I became interested in Adam LZ after seeing his most recent edit. Although not his first time on TCU, this new edit was pretty unbelievable for a 17 year old… or anyone at all, for that matter. In the post, Sauce referred to him as an “internet phenomenon” which intrigued me since Adam he wasn’t yet on my radar. After some light Googling, I found a series of how to videos with 6 figure view counts on YouTube. Next, I looked up his Facebook and added him, or I tried to. He had already maxed out his friend requests. Of course he had; he’s an internet phenomenon.
I messaged him, intent on making sense of the unbelievable following he seemed to have acquired. As soon as we got to talking I was overwhelmed. Adam sent his responses in a flurry, often combining 3 or 4 questions into single messages, intermixed with his various Youtube videos and explanations of their significance. As a result, I’m running this interview heavily edited (trust me, I’m doing you a favor).
Adam is an ADD case if I’ve ever seen one, but there’s no denying that he’s carving out his own lane even though the BMX industry has yet to take notice. He has the sort of obsessive personality that lends itself to a time intensive activity like BMX. And interesting enough, his very existence may signify the birth of a new breed of pro rider; the YouTube pro.
Can you explain how one goes about becoming a “YouTube sensation”. I’m interested in how you’ve gathered a following online .
Me and my friends just made videos for fun ever since we started riding. People digged watching us push each other and progress because they could kinda relate, rather than watching someone like Van Homan drop crazy bangers every clip. I grew up with Billy Perry as my “YouTube sensation” so I guess kids kinda looked up to me like I looked up to him. Someone your age doing things and having fun.
The how to videos helped a lot. I did a bunch of them for money but YouTube disabled me in the third month. I’m kinda bummed because some how to’s have over 300k hits, like how to bunny hop bar and hop 180 which could have made bank .
But how did you start getting your stuff out there, just Youtube? I see you’ve got a lot of Twitter followers and too many Facebook requests , when I tried to add you it was maxed out.
Youtube is where it all started, then mad kids just added me on Facebook.
Adam’s “how to 180″ video that has almost 500,000 views.
How the fuck did you get 300,000 views on a how to? Our official how to’s that feature well known pros tend to get less than 10,000 views, so that’s pretty crazy.
I think one thing with how to’s is I always make them right after I learn the trick, or as close as I can, so it’s fresh in my mind. And people actually learn how to do the trick, it’s not just like something you watch. The number of kids that have come up to me and told me they learned how to bar or whip from my videos makes me honored, it’s crazy. I should really make more but my good friend got into a bad accident who I used to film with all the time.
I feel like kids online really just want to see shit that they relate to and that they kind of lose that when they’re watching 25 year old grown men who look like adults. That’s kind of how I can explain Kriss Kyle and Alex D getting 300,000 views on a skatepark edit as well.
Yeah like Sean Ricany blew up when he was young .
Yeah I think kids just like watching riders that look like them . Where are you from?
This farmer town in CT . If you are familiar with Waterbury only 20 min away. Ever been there?
I’ve been to CT a few times to ride. How old are you?
17 . I can’t believe I’m talking to you right now.
Adam’s new edit that first got me interested in him.
Fuck off. Who are your favorite riders ?
Probably Chad Kerley, Stevie Churchill, Dan Foley, Van Homan, Brad Simms, Matt Clark. I know Stevie pretty well and Chad knows me by name. Jeremiah Smith is a pretty cool dude too .
The fact that you’re getting all these YouTube views is really interesting to me because usually you see companies pushing riders into the spotlight, but you’re gaining this big following (way more Youtube views and Twitter followers than a lot of pros) and you don’t even have anyone pushing you, you are making a name for yourself just by being relatable. Or at least that’s how I’m seeing it.
I guess so. I mean I’ll hop on my computer and send TCU some links to videos but I think the following started from people who found my videos due to generic tagging “street bmx” “street bmx edit” etc. I’d tag other popular YouTube riders such as Billy Perry and Marcus Pewitt and my views began to climb. I focused on only making quality videos that showcased some form of progression which I think the viewers like. After that I started making a few generic how to’s such as my “how to bunny hop barspin bmx” (which is the most commonly searched phrase in the search bar of course) and they really helped me blow up. Then after that I think it was mostly friends telling friends and stuff that spread it around. In a nutshell, people like watching others progress and know that it is possible for themselves. Every video I put out there is something new as a surprise and as a hook to get people to subscribe for more.
Oh and making bike checks and tagging Aaron Ross also helped a TON. I always had really cool looking set ups that people liked and wanted to copy, it’s safe to say I got a lot of people through those too. I spent a lot of time figuring out the keywords to title the videos by, like what people search the most .
That’s the way to do it, a lot of people don’t even tag their own names properly, so it’s hard even for me to find old edits on Youtube or Vimeo. You mentioned Billy Perry who has been starting to get more and more coverage lately. He had a big Youtube following before you did? How’d you find out about him?
Yeah I’m guessing his generic tags helped, as he had titles like “street bmx” too. He never really got into how to’s that much. I actually think I found out about him by searching Youtube for videos from the Haven skatepark and seeing his stuff. I think the fact that he would make videos when he traveled probably spread his name out there and blew him up on the east coast. I remember in 8th grade going into class and hearing all the cool kids talking about Billy Perry’s new edit and wondering who the fuck he was.
(Photo: Phil Miklovich)
Do you mostly ride the skatepark or street?
All depends on where my friends ride, I grew up riding Haven skatepark which is where I progressed the most, but they shut down . Like a year ago they built a skatepark a couple towns over which is where I hang on the weekdays. Weekends lately I’ve been traveling to different towns in CT with my friend Phil to film for the edit I just dropped.
How do you and your friends and the dudes you kick it with at the skatepark get your information about BMX? is it 100% internet or do you guys buy DVDs and magazines too?
Well I’m really the only biker at the skatepark usually but my friends almost solely go on the Internet, about 1/4 Vital, 3/4 Come Up. We get Ride but I never have the time to read it, I don’t know about my friends .
What advice do you have for me on how to get stupid kids to stop checking Vital over TCU?
Honestly I check Vital sometimes just because I think it’s more consolidated to bigger edits. So maybe if you made a tab for street/park/dirt? Because when I think park edits, I think Vital .
Yeah we post way more than them, I feel like it’s kind of easier for young kids to comprehend Vital sometimes because there’s so much less content, even though half of their posts are just straight up advertisements. We post stuff like print ads and magazine covers too and I think a lot of kids see that and they’re like “what the fuck is a magazine?” and that might turn them off really young kids to what we’re doing even though I think the older crowd appreciates it.
Yeah but definitely if you could tab it into certain sections it may help .
(Photo: Phil Miklovich)
Have you managed to travel to ride much? I know it’s tough at 17.
So much, and I’m so thankful for it . I’ve been to Florida a few times , my sister lives down there and I always bring my bike . I rode Orlando and Barachel once or twice. This Summer my friend I met at camp actually invited me over to his house in Belgium and I spent all the money I was saving for my car on a trip. That was so crazy, people knew me from Youtube over there which was like the most ridiculous thing ever.
Belgium, that’s awesome . You’re making me feel out of touch because I didn’t know about you by name til that new edit . Do you spend a ton of time watching videos ?
I wish I could spend more. I used to spend a lot but now I spend so much time on school work that it’s ridiculous , although sometimes I get into those ruts where I’ll say “oh I’ll just watch one video” and I won’t close the computer for an hour. I have a 113 GPA, not to brag.
You mentioned camp. What influence has Woodward had on you?
I have been going to Woodward for 4 summers now, on average about two weeks per Summer. I can’t even explain how much that camp has influenced my life. The first Summer I went, I was learning flyout tuck no handers, last Summer I was doing 720 barspins. That should speak for itself. I have learned so much, not because of any sort of extraordinary coaching or “lessons”, just because it’s literally a week straight of riding. You get up, ride your bike, go to sleep, and ride again. Just riding your bike that much it is almost impossible not to learn new things. Meeting people from all over the country, actually all over the world, is also amazing. You get to pick up on other peoples styles and tricks and learn new things as you make new friends. It’s cool to know that you know a rider in almost every state in the US. I’ve met some pros there of course too, but for the most part I’d rather hang out and drink smoothies with brakeless kids from New Jersey than watch pros ride the foam pit.
I actually met my friend Stijn from Belgium there, who let me come over his house for a week! Craziest experience of my life. The counselors are always cool dudes too, a few of my favortites include Malcolm Forbes, Zach Zueschel and James Harvey. They all kill it on bikes and are cool dudes too. Filming at Woodward has become customary for me too, with an “Adam LZ @ Woodward part 1, 2, and 3 that all show a bunch of progression. It’s cool too, seeing how my style changes every year, going from winning a high jump contest to winning bunny hop contests to somehow placing top 3 in mini-vert. Jamie Bestwick didn’t like a hop truck on the flat to finish my run but the judges did “Thats nawt verrrrt”). I can’t wait to go back this Summer as an employee and hopefully get to be an instructor and help kids learn new tricks in person!
This video has a shit load of views. it kinda makes me look bad but I thought it was funny at the time. I used to love Aaron Ross. This video has so many hits and so much hate:
HAHAHHAH dude I can’t believe you called Aaron Ross out by name on Youtube and got 6 figure views . You could have just emailed Odyssey and they’d have hooked it up I’m sure.
I wonder if Aaron Ross ever saw that. The dudes over at Odyssey are so good with warranty, never heard a word about it. I was told by so many people to take it down because it makes me look bad but whatever it was a joke and I think it’s funny .
You look like you’re going to cry at one point.
I have a problem with breaking parts, or did have one… knock on wood. Oh, wearing a helmet is really big to me if you haven’t noticed .
Yeah, is that something you want to talk about?
Honestly I grew up riding Haven like I said, where it was required. So I guess I was used to it and I never really cared what other people thought. At the time my friends all wore helmets too. It got to a point where a lot of people were busting my ass but for me it’s a matter of personal integrity. Like I’m not going to take it off just because it’s cool. I’d rather live longer than look cool. It gives me way more confidence too and sets a good example for all the Youtube kids. I also wear shin guards, knee pads and ankle guards under my jeans, a lot of people hate but whatever I can fuck up and still ride which is all I care about .
Another reason is that my dad works with the disabled. A lot of people with spinal cord injuries and stuff. But he teaches them how to waterski and I guess I look up to him so much and he wants me to wear one so I do . My dad was a world champion waterskier so I’m trying to somehow follow his steps with my passion for BMX.
(Photo: Phil Miklovich)
I feel like wearing a helmet is pretty normal now. When I was a kid you were seen as a freak for wearing one on street. But now so many pros wear them that I feel like there’s no more stigma. I don’t wear one but I like seeing kids wear them.
That kinker in my new edit, I bailed a few times straight to the bottom to my knees . No pads and I would have been fucked . I’ve gotten a shit load of concussions WITH a helmet. So without one, I’d be screwed .
Oh by the way I used to make bank off Youtube…. I was making $1500 a month at one point and giving 10% to my homie cody .
$1500 in a month? That’s insane. What happened ?
Well I was asking people to click ads. That’s apparently bad . I’m not too mad though, I made enough money to pay off almost half of my car before I got disabled . I tried opening some new accounts and they got banned too.
Yeah that’s definitely not allowed, they’ll ban your account for that. So your secret was using really generic SEO friendly titles?
Search engine optimization.
Oh, yeah. I don’t bother with it anymore. I’m at the point where people still discover me through my old how to’s and videos and I don’t have to do anything weird.
You could make good money without encouraging people to click. But you’d have to have the account opened in someone else’s name. Have your dad sign up and use his work address and they won’t know it’s you .
I don’t even care any more. I found that when I made money I was too worried about money and not enough about fun too. I enjoy riding way more when I’m just having fun with my friends .
You may find this funny. I tried doing this other type of video to make money… it’s a flower advertisement….
That was so lame. Did you make any money off it?
Just goes to show how desperate I was for money. I think I made about $180 on that. It pays on an affiliate basis so I didn’t have to worry about spam clicks or anything, just mass posting so I could get a lot of views. It put gas money in my tank which is all that mattered at the time. I knew some people would hate on it calling me a “sell out”, but I didnt really care. I would do more and balance them out with a bunch of riding videos but it’s really hard to stretch something like mother’s day flowers and relate it to biking. If I’m going to make a video, regardless of if it’s for money or for fun, I’m going to make it so people enjoy watching it and want to tell their friends about it.
Do you think that there is potential for a different type of pro now, a kid like you who is really well known online and has a big following, but who isn’t really sponsored or supported by the BMX industry? Your YouTube experience shows that there are ways to make actual cash without being sponsored, entering contests or doing shows. That has never really existed before.
I don’t know if I would call myself a pro , but it’s definitely a lot different than the dudes who are big and associated with companies . I’d just say I’m one of those dudes that people my age associate with riding bikes and having a good time and recording it.
On YouTube it’s like $2000 per million views if you have your channel monetized, right? Do you think you could average a million views a month? I can understand maybe you wouldn’t want to, but that’s pretty crazy that you could live relatively comfortably just by making videos of you riding and putting them online.
I don’t know about that $2000 per million number, from what I understood it was more based on your click ratio and you could make anywhere between $3000-4000 for a million views. My best month I had about 100k views and made around 1600, my clicks were high. It was really nice when it lasted and I kinda regret dumping all the money into a BMW, I could really use it now. I would never want to turn BMX into a job because then it would lose it’s appeal. There’s too much to worry about with YouTube too, with not being able to use music and all those stupid rules. If I’m making a video I want to make it by my own rules. I’d rather have my own integrity than sell out to making videos for money. With money I always end up focusing less on riding videos and more on how to’s and bike checks because my edits need music. I think people would much rather watch a good edit anyway, for now I’m just going to keep making edits. Maybe if I get on a company one day I’ll make how to’s again for their benefit, I have 20k subscribers on a how to channel I don’t upload to anymore (laughter).
What are your thoughts on Youtube vs Vimeo?
So Vimeo is obviously a better player and I much rather watch an embedded video via Vimeo than YouTube, but in terms of website design YouTube is so much further ahead of the game. Being linked to Google, almost everyone has an account and there is way more viewer interaction with things like the top comments. The subscription module and channel design on YouTube is far better as well. The related videos feature on YouTube can hook you into watching videos for hours whereas if you are on Vimeo it’s either because your video is on Vimeo, or on a rare occasion you are looking for someone else’s video. I think the only time I have searched for a video on Vimeo was to see Kevin Kiraly’s Verde web video. But most of the good videos wind up ripped off Vimeo onto YouTube eventually too. If YouTube blocks your song though I can see going to Vimeo, especially if you spent a while editing to that specific song.
Companies are blowing it by not putting their stuff on both Youtube and Vimeo. Doing just Youtube is one thing but any company using just Vimeo is giving up a ton of potential promotion since there are a ton of kids who don’t necessarily check blogs but search for riders and companies on YouTube.
Oh, I was also on the Woodward TV show, where Chad Kerley showed me how to truck out of a bank. I was wearing a bathing suit and full pads, it’s rather funny:
What’s the story behind that?
I couldn’t figure out how to truck out of banks and Chad helped me out. The camera dudes following him around jumped in about halfway and filmed it. I was wearing a bathing suit because I wanted to go swimming after and pads are required. They didn’t put my last name or anything on the TV show so it didn’t contribute to my Youtube stuff, but the people that knew me and saw it were shocked.
Hey what’s LZ stand for anyway?
LZ is just an abbreviation for my full last name Lizotte-Zeisler. My parents haven’t been together since before I was born so I have each parents last name. I started getting lazy in school and started writing LZ on papers instead of my whole name. LZ is way easier to remember so it worked out anyway, and it’s 27 upside down, so technically I’m 5 better than Adam 22, right?
WRONG. What’s your attitude on getting sponsored? Have you ever hit up any companies or are you just waiting til someone notices you. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody hits you up after this interview, your new edit is so good.
Thanks, you know my attitude has changed over time. It’s funny because I used to be solely focused on getting sponsored, which was why I made so many videos. I mean what kid doesn’t dream to be sponsored? I used to email Jim C at Sunday way back about getting sponsored. My efforts are basically just like posting my videos on companies’ Facebook pages once in a while. It’s cool because some of my viewers send my videos in for me, but I’m yet to hear back from anyone. I’m under the impression that you can’t really just get sponsored, you have to know someone, and living in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really help. It’s not so much that I need to get sponsored, because Wallingford Bike keeps my bike in real good shape, but it would be nice to be able to represent a single company rather than rocking a million different companies parts. The number of people asking me about the stuff I ride is crazy, always wanting more bike checks. The only thing I would love, which will probably never happen is a shoe sponsor, shoes are like the most important thing to my riding and I have a hard time with getting shoes I like to ride in and making them last, same goes for clothes too haha. But yeah so I’m not really expecting anything, maybe one day when I move out somewhere with a bigger scene I’ll maybe get picked up on a team or something. If I could get on a company I would just love to go on a team trip once in a while and travel new places meeting new people, the parts aren’t that important to me. I fucking love meeting new people.
So I guess that’s it, who do you want to thank?
In no particular order Cody Krueger, Jimmy Oakes, Jake Zorn, Mom, Dad, Phil Miklovich, Sean Gunnoud, Shaun Beck, Eric Piencka, Erik Hoffman, Billy Perry, Marcus Pewitt, Jennifer Lizotte, Mike Johnson, Kevin Gantnier, Geno Villafano, Linda Villafano, Stevie Churchill, Jay Smith, Chad Kerley, Steve Mccarthy, Zach Zeushel, Stijn Hens, Chris Capowhich, Hannah Stomski, Brian Dyke, Mark Burnett, Jake Seely, Matt Clark, Matt Blu, James Harvey, Will Talamelli, Wack Tom Burke, Luis Brito, Mike Macisco, Jordan Grandinetti, Chris Adams, Adam Cook, Shane Beck, Neil Edwards, Waka Flocka Flame, Adam Garms, Alec Norkowski, Liam Hoyt, Jeremiah Smith, Manboy Collins, Brandon Begin, Brandon Wallach, Bridget Borowy, Doug Beck, Mike Kevin Quezada, Paul Barnum, Lahsaan Kobza, Ryan Chadwick, Mike Paniccia, Scott Ditchburn, Chris Capowich, Brian Hoehne @ Wallingford Bike, and everyone who has been supporting me and watching my videos all these years. Also huge thanks to you, Adam22, and to anyone reading this, follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @adam_lz