People bring their offline passions online with YouTube

Gina Shalavi, Jessica Love / June 2020

Since March, we’ve been exploring how people around the world look to online video to adjust to life during a global pandemic. From finding new ways to connect with people while social distancing to learning new skills, we’ve seen people gravitate to YouTube to cope with and adapt to life at home.

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And now, with the world a few more months into the COVID-19 crisis, we continue to see new behaviours emerge that go beyond simply addressing daily essentials. With more than 65% of viewers saying that YouTube content feels like real life,1 it’s no surprise that people are using the platform to access and explore the things they’re passionate about while forced to stay at home. Here are four specific ways we’re seeing people turn to YouTube to experience things they love during this time.

Indulging in the arts

As this year’s slate of gigs and music festivals have been postponed or cancelled to curb the spread of coronavirus, online video and live streams have quickly emerged as a digital replacement.

In Australia, music is trending as some of the most watched content on YouTube.2 Since the outbreak, there has been a significant lift in Aussies turning to the platform for film and entertainment.3

Traditional music video releases have also been transformed: Tash Sultana’s Pretty Lady featured fans dancing to the new tune at home during the pandemic, while special unplugged performances from the likes of Australian artists Tones and I and much-loved Kiwi band Fat Freddy’s Drop have seen hundreds of thousands of views.

While live shows will always have a place, online video has allowed music lovers to connect with their favourite artists during lock-down in a whole new way.

Communal concerts and experiences

In mid-April, hundreds of thousands of live viewers around the globe tuned in to #OneWorldTogetherAtHome, a star-studded concert series produced by social movement Global Citizen and the World Health Organisation.

Other organisations have taken to offering free live broadcasts on a regular basis, too. The Sydney Opera House, for instance, streams talks and performances several days a week, and The Australian Ballet has evolved its magical theatre shows into full-length screenings and at-home ballet tutorials.

And it isn’t just prominent institutions making live music and performing arts available virtually. Since March 15, more than 1,500 videos with “virtual choir” in the title have been uploaded to YouTube, earning over 9 million views.4 Take Australia’s Pub Choir, which truly went virtual last month. Over 1,000 people from 18 countries submitted a video of their performance of “Close To You” by The Carpenters for a collective rendition that has had more than 725,000 views.

Green therapy

Gardening has long held a reputation as a balm for stress, anxiety, and depression.

As the pace of life has slowed and we’ve seen a rise in creative pursuits at home, Aussies and Kiwis are spending more time in their backyards.

Seed suppliers and plant nurseries across both countries have been overwhelmed since the pandemic hit and on YouTube, people tuning into gardening videos have reached an all-time high, with average daily views up 120% in Australia since March 15.5

Channels like Great Home Ideas and Self Sufficient Me have gained over 700,000 subscribers each with more signing up by the day, and when it comes to learning how to grow your own vegetables, it’s hard to find a better example of upskilling via YouTube than West Australian couple Cree Monaghan and Tim Hall.

Following a move from the city to a blank canvas of 100 acres in the Margaret River Region in 2014 with their three children, the duo learned how to build a sustainable 1,600 m2 orchard with over 40 fruit and nut trees and a 1,600 m2 kitchen garden via streaming online videos.

Travelling near and far

The opportunity to take a trip — to an exotic, international location or simply to a neighbourhood coffee shop — has all but vanished during this pandemic. As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in viewers turning to YouTube for a temporary alternative to venturing out.

Many are gravitating toward branded content to cure their wanderlust. Airbnb’s new virtual series, Online Experiences, features one-of-a-kind travel videos by Airbnb hosts across the globe who share their own passions with viewers through classes. Online Experiences will include courses on meditation, cooking, magic tricks, coffee making, and even workouts led by professional athletes. TripAdvisor's tour and travel experiences brand Viator also recently launched #RoamFromHome, creating over 100 virtual walking tours, cooking classes, and other experiences to help keep viewers exploring new places while under lockdown.

For those craving the things we loved to do more every day — such as hitting up your local Thai restaurant for Friday night takeaway — cooking tutorials and YouTube videos from creators like Marion’s Kitchen are providing a fix. So far this year, people are watching videos related to recipes and cooking at a rate over 45% higher than the same period last year.6

As we’ve adapted the way we live and do the things we love, online video has emerged as a resource for keeping passions alive. Whether it’s connecting with leading artists or enjoying a virtual choir performance, learning how to build a chicken coop or participating in an Asian street food cooking class, video is helping a world under lockdown feel a little less restricted.

Trending on YouTube: How people are using the platform to learn at home