- Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, refers to the tingles in your brain and spine some people feel when they hear certain pleasurable sounds.
- Unlike most of YouTube, ASMR-triggering videos are about listening, not watching. There are hours-worth of videos on YouTube where people mix slime, conduct fake eye exams, and scratch on books to induce ASMR.
- Since the early 2010s, YouTubers have been making wildly-popular channels producing ASMR videos that are anywhere from one minute to five hours long.
- Some YouTubers have been able to make full-time jobs out of ASMR.
This search recently edged out “cake” in popularity on YouTube: “autonomous sensory meridian response.”
ASMR, as it’s called, refers to “head tingles” that result from hearing interesting sounds – sort of like someone is tickling you inside your head.
What causes those tingles differs for everyone. It could be as subtle as a hair cut, whispers, and magazine page flips (a video that garnered nearly four million views in a month), or as intense as someone eating juicy pickles (10.8 million views).
Though it might sound odd, businesses are profiting off of it, reported Business Insider's Zoë Bernard in 2017. IKEA USA produced an ASMR video in 2017 featuring a hand patting sheets and scratching shelving units. W Magazine has produced an entire series of celebrities and ASMR triggers.
And it pays the bills for some YouTubers. It's estimated that GentleWhispering, YouTube's top ASMR channel, makes at least $130,000 a year.
Other full-time ASMR YouTubers don't report the same cash influx. Three YouTubers told Business Insider that they make around $2,000 per month through YouTube, Patreon, and other revenue streams outside of their main channels.
And, thanks to pricey audio equipment, the startup costs are higher than the usual YouTube venture. Plus, you'll have to experience the "head tingles" that come from listening to sounds like nails tapping in order to know what sort of videos to make.
To learn what it's really like to make a living off of ASMR, Business Insider asked five full-time ASMR YouTubers to share where they find inspiration for new sounds, the inner workings of their craft, and what the biggest mistakes are for beginners in the ASMR field.
Your daily life can provide video ideas
Massimo Tarantelli, who owns ASMR Barber and told Business Insider he generates $2,000 a month from it, noticed that barbershop visits provided a cornucopia of ASMR triggers - a brush painting foam on one's face, the buzz of a razor, the clean sweeping sound of scissors.
Tarantelli didn't know this was ASMR until he discovered the YouTube world of brain tingles. In 2013 he decided to start recording his visits to the barbershop, and later to masseuses as well.
Tony Bomboni ASMR said he has a notebook where he writes inspirations from his daily life, to later become ASMR videos. A day at the beach, for instance, could later become a video where he applies sunscreen lotion and bronzing spray.
You might also need to research for good video ideas
Olivia Kissper, who joined YouTube in 2013, said it usually takes her around 30 hours to make a single ASMR video, because of the time it takes to research and write the script.
She said she looks at what people are searching on ASMR YouTube for video ideas; this shows her what people are most interested in.
"For me, it's all about ideas and coming up with something useful," Kissper told Business Insider.
Those videos require the most research and preparation, often up to a few months.
You'll need as many as six microphones to achieve the ASMR sound
Emma Smith ofWhispersRedASMR said she started off with a simple camcorder for both sound and video, but then added a Zoom H4N, which cost around $200, to record sound separately. This is a microphone that is commonly used in music, film, and podcasting.
Now, Smith records in stereo, which means she uses two or more microphones at a time. She might use a microphone on her lapel as well as several others "dotted around the room," she said.
She also uses lighting and a Panasonic GF6, a 16-megapixel camera that retails for $330 and up.
Tony also uses a Zoom H4N microphone, as well as a Blue Microphones Spark microphone ($200) and is an "enthusiast" of the 3Dio brand ($500 to $2,000). 3Dio microphones are binaural, meaning it attempts to capture sounds exactly the way humans perceive them.
The prices may be intimidating, but Smith said beginners needn't shell out their savings. "Just use whatever equipment you can afford," Smith told Business Insider.
Emma Smith, or WhispersRed, said if you're especially interested in presentation or graphic design, that can also be incorporated into your videos - sound and visuals work in harmony.
Start off posting slowly, and ramp up as you begin to monetize
Bamboni said he tells newbies to the ASMR seen to start off slowly. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed, burned out, or realize you might not be interested in YouTube after all.
"Don't post everyday," Tony said. "Start off once a week or once a month and see where it takes you."
Smith said she makes one video per week.
You'll need to develop revenue streams outside of YouTube
Few YouTubers can rely on their channel alone for money.
Kissper told Business Insider that she makes most of her money through Patreon, a website that allows users to build a subscription service for their content.
That provides a steady income of more than $1,000 per month, plus around $1,000 from YouTube. Though YouTube provides a platform for her ASMR videos, it's not the most dependable source of income as it relies heavily on ads and viewership.
"There's no steadiness," Kissper said. "Sometimes my views go up and sometimes they go down."
Unlike many YouTube channels, most ASMR YouTubers don't promote many products, so their YouTube revenue must come straight from ads. Corrina Rachel, who operates the YouTube wellness and ASMR channel PsycheTruth, said her YouTube income has been slashed to a quarter of what it once was after YouTube restructured its advertising model.
Kissper said she just promotes one to two products - one of which is an online counseling service. "A lot of people who watch my videos express some sort of anxiety or depression or stress so I thought it would be good to provide that to them."
Bomboni told Business Insider that aspiring ASMR YouTubers need to be themselves in order to enjoy the community and gain a following.
"Try not to focus too much on what other ASMR artists are doing, and try not to copy other personalities," Tony said. "Be authentic to yourself and genuine."
Smith had similar advice. "It's just really important to not put too much pressure on yourself to be a success at it, because then you end up being someone else."