In the world of YouTube, Michael Anderson – ‘lapsed’ Adelaide media-arts student – is what is known as a “sensation”.
He’s got more than one million subscribers to his channel – Unlisted Leaf – and north of 10 million views of his videos per month.
With the global entertainment giant Disney backing his channel, Anderson is making seriously good money – enough to have teams of assistants in three countries, and to spend his weekends looking for a house to buy.
He’s recognised by fans on the street all the time, but to those of us who aren’t young children fascinated by the Pokemon craze, he’s completely unknown.
He sleeps in the walk-in wardrobe of his bedroom in his Adelaide home, where he lives with his parents and younger brother. The bedroom proper has been converted into a “studio” where he films his videos.
The secret to his YouTube success, he tells The Message Pod podcast, is that he’s caught the “niche within the niche”.
“That’s when things go crazy” he says.
He had been dabbling in YouTube, producing his own comedy videos, when a friend told him that the old Pokemon card craze, which started in the 1990s, had made a comeback.
Anderson looked around for content on YouTube – and he found it all to be boring.
So harnessing his fast-talking brand of banter, he splurged on a Pokemon “booster box” of cards for $150 – a price out of the range of most kids, and a stretch for him at the time.
He unboxed the cards on camera, going crazy with excitement – and the thing went bonkers. The video was shared 20,000 times, garnering half a million views.
He uploaded more and more, and his audience built to the point that he started making money per view, from ad clicks, and, eventually, from endorsements.
“Now it’s like a job – that’s nuts,” he said.
“I’ve got an accountant, I’ve got a team in Sydney, I’ve got a team in Los Angeles, team in London, doing my stuff, getting my deals.”
Listen to Michael Anderson talk to The Message Pod’s Nicole Haack about the secrets of his YouTube success, and his extraordinary working life.
After two years of a media-arts degree – which was already starting to feel irrelevant to him and even to some of his teachers – he dropped out this year to focus full-time on Unlisted Leaf.
He won’t say how much money he earns, but he does reveal it’s a substantial income.
“Tax is a nightmare – let’s just say that…
“My income is enough for other people to live off.”
Nevertheless, despite his success, his mum wasn’t convinced that leaving his studies was a great idea.
“Mum still wants to me to go uni,” he said.
“Nothing grounds me more than my parents,” he adds.
Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t feel like a real job to Anderson – despite the fact that it undoubtedly pays the bills and more.
“I feel like every day’s a day off still, and I’m just doing… whatever.
“Who would have thought you’d get paid to open Pokemon cards, talk to a camera in your bedroom? The weirdest thing of all time.”
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