Kurt Hugo Schneider is a new kind of celebrity: a digital media star. The 26-year-old from Blue Bell is more viral than the measles.

Collaborating with a variety of singers, he produces strikingly original and energetic music videos - like his 2009 hall-of-mirrors Michael Jackson medley with Sam Tsui, also of Blue Bell (youtu.be/R12QVtuB0_Q), and a number of elaborately choreographed sequences shot in a single take, such as his "Epic Patty-Cake Song ('I'll Think of You')" (bit.ly/1zkuNbb). The clips have generated 965 million views on YouTube, making Schneider a financial and artistic success.

He has a channel on the streaming service with 4.6 million subscribers, a level of popularity reserved for pop stars like Adele, Maroon 5, and Selena Gomez. Schneider has produced videos for performers including Phillip Phillips, Jason Mraz, Hunter Hayes, John Legend, and for brands including Coca-Cola, Samsung, Buick, Sprint, and Nintendo.

Q: What job title should we put on your resumé?

A: I usually call myself a producer and filmmaker. Whatever someone else takes away and wants to call me, that's probably fine, too. I'm mainly a musician and a producer. I like making sounds, and I like filming stuff and making it look cool. I enjoy singing, but in the 150 videos I've made, there's only a handful in which I'm the star.

The singer on some of your most popular videos is Sam Tsui. How did you guys meet?

On the good old 21 bus, driven by a grumpy guy named Gunther. I was the first to board on the way to middle school in Ambler, and this other kid would get on at the next stop, a kid I would later know as Sam. We were in Camerata together, a 32-member a cappella choir at the Wissahickon High School, and in some school musicals like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Urinetown. We even recorded some terrible songs when I was a freshman at Yale and Sam was a senior at Wissahickon. I have those songs on an old hard drive somewhere. I guarantee the world will never hear them.

How'd you get into Yale?

I was class valedictorian. But honestly, what really helped me is that I was a chess master as a kid. I learned to play at 8. It was something that came naturally and that I was good at. I spent a lot of my childhood going around competing in chess tournaments. I became a master at 15. I haven't competed since I was that age.

What sets you apart from more casual chess players?

I can play a few games simultaneously in my head. Blindfolded. Any master can. From the time I was a kid, that always interested me: watching people play entire games without ever seeing the board. It seemed like a magic trick.

What was the first video you posted to YouTube?

It was called "Watch YTV." That was the closed-circuit channel in the Yale dorms. I wrote the hook for the song and filmed the video, which is basically a cute girl and this guy singing about all the things there are to do on campus but all they want to do is go back to the dorm and watch YTV.

When did your YouTube presence begin to really catch fire?

The first really viral video was the Michael Jackson medley. I had a friend in an a cappella group at Duke. She asked me to arrange a Michael Jackson medley for her group. I did and wrote it out for all the different voices: bass, tenor, alto, and soprano. Then I thought it was too good to just arrange. I also wanted to film it myself. So I got Sam to sing all the parts, and I served as the beatbox in the video. In a month it had 100,000 views. Then it landed on the homepage of Yahoo, and Fox News showed it, and it blew up literally overnight. The next day it had a half-million. Now it has 30 million. That's when things really started to snowball.

What kind of momentum have you acquired?

Well, I didn't upload a video today. And I didn't put one up yesterday. And I'll still get 800,000 views today.

Is this an international phenomenon?

Less than 20 percent of my views come from the United States. We're really strong in Asia. Relative to its population, Taiwan is our biggest country per capita and third-biggest in total views. Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong are among our biggest markets.

Kurt Hugo Schneider is pretty long and formal. Why do you use the whole name?

I created a YouTube account simply so I could post that first "Watch YTV" video. There was already a Kurt Schneider and a Kurt Hugo. So I made it Kurt Hugo Schneider because that was the only one available. I'd never used my middle name for anything before. But I never thought I'd have a channel.


1. "The most important thing is not to give up, because the chance you will post one video and it will go viral is extremely low. It wasn't until the Michael Jackson video that we went viral, and we had already made 20 videos by then."

2. "Get to the meat. People tend to ramble around and make prologues. If you're playing a song, start with the song. The video shouldn't be any longer than it has to be."

3. "You have to do what you love. If you're not, chances are you won't stick with it long enough to break through. For me, it's music. You have to find whatever it is for you. It may be vlogging, or gaming, or fashion."EndText