early success of “#Selfie” the duo’s direct relationship with their fan base only grew, as subscribers tuned in for series like their behind the scenes tour diaries That Time and sporadic The Chainsmoker Comedies uploads along with confessional-style vlogs. “One thing that we consciously decided long ago, when The Chainsmokers first formed, was that we wanted to deliver to the fans consistently and regularly, in every way possible,” The Chainsmokers’ manager Adam Alpert explains. “The fly-on-the-wall aspect came naturally. Letting the fans get to know Alex and Drew as individuals—their personalities, their humor, their trials and tribulations—has been a great way to connect, and not just be about the music.”

But using YouTube to engage and communicate with their fans is hardly a one-way street — the platform has also served as a way for the duo to discover new talent. As longtime hosts of The YouTube EDM 15 on Sirius XM, Alex and Drew share a weekly mix of emerging electronic talent bubbling up across YouTube. And more recently, The Chainsmokers have even relied on the platform to help fill out their lineup. “Tony Ann is a savant pianist who did covers of a few of our songs on YouTube,” the duo explains of one of its new members. “A friend sent them over and we were blown away, so much so that we reached out and made him part of our band, and his first show with was Saturday Night Live in April.” And our drummer Matt Mcguire is a similar story — he did drum covers of lots of songs, and they were honestly next level. We hit him up and started a dialogue, and eventually we persuaded him to move to Cali and be our drummer. He now lives at Drew’s, and is full-on part of The Chainsmokers.”

With over 1 million views in more than 150 countries, Alex and Drew’s career has come a long way since their first upload to YouTube over a half-decade ago. And with an average of 18.2 million daily views across the platform so far this year, their rise to the top appears to have no end in sight. Their channels set the stage for their pop takeover, allowing the duo to take their fans along for the ride as they continue to spread their fist-pumping blend of EDM and pop across the world.