Meet Airrack, The Man Who ‘Hacked’ YouTube’s Algorithm
Most of us were ready to let go of 2020, but for 23-year-old Eric Decker, better known as the up-and-coming YouTube sensation, “Airrack”, it was a celebration like no other. He’d just spent eight days on an abandoned island off the coast of Florida, live streaming his epic and unexpected rise to one million subscribers.
Airrack had set out the year to grow his YouTube channel from scratch to one million subscribers. He had no idea where chasing the goal would lead him, or that a global pandemic would roll through, but what unfolded is the stuff dreams are made of.
A Star Is Born
Eric picked up his first camera when he was just nine years old and instantly fell in love with it. He became obsessed with the simple concept that you could create something all on your own, and then upload it to the internet for others to see.
“When I was in fifth grade, I remember spending the whole night figuring out how to download the footage from a floppy disc to my computer and going through the editing process. That’s when I knew I wanted to do YouTube,” Airrack told Scriberr News.
Growing up in Atlanta, Eric tested out all sorts of ideas for YouTube channels, from trampoline backflips to lighting things on fire. But it wasn’t until 2015 that he developed the idea for “Airrack” (pronounced air – rack). The project would become an experimental place for him to test out all the different types of content he wanted to make.
Distracted by the school and other business endeavors, the idea for Airrack sat on the back burner. But in 2020, that all changed.
The Rise of Airrack
In January 2020, Eric set the goal to grow his Airrack channel from zero to over a million subscribers in that year alone. If that sounds like an audacious goal, it’s because it was. Reaching that milestone would put him in the hall of fame for YouTube greats.
With a fire burning under him, and the clock ticking, Airrack began executing. He quickly adopted a “do what it takes mentality”–which meant lots of travel, coffee, late-night editing, reinvesting all his cash into the videos and eventually even moving across the country in the middle of a pandemic.
Airrack’s strategy from the start for growing the channel was to mix crazy drive and work ethic with a theory he calls “social hacking.” He says social hacking is “when a creator takes an idea that is popular in pop culture right now and puts their own spin on it.”
Add a bit of calculated risk (spending lots of time and money on an idea that might not work out) to the mix––and you’ve got all the elements of a classic Airrack episode.
When it works out, it pays off big. And when it doesn’t? Well, that can get pretty messy.
The best example of this epic combo is when Airrack bought famous YouTuber, Logan Paul’s $90,000 Mercedes Benz couches. He took out a loan from a bank to pay for them, flew to Los Angeles, rented a U-Haul and picked up the couches.
Airrack turned his newly purchased couches into a four-episode series, where he skydived with, surfed with and traded in the couches for a car. The “Couch Series” has since amassed over 8.4 million views, led to increases in hundreds of thousands of subscribers and paid back the big price tag.
Other great examples from this year were trying to crash Justin Bieber’s wedding, sneaking into a Mike Tyson fight, delivering the world’s largest pizza to the Hype House on a crane, just to name a few.
But the epic fails and big-time struggles proved just as huge as the wins. In one of Airrack’s first major videos of the year, he documented sneaking into one of Dan Bilzerian’s infamous parties.
The video quickly started gaining hundreds of thousands of views, and it didn’t take long for Bilzerian’s team to catch on, contact him and threaten to sue for an undisclosed six-figure sum if he didn’t take the video down in three days. Airrack obliged.
“It was a huge mistake, no one should sneak into someone’s personal residence uninvited. It was my mistake and I own it,” Airrack said looking back on it.
Another unexpected hiccup happened in early September when Airrack got stuck on an island off the coast of Florida while shooting a video.
“It ended up being one of the scariest moments of my life. It also ended up being my most expensive video. I had to max out around $20,000 dollars on my credit cards to make it happen and get a plane back to the U.S.,” he said.
Not all of us can stomach something like that, but Airrack knows it’s the game he’s playing.
Growing the Empire
After some initial success and realizing he wasn’t going to be able to build the channel alone, Airrack began the search to form a team. He was clear on the fact that the only way to scale was for him to focus more on what he was great at––coming up with ideas and executing them––and empower others to do the same.
A lot of the channel’s success in 2020 can be attributed to Mack Hopkins, a 19-year-old videographer and editor from North Carolina, who dropped out of film school to join the rocketship. He’s to credit for the signature Airrack graphics and fast-paced storytelling.
“Mack was in a very prestigious film school, and ended up calling me after one of my early videos, saying he was inspired. Shortly after he joined the team and history was made,” said Airrack.
Mack is now a central character in all of Airrack’s episodes, bringing in all sorts of comic relief.
Airrack also decided to bring on One Day Entertainment as his exclusive management. Zack Honarvar, the founder of ODE, is one of the rising stars in digital management and has proved a major asset to solidifying partnerships and building the business behind the channel.
“Signing with One Day really took a lot of work off my back, and gave me more time to focus on creating,” said Airrack.
The growing team jokingly refers to themselves as “Airrack and Associates.”
The Airrack 2020 story is really just a story of never giving up. He started the year at zero, living in a closet and sleeping on a bed without a box spring. He was completely broke, and uncertain of whether he really had the chops as a YouTuber.
The days in-between were filled with bumps, bruises and the occasional triumph. And when he rounded the corner of the year, still 250K subscribers shy of his goal, he did what you’d expect to do–he doubled down.
With only a few weeks left in the year, Airrack and Associates launched an affiliate tool with the team over at Stir, a creator finance business that just raised a $4 million seed round from big names in the creator space such as Jack Conte, Casey Neistat and Homebrew. The tool generated unique links for fans to track subscribers referred in exchange for prizes and had over 100,000 sign-ups.
Then, Airrack and Mack (purposefully) stranded themselves on a remote island off the coast of Florida with a 24/7 livestream running all off hot spots. The pitch was “we aren’t leaving this island until we hit a million.” So, for back-to-back-to-back days, they called subscribers, played games, did pushups and tried not to lose their minds all while on a livestream.
And on Dec. 27, after a year of sleepless nights and crazy bets, it finally happened. The Airrack channel crossed the one million subscriber mark. Mack and Airrack left the island and livestream the same way they end-all of their videos– by staring into the camera and saying what’s now become a fan favorite tagline:
“That’s pretty much it –– I’m leaving.”
So, what does this all mean for the new year? Are they gone for good? Will they be back for more?
Airrack and the team are currently on a two-week (much-deserved) “content break.” But don’t worry, the channel will be back in full force sometime later this month. One million was just the first milestone, not the last.
And when we asked Airrack what his fans should expect from him in 2021, he said matter-of-factly: “I can’t say much, but if you thought this year was big, oh man, next year will be even bigger.”
If this year was any hint, well then we can’t wait to see what he has in store.