The Mind Tricks behind Eli Lieb’s Cover of Miley Cyrus

It happened again. On Friday Eli Lieb posted a video cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. By Monday it had been viewed almost 500,000 times and Eli had gained over 100,000 YouTube subscribers and 30,000+ Twitter followers.

It’s another case of an unknown artist gaining huge online success by covering a popular song. Recently we saw the rise of Karmin thanks to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (it now has well past 3 million views) and numerous other online sensations.

But why do cover videos work so well?

Look at the Video Eli Lieb posted. It’s just him in front of a white background playing a dulcimer. A dulcimer? Granted, he’s a great singer and the video/audio quality is professional, but honestly, is there really anything special here? Why are people drawn to this?

Because cover videos satisfy two of our basic human needs.

Best-selling self-improvement guru Tony Robbins points out that we all have six basic human needs: Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, Contribution, Certainty, and Uncertainty. Cover videos satisfy two of those needs – Certainty and Uncertainty. Say what?

How can we have two seemingly opposing needs?

Think of certainty as stability. Humans like to be able to count on things. It’s in our DNA. We need to count on the spring coming again and crops growing. We need stable relationships. We don’t want a surprise bill from the IRS. We need to feel safe and secure; otherwise we’ll go insane with worry and fear.

So in terms of our cover video, we want a song we know. We want something we’ve heard before and are familiar with. But…

That’s boring. We also desire uncertainty. We want some variety in our life — some of us more than others. Someone who walks a tightrope over the Grand Canyon is looking for more variety in their life than I am. But at the same time, I don’t want to stay locked in my house. I need some adventure and to feel alive.

So in our cover video, the different version of the song keeps us interested. We know the words and melody, but he mixes it up and puts a new spin on it.

Plus there’s the anticipation. Will the song be any good? Will he be able to hit the note? Outwardly we’re rooting for Eli, but inside we’re secretly hoping for a train wreck. But in the end, Eli prevails and we cheer. It’s a roller coaster of emotion and we thrive on it. We crave variety. Otherwise we’d all own one album and listen to it everyday for the rest of our lives!


What do you think of cover videos? Have you made one you’re proud of? Show us.


3 Ways To Deal With The Apathetic Silence Of YouTube

YouTube Video ViewsBack when I was in a band we practiced in my parents’ basement or garage. With Roger thumpin’ the bass and Bob pounding a drum, we got some attention! Other than the occasional police presence (for noise complaints) our fan reach was limited to about two blocks.

Of course, today with a simple video camera and a YouTube account your reach is MUCH further.

But do you sometimes still feel like you’re playing in the basement for no one? You’ve gone through all the trouble to set up a YouTube account and learn some basic video editing tricks to share your latest song. You primped your hair and put on your best shirt. Maybe you even practiced in front of the mirror before you hit record. Hey, there’s no shame in it!

But two weeks after hitting ‘upload’ you still only have 13 views. And 11 of them were you checking to make sure your video still plays! Where are all your fans? Why haven’t you gone viral?

Well the harsh truth is…

YouTube (and other social media for that matter) is filled with apathetic silence.

Most people wouldn’t  consider silence to be a critique. But as an artist you crave feedback. It’s hard to produce your art in a vacuum. But a big part of being an artist is learning to live with criticism in whatever form it takes.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to deal with trolls and people spilling hate than chilling silence. It’s discouraging. I’m not creating music anymore, but I’ve written enough blog posts and produced enough podcasts to sympathize.

I’ve produced THE podcast episode. You know, the one I thought would forever alter my destiny. The content that would finally catapult me from the depths of darkness to meteoric heights! In fact, I’ve had that feeling multiple times. Over and over again. Only to be disappointed over and over again. Here’s how I deal with apathetic silence.

Have a support system

Let’s face it, banging your head against the wall hurts! Sometimes you need someone to hand you an aspirin.

There are many ways for someone to lift you up after a defeating YouTube post. Your Mom can tell you you’re special, your spouse can give you a reassuring hug or a friend can tell you to keep your chin up. While these are all great and make me feel better, I know they aren’t real. I desire outside perspective.

That’s why I’m a big believer in having a coach. Over the years I’ve had many coaches for many different purposes. I’ve had a trainer to help me get in better shape. I’ve had a sales coach to help me learn cold calling. I’ve had a marketing coach to help me better spread my message. But at the core of all of them I really desired two things – Motivation & Accountability.

The hardest person to motivate is yourself. It’s much easier to lift up a friend or to see what’s wrong with your spouse’s situation than to look in the mirror and fix that! I really need help here. And when things don’t seem to be going my way it gets harder and harder to keep moving forward. My coach is there to dust me off and send me back in the game. He’s also there to make sure I produce my next piece of content even though I’d rather do anything else. Left to my own devices I might just blow it off. But I don’t like telling someone I didn’t do what I promised.

If you don’t want to spend money on your own personal coach, start a peer group. Some people call them masterminds or roundtables. Whatever you call it, it’s good to find fellow artists with the same struggles. I’ve been in an informal marketing group for four years. We get together about once a month to help each other overcome our struggles and to share what we’ve learned about marketing. It’s a great way to keep the demons from your door!

Remember Your ‘Why’

When things get low I return to why I want to do this in the first place. For myself when I release a new post to the sound of one hand clapping I remember I have a larger goal than one post. In order to create a shift in music marketing and change the fundamental attitudes about music and its value in today’s world, it’s going to take more than one well-crafted blog post.

For most musicians I know riches and fame are not on the top of their list. Usually I hear things like ‘I need to create’ or ‘I do it for me.’ Whatever ‘why’ means to you, go back to the beginning and keep a realistic perspective about your not-so-well-received YouTube video. Your ‘why’ should move you forward and keep you from obsessing about the apathetic silence.

After all, your ‘why’ is the reason you get out of bed in the morning. It transcends money and fame. It’s your purpose for being. If you’re in touch with your ‘why’ then a few bumps in the road shouldn’t get you down.

Do Some Soul Searching

This last one might be a little hard to hear. But here it goes…

Sometimes you need to ask yourself if there’s a reason no one’s responding and sharing your YouTube video. Maybe it sucks… ow.

Recently I got to experience this with a four minute video I made to explain the purpose of Only Sky Artist. I released it to worse than silence. I heard groans. I produced the video and then sent it out to some of my trusted mastermind friends. The responses I got back were not encouraging. Almost everyone said it sucked.

Well, they were much more polite, but they all meant the same thing. I took in all the criticism and then asked myself if they were right. And I had to agree. My video didn’t live up to my standards. It was a sub-par effort that wasn’t doing my brand any favors. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Even though it’s pretty bad (think Plan 9 From Outer Space bad) I’ve decided to take one for the team and leave it up for you to see as an example of what happens when you get too close to a creative project. I’m sure you will agree it doesn’t exude professionalism.

Here’s a link if you’re feeling brave. 🙂  Sorry. I took it down since I wrote this.

While the feedback I received was certainly a blow to my ego, I learned that my friends hold me to a higher standard than I sometimes hold myself. (See point number one again) And that’s a good thing! By objectively reexamining my creative output I had to admit it wasn’t my finest work. Now I know what to do next time to improve my YouTube views and avoid the apathetic silence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below….

What have you learned from criticism? What keeps driving you to create music?