With three billion total views and 31 million subscribers — Dream has not only outgrown the label of Minecraft YouTuber, he’s helped defined the genre. And soon, he may help impact the music industry after recently signing with Mercury/Republic Records.
At his height, Dream was bringing in 200 million views per month, outpacing even the 140 million users who play Minecraft every month. Dream, whose real name is Clay, even earned a 2022 Guinness World Record for the most viewed Minecraft gameplay video on YouTube.
Part of what created Dream’s virality was that until last fall, he had never shown his face. The anonymity fueled internet campaigns to un-mask Dream, with some even flying drones over his house. But Dream’s mask, a simply drawn smiley face, became central to his identity as a creator.
“It’s not necessarily that anyone could be Dream. But anyone could be like Dream, anyone could do what I did. I went to 30 million subscribers on YouTube, I started with a crappy laptop and I didn’t show my face,” Dream said. “It’s just proof that, believe in yourself, you don’t have to care about what other people think … The mask is a representation of that.”
Dream’s face reveal video now has over 58 million views. But then this June, Dream uploaded a satirical “bye, from Dream.” announcing he was putting the mask back on.
“It was making fun of the fact that there was a lot of criticism and people being like, ‘You’re ugly’ from [my] face reveal. It was my way of being like, I don’t really care that much,” Dream said. “I felt like after I did the face reveal, I never wanted to lose it — Because it’s so cool and the mask is such a big part of me.”
He clarified that when in character as Dream, he’ll wear the mask. When he’s just Clay, the mask will be off.
Now, after topping the creator world, Dream is making his debut as a musician, recently releasing his EP “to whoever wants to hear.” I sat down with Dream at his rehearsal space at the historic Third Encore Studio — which has hosted artists like AC/DC, Elton John, and Aerosmith — to talk about his rise as a creator and why he’s now turning to music.
Dream’s Historic Rise
Dream’s YouTube career started behind the scenes. He had done video development for Minecraft creators Skeppy and Bad Boy Halo, but after seeing their uploads do well Dream asked himself, “Why don’t I do that myself?”
Unlike most creators, who pursue YouTube as a side hustle before committing full-time — Dream bet everything on YouTube. With zero subscribers, zero uploads and $20,000 in savings, he quit his job and began to plan.
“I had $20,000 in savings. I was like, I’m going to go until I have $2,000 and then I have to go back to my job,” Dream said. “I had quit in December … and from January to July I just planned and studied how to take on YouTube.”
Dream uploaded his first video that July, titled “this cursed Minecraft video will trigger you.” He had first tested the concept out first with fellow creator Skeppy, whose version now has 13 million views.
“When I uploaded my first video, it did really well. And then every video just kind of did better and better,” Dream said. “Just before I ran out of savings, I got my first YouTube check.”
Because these first videos did so well, Dream’s decision to hide his face came accidentally. As a creator uploading Minecraft gameplay content, his face was just never on-screen — Dream had no intention of hiding his identity at all.
“But then people started drawing art of me in a mask, with my smile that I had on my logo,” Dream said.
Dream realized the long term potential for a face reveal and how a sense of mystery could add to his allure as a creator. He quickly reached out to his family saying, “Delete all photos of me! Take them all down! I’m going to be faceless!”
“It was a very quick thing — going from I wasn’t planning on being faceless to, I need to capitalize on this right now,” Dream said.
This ability of Dream’s to find and transform the organic into the strategic has been crucial to Dream’s success.
“The best type of marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. So the best way to make something that can help grow your brand is if something happens, [take] advantage of that moment,” Dream said. “Because if it is natural, then it feels natural. And if it feels natural, then it doesn’t feel like you’re watching an ad.”
Dream cited this same tenet as crucial to the Dream SMP becoming the 2021 internet phenomenon it was. The Dream SMP (Survival Multi-Player) is a shared Minecraft server where Dream and fellow creators collaboratively play.
What set the Dream SMP apart was the rich storylines that naturally evolved from a group of over 30 creators playing Minecraft together. Gameplay footage became a gripping saga full of shifting allegiances, rising kingdoms and heartbreaking betrayals. A mundane Minecraft world was transformed into a serialized drama — even earning itself an IMDB page.
At Dream’s peak, the creator was bringing in more monthly views (200 million) than the monthly Minecraft player base (140 million) — effectively getting non-Minecraft players to care about Minecraft content.
I asked how he thinks he accomplished such a feat. “It’s simplifying things, making things easy … I’m going to make concepts that are easy to understand,” Dream said. “If you’re watching and someone has more armor, you might not understand that. But if you’re watching two versus one, you know who’s at the disadvantage.”
Dream told me there are hundreds of those simplifications across every upload. From editing style, to titles, thumbnails and descriptions. Keeping things simple also allows for continued iteration.
“Even just like that simple concept of two versus one, three versus one, ‘Wow, that’s crazy, he’s doing four versus one?” Dream said. “It was a lot about increasing scope. And I think in music, it’s a very similar process — You take a song concept and you want to make it so people can relate it to their own lives.”
Dream the Musician
It took MrBeast, the largest individual creator on YouTube, 469 uploads to reach 1 million subscribers. Dream hit 10 million subscribers with just 100 uploads. The next year, Dream reached 20 million subscribers with 112 uploads. So I asked Dream, after conquering the mountain of YouTube, is pivoting to music risking it all?
“I’m a storyteller … I can tell it through YouTube, I can tell it through books, I can tell it through music, I can tell it through live streams, I can tell it through an interview,” Dream said. “I don’t really look at the risk — This is how I want to tell my story.”
Dream confirmed he will still create Minecraft content, but for now, his focus is his music. He titled the EP “to whoever wants to hear” for a reason — the project is a genuine dive into a side of Dream not found in Minecraft videos.
The song “Until I End Up Dead” bluntly faces the concept of life and death, encouraging the listener to appreciate whatever time they have. The song is dedicated to Technoblade, a fellow creator and friend of Dream’s who passed away last year after battling cancer.
Opening the album is “Slow Down” — a track which again dives into the fleeting nature of life. The verses spell out the major milestones in Dream’s life so far, wondering what the future will bring while in shock at how much of his life has already passed by. The chorus acts as a response to Dream’s existential crisis, encouraging the listener to “slow down” and appreciate the adventure.
“It’s not a ‘Oh, I’m a YouTuber and I’m just going to strut into the [music industry,]’” Dream said, “No, I want you to listen to it because it’s good. And if it’s not, don’t listen to it.”
Just as with YouTube, Dream took time to study the landscape before entering the music industry. “Change My Clothes”, his last single before the debut EP, was released in 2021.
“I [looked] into singing and writing and just how things work in the industry,” Dream said about the two-year gap in his discography. “I got a good idea of, could I have an impact — make a splash in the music world.”
But as an outsider to the music industry, Dream has a unique opportunity to shake things up. When he posted a one hour BTS video for his “Everest” music video” his label asked him why he didn’t just make a standard three minute video. Dream response was that his fans love raw footage of behind the scenes.
“Go to my second channel, I have a video that has 50 million views that’s three hours long and it’s literally just raw footage of behind the scenes,” Dream said. “People are just curious enough to go watch it. And people will make their own content and TikToks of it.”
The hour long behind the scenes video for Everest now has over 256,000 views and is chock-full of comments from thanking Dream for an hour of BTS footage from their favorite creator.
Dream’s manager, Zach Kardisch, also echoed Dream’s outsider sentiment, specifically mentioning the opportunity they have with touring.
“Dream wants to take over the world and be a dominator in every vertical he goes into from music to YouTube to consumer product goods. I’m specifically excited for touring because he can create a tour show that is much more interactive than what you might be used to,” Kardisch said. “Even the ultimate VIP meet & greets include the fans being part of the show. I see it scaling into a combination of experiential and music on stage. Maybe it’s not your classic artist opener, maybe it’s a live podcast or a content creator opening the show. I think that’s what he can become as a brand.”
Dream has openly discussed that before YouTube, he would routinely manifest his goals — repeating over and over that he would become a massively successful creator. But with music, Dream seems to have a different end goal.
“I feel like for music — I think that I totally have the potential to be a massive music artist – but it’s going to take time. It’s not as simple as just waltzing in and being like ‘Oh, I’m here!’ … You have to actually love to do it and want to do it, because people can hear — You can feel the emotion if it’s just a cash grab or if someone has an emotion they want to put out into the world,” Dream said.
“Right now, I’m focusing on the being genuine part. In five years, 10 years, I’m still going to be a genuine artist that’s going to be putting out my stories and using music as an outlet to tell the stories I want to tell. And whoever wants to listen to that is going to listen to it,” Dream said.
Thank you to Third Encore Studios for providing an incredible set for our interview and being such gracious hosts.
And thank you Ricardo Ramirez, Alessandro Bordoni, Samuel Flores and the Richy Films team for helping film this episode