VICE’s Alex Hoffman on how to run an online music channel

VICE’s Alex Hoffman on how to run an online music channel

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 09/11/12

Alex Hoffman produces interviews, docs and funny music-related content for Noisey, VICE’s official (and typically irreverent and edgy) YouTube music channel… 

People always think you have to have a presenter doing presenter-y things but we’re more into the characters from the music world. One of the first things we did was about record stores. Straight away someone suggested we do something with the guy from Rough Trade – he’s this legendary guy called Sean [Forbes], who’s also in a punk band. He was so much funnier and had better stories than any presenter. 

There seems to be a bigger appetite among people who like rap and hip-hop than guitar music, but there’s also just a big appetite for funny stuff. Like a feature we do called You Review where we sometimes get kids to review music – they’re cute and that works well. We’ve got a new show called Who Actually Listens to… It’s really simple – we don’t have to spend money trying to license music, we just go out and talk to people and people are quite funny. 

Try to make stuff that’s good, rather than desperately trying to get views. Recently, when Robbie Williams hadn’t been playlisted for Radio 1, the NME ran a headline that was something like “Robbie Williams banned from Radio 1”. He hadn’t been banned – that’s just sensationalising. People will quickly see it’s a swizz and not bother clicking on it next time. Make stuff sound appealing but don’t go overboard.  

Keeping it relatively simple is best. At the beginning we talked about having all the content in one show but we realised quickly that people don’t really watch stuff in that way online. We still consider what we do as shows, and if you like one in a series you might watch the other, but having something longer where you have one thing and then you have another thing doesn’t work so well on YouTube. People are on there for less time so they want to get into something quickly. 

Don’t copy anyone else and don’t assume you have to do certain things. The standard music doc has become formulaic. The major labels would have this idea of what was a good thing to put a band in and it ended up just being an advert for the band. Often it’s devoid of character. We did this thing where we got two rappers, A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown, talking to each other. It was literally as simple as that and it’s one of the biggest things we’ve done this year. People just aren’t used to seeing artists chatting like normal people. 

When I meet people I used to work with in TV, half of them will say, “VICE – wow cool, I love those documentaries” and the other half will go, “What’s that? What channel’s it on? Oh, online? Good luck with that...” They view it as a step down but it doesn’t bother me. It’s good to have the freedom to make daring, challenging stuff that so many people will see. 


VICE UK celebrates its 10th birthday at the end of this month. Check out their website to find out how you can join in the celebrations. 

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