This Pokémon YouTube channel was not an overnight success
Coy Palfreyman, better known as HoopsandHipHop on YouTube, is something of an oxymoron in today’s culture: a long-term content creator.
This September, he’ll hit his 10-year anniversary on the platform. In that last decade, he’s posted almost exclusively Pokémon-related content––rankings, theories, facts, and trivia videos are the majority of his 1,000+ uploads to the site. Turns out, that’s what the internet wanted: he’s garnered more than 83 million views and nearly 260,000 subscribers for the effort.
While things are going pretty smoothly for Palfreyman today––he’s since bought a home with money from his channel––he says it didn’t start out that way. In fact, he didn’t even have access to YouTube at home, or the internet in general, until his senior year of high school. “That was the point that I finally had the chance to watch what I wanted,” he says.
With this new freedom, he dove deep into the world of career YouTubers. “It was so cool,” he says. “And when I learned posting videos could be a career, that there might be people out there who would subscribe and follow along with my content? I knew from that point what I wanted to do for work.”
He started his channel that same year, but with a much different focus: music. He’d learned how to edit, mix, and record in his high school’s TV broadcasting class, and decided that music production would be his future on the platform. “I started remixing video game music,” he says. “I was interested in the video game content space, but music was where I wanted to be long-term, so remixes were at the center of that Venn-diagram––that’s where the ‘HipHop’ part of my channel name comes from.”
For nearly four years, that’s all his channel was. “It was really slow going,” he says. “I wasn’t attracting a lot of attention.”
Then he started making commentary videos––a genre of YouTube where creators talk directly to the camera and narrate over a specific topic, like Pokémon––on a whim. “I thought I’d make a handful of those videos just to bring people over,” he says. “And once they were on the channel, they’d like the music and stay for the music.”
"YouTube was and is my main source of income."
His remixes were averaging around 2,000 views. One of his first commentary uploads, “The Best Pokémon Rumors That Weren’t True,” hit 100,000 in less than half the time. While the sudden growth was exciting for Palfreyman, it was also a little disheartening.
“I’d been at it for years,” he says. “It felt like I was running myself into a brick wall, just over and over. I’d put so much time and effort into all of this and nothing was panning out––that kind of cycle can make you hate yourself.”
But Palfreyman read the writing on the wall: if he wanted a substantial online presence, he had to start pivoting. He took the boosted visibility and ran with it, filming collaborations with other content creators in video game spaces, scripting more videos and putting music on the backburner.
A year later, he’d doubled his subscriber account and started making money. Even though he dreamt of a career on YouTube, and was finally making headway, he didn’t feel ready to actually “become a YouTuber.”
“There was never a moment where I was like ‘Okay, now I can do this,’” he says. “I don’t think I ever would have gone full-time if my friend didn’t kind of push me into it.”
Palfreyman quit his retail job and sat his parents down. “It was really a ‘Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you’ situation,” he laughs. “And once I did that, things started getting much more serious.”
While his day-to-day has since mellowed out, the scariest part for new creators, Palfreyman says, is the paychecks.
“YouTube was and is my main source of income,” he says. “Even though the support is substantial, they only pay once a month, it’s not an ‘every two weeks’ thing like a standard job. When I was first getting the hang of being a creator, I’d just be holding my breath for those last few days––I counted down the days to the 22nd, stretching everything I could to make it to payday.”
“Not many people in my YouTube community can work with music like I can. I never wanted to abandon it, and now that I have this larger audience, I’m thinking the timing is finally right for this one-two punch of content.”
But while it can feel like YouTube has his life on a string, Palfreyman says he’s more in control of his income than most think.
“Ad revenue is the primary way I get paid through YouTube,” he says. “I pick which videos of mine are monetized––I literally click a button that says ‘yes, I want ads on this upload.’ On longer videos, I choose where ad rolls go.”
The more views a video gets, the more views the ad gets, the more money Palfreyman and other creators makes. Though it’s tempting to stack up on the ads and watch his bank account fill up, he says he approaches monetization the way he’d want his favorite creators to: “What I would think is fair, that’s what I do,” he says. “People who watch YouTube consistently are understanding and supportive of me or any of us putting ads on the videos. If we didn’t do that, you know, we couldn’t keep posting as often as we do.”
And post often he does––Palfreyman’s schedule has his audience expecting three 10 to 15-minute videos a week.
For the most part, he’s a one-man band, researching, scripting, and filming his videos all on his own from home. “This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” he emphasizes. “It’s not easy work, it’s not a casual thing. It takes a lot of effort every day to keep what I’ve started afloat.”
In the beginning, he committed to wearing every hat possible in his business. “I’m the manager that has to keep everything well-oiled and going,” he says. “But I’m also the creative director and the producer and the writer and face of the channel. I liked being able to say that I hit these milestones by myself, with no help whatsoever. I wanted to protect my brand.”
But when he smashed through the 100,000-subscribers mark, he set for himself a year after going full-time, something had to give. As his numbers got closer to the 200,000-subscriber territory, he started to hire part-time editors and contracted artists.
“I have four editors that I send work to part-time, depending on the type and length of the video,” he says. “And the same goes for artists when I need custom designs done. I’m selective about who I work with, and it’s worked out––I think we’re still consistent even with more people in the mix.”
It’s not just people he’s added to the HoopsandHipHop brand. Palfreyman’s working on growing his presence on Spotify, too. He’s running an account on that platform under the same name. Multiple songs on his account now have over a million streams.
“Not many people in my YouTube community can work with music like I can,” he says. “I never wanted to abandon it, and now that I have this larger audience, I’m thinking the timing is finally right for this one-two punch of content.”
Despite the difficulty of his first few years online, Palfreyman says sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end. “All of the changes and frustration when it came to my content,” he says, “that was all just growing pains. I think I needed those experiences to get where I am now––it’s made my skills better, my content smoother. I’m improving with every video. I’m financially secure and I’m doing what I love every day. None of this would have happened if I was too scared to try.”