Making it on YouTube: An Interview with ‘Tipsy Bartender’ Skyy John

The digital-age has changed the landscape of arts and media, offering people from around the world unprecedented opportunities for promotion, creation, and communication. YouTube alone has provided many rising stars with a platform for promoting and sharing their work. Whether it be music, art, literature, or entertainment, the internet has allowed many to break into their field, regardless of their origins. In this interview, I speak with YouTuber Skyy John about his show ‘Tipsy Bartender’ and the YouTube business.

Ferdinand Goetzen: You’re originally from the Bahamas but decided to move to LA to pursue a career in entertainment. What gave you the necessary push to pursue this path?

Skyy John: I was living in the Bahamas and I had a choice. I was doing stand up comedy at the time but was working at a bank during the day. One day a fisherman came in to deposit some money and he invited me to join him one weekend. From then on I worked as a fisherman on the weekends. Our goal was initially to become successful fishermen and save money to buy a bigger boat so that we could take more lucrative trips. Instead, he decided to focus on other things and the plans fell through. I then decided to focus on entertainment and doing stand up. I had an aunt who lived in California, so I moved to the States and took it from there.

FG: How and why did you start Tipsy Bartender? What got you interested in Mixology?

SJ: I was doing standup and acting in the US and got an idea for a talk show. We shot a pilot but didn’t have the right connections to have it produced, so I just decided to put it online. I started interviewing all sorts of people with interesting backgrounds and exciting stories. However, this was way back when YouTube was new and didn’t really support that style of content. They wanted more family-oriented videos, not interviews with bad-boys and bad-girls. I needed new material and was working a bar job and decided to shoot and upload a bartending video. It was so successful that with time I got rid of the old channel and focused on Tipsy Bartender.

FG: What is the secret to your show’s success?

SJ: A lot of work has gone into Tipsy Bartender. I think the most important thing is taking risks, doing new things and doing what you want to do. Tipsy Bartender is more than just a drinking show. It’s the chemistry between the hostesses and myself that makes the show work. That interaction is what fuels the show. The girls don’t work for me; we’re just having fun while we make the drink.

FG: Your YouTube channel has almost a million followers. Through what means have you promoted Tipsy Bartender to such a wide audience?

SJ: I’ve never paid for advertising other than some basic ads that YouTube offers. I got most of my support through Facebook as they are beginning to tap into the video-market. I began promoting and uploading Tipsy Bartender videos on Facebook and managed to get some real organic growth through shares, which then translated into YouTube subscribers. The Facebook page has over 4 million followers now.

FG: In an age where nearly everyone has Internet access, YouTube offers many artists the chance to promote their work. However, this also means that there is much more competition. Do you see this as a positive or a negative thing?

SJ: I see it as somewhere in between. If you are one of those that got onto YouTube early, then yes, you had a major advantage. Now the bar has been set so high that there are some serious challenges. It can be done if you have the right content, formatting and style. But if you look at the top 100 videos on YouTube there are so many famous shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen Degeneres. These shows have become more popular online than they are on TV. Now more and more corporations are realising this and overshadowing us ‘home-producers’ with limited budgets. It certainly is harder nowadays but it can still be done if you have the right angle.

FG: Some people argue that the age of ‘viral videos’ has had a negative impact on modern pop culture by prioritizing catchiness and brevity over ‘hard work’ and ‘quality’. What do you think?

SJ: These people don’t know how much hard work goes into just doing a short video. You need to put in a lot of hard work to make the videos stand out.

FG: Tipsy Bartender really combines youthful, YouTube-style comedy with real mixing lessons. How do you see the future of mixology?

SJ: First off, I have to admit that mixologists do not like me. They look at me with a bit of disdain. I’m not really a mixologist, I’m more like McDonalds or Taco Bell. Mixologists are more like fine dining. I cater to the party; people who want to come over and have something fun and drink. If you want some fancy drink with basil and ice cubes from Mt. Everest, you go to those guys. If you want a fun time and get tipsy, I’m your guy.

FG: What is the most difficult cocktail you have ever had to make?

SJ: There are so many, but I would say the one that really stood out and exemplifies our brand are Rainbow shots. That video has over 2 million hits. People requested it a lot but I always avoided them because I had no idea how to do it. One of the girls I was dating at the time eventually convinced me to do it. I played around a little bit and made the video. I got it down perfectly on the first take. To be honest, I don’t know if I could get it that perfectly again.

FG: Given the style and content of your videos, one would guess that you mainly attract a young male audience. Is this the case?

SJ: Surprisingly not. On Facebook I have a lot of older people that follow me. Most of the messages I get are by women outside that age bracket. On Facebook my following is 64% female, there’s a great mix.

FG: Finally, what is your favourite cocktail and why?

SJ: I like rum-based stuff. Born in the Bahamas, I was raised on rum. We always mix it with sweeter stuff. I love strong Caribbean coconut rum mixed with pineapple and a splash of cranberry. It has that sweetness but also the potency. I also love Strawberry Daiquiris.