He’s studying to be a doctor, but Luke Muscat’s real ambition is to make a living off YouTube.
And with 51 million views and counting, the 21-year-old’s plans are hardly the sort of pipe dream you’d think they might be.
Mr Muscat’s channel grande1899 features quirky song covers made using note blocks in popular video game Minecraft.
It is far and away the most popular YouTube channel in Malta. He has five times more subscribers (220,000) than the second most popular channel, and the 51 million views his videos have garnered are more than the next five most popular Maltese channels combined.
Minecraft – a sandbox video game in which users build anything from machines to cities using virtual blocks – is the third best-selling video game in history, after Tetris and Wii Sports. Unlike most other games, there is no plot or mission to complete. Gamers are simply released into the game's universe and left to their own devices to explore it.
Mr Muscat, a self-confessed “computer geek”, got into the game in late 2010. Then one day he saw a YouTube cover of Still Alive made using the video game Portal.
“My first reaction was: ‘How is this even possible? This guy must be so talented, I'd never be able to do something close to that,’” Mr Muscat told Times of Malta.
He had never had any music lessons and didn’t know anything about playing different notes, but Mr Muscat, realising he could use special ‘note blocks’ in Minecraft to craft his own cover songs, ploughed on nonetheless.
His first video was “admittedly not very good”, but as he taught himself some basic music theory online, the views soon picked up – and up, and up.
The most popular video on his channel has almost 8 million views. To put that into context, the official Eurovision video of Ira Losco’s Walk on Water has around 1 million fewer. The 2011 BBC Proms featuring tenor Joseph Calleja is around 7 million views behind.
He’s been complimented on his music by star DJs such as deadmau5 and Alan Walker (of Faded fame), and he is also the only Maltese person to own a special trophy YouTube awards to users with more than 100,000 channel subscribers.
Not that the internet fame came easy. Mr Muscat says he probably spends 40 hours a week - the equivalent of a full-time job – working on his YouTube channel.
“Each song takes me anywhere from a few hours to over 20 hours to finish, depending on the complexity,” he explains. He also spends several hours teaching himself more about music production in general, with an eye to the future.
“I have a few original electronic songs on my channel, and I try to make each one better than the one before. My dream is to create professional-sounding songs and to be able to make this Youtube thing a career. That would be amazing,” he admits.
His advice for would-be YouTube creators is simple.
“Many people tend to give up on things they wish they were able to do before even attempting to do them. But in reality it's probably not as hard as you initially think.”
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