Nik Nocturnal: From last resort to linchpin

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Nik Nocturnal cover image

Everybody has their ‘gateways’ that got them invested in the world of heavy music. Whether it was an attention-grabbing magazine cover, a captivating live performance or the act of playing a highly successful rhythm game series with a plastic guitar in hand, they’re a huge part of bringing new blood into the family. For every new generation comes an evolution in gateways as some drift into obscurity and others become the new tastemakers. YouTube is undoubtedly the biggest of these changes in the last 20 years. Despite the fact that in music, the power is in the hands of the people, the rock & metal world was slow to embrace this new ally.

Initially viewed as an enemy of the music industry, making a living as a content creator in the music space was an uphill battle to say the least with videos being instantly claimed and demonetized for copyright. One of the most popular channels in this sub-genre of YouTube is Nik Nocturnal who persevered through those times and is now a cornerstone of the community all by his own doing. With over 600,000 subscribers, Nik’s channel has become a place where fans can come and become further integrated into a community of all things heavy and alternative whilst discovering new music at the same time.

“It’s interesting because I feel like to watch a good chunk of my content, you’ve already got to be like okay with metal. It’s not like I necessarily venture to a lot of classic rock and a lot of softer stuff like here and there maybe? And then I of course have my funnier videos, but again, it’s always usually me reacting to metal-related things. In terms of maybe a gateway to someone who is already into metal all the way to like getting into heavier stuff like deathcore and whatnot, then yeah, I think maybe that’s where some of my content might help in that capacity.”

“It’s not necessarily something I go out of my way to try to and do but I do have that idea of the best thing I can do is to get as many people into metal as possible, like just have more people listen to metal with but I don’t go out of my way to make all my content have that purpose if that makes sense.”

Watch the full video interview with Nik Nocturnal above:

By giving power to independent content creators like Nik Nocturnal, you’re giving them the chance to sway public opinion which could be seen as a risk if put in the wrong person’s hands. Nik’s ability to engage with his audience and act as the middleman in bringing them new music makes his channel a great place to be for all parties but he does that whilst adding value instead of simply becoming famous off of other people’s hard work. His community that he’s built knows exactly what they’re getting from him, the chance to discover new music and watch entertaining content that’s honest and isn’t plagued with the instant negativity found in comments sections on social media.

“I know a lot of people say I’m always so positive like Nik, it’s impossible, you must hate something, which I do I dislike a decent chunk of things. When I was doing content earlier on, I would do so much content that I would do stuff that I wasn’t excited about or anything and I would just go for it and you’d see some more stuff where it’s like I really don’t like this and that’s because I’m going out of my way to find stuff like that.”

“I’ve done reactions where I was sometimes passionate but then I was just a dick. I just didn’t, it just didn’t feel good. I don’t know, I never felt good about just being like this is shit. And then like literally saying that this is shit without providing value of why I think so.”

When the pandemic began closing down venues and sending tours back home, reaction channels suddenly became a massive opportunity for the music industry. A simple video of someone reacting to some music was a new way to reach people all at once and independent content creators had already built the platforms themselves. Bands like Spiritbox and Lorna Shore became breakout successes during the pandemic and whilst they would’ve been able to stand out on the strength of their music alone, Holy Roller and To The Hellfire reactions became a trend that made its way around creators.

“If I don’t like something, I’ll say it but I’ll add value. I think that’s a big difference too. When I work with labels they are not as scared because they’re like, even if Nik doesn’t like it, he’s not gonna say fuck them and don’t go listen he’s just gonna be like, I don’t like this because of this, this, this and this but I do like these parts and I feel like they could work.”

“In terms of at the start versus now, I mean, even before I was doing reactions, I was doing covers, and no one gave a fuck. No label, no industry, it was the opposite. They thought, oh, they’re taking our song and you know, re-doing it and taking, not monetizing it because it would all get claimed, but you know, just using our bands to get big. It seems like as soon as this reaction thing started and as soon as the pandemic hit, where bands couldn’t tour and labels were like we gotta get the band’s name out there and they’re not on tour and they started to realise that hey some of these reactions get 100,000 plus views on YouTube. Maybe we should slightly care about this stuff because it’s just a new form of media, right?”

“It’s like the marketing team is sitting there going, what’s the date of the song? Okay, we need artwork, we need this, let’s send this email to metal injection, let’s email this to this place, this email, this blog, this email, this blog and then let’s email these reactors. That part is totally new. So we just got added to the marketing formula is basically the biggest change I’ve seen overall.”

Nik is extremely open in saying that he doesn’t believe we would have gotten to this point in the relationship this fast without the pandemic forcing it. With more confidence in what he is bringing to the table came a greater perceived value from the industry around him of his unique position as a self-built content creator. Suddenly the guy who would get copyright warnings on his videos had taken the place of the younger generation’s radio or MTV.

“That was a big changing point, I think for me, which also comes with hopefully not ignorance and arrogance, but with confidence in what I’m doing. Even that mindset of wanting to add instead of take because then it’s like, okay, these guys do think I add value. So that’s made it possible. That’s my goal when I make a video is to add value to the community and to these bands, where it just feeds into this bigger cycle of more people listening to metal, becoming metalheads and you know, expanding good music.”

You can go straight to the Nik Nocturnal YouTube channel on this link with all of his social media handles listed below:

Twitter: @NikNocturnal

Instagram: @nik.nocturnal

Twitch: twitch.tv/niknocturnal

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