By today’s standards, a YouTube Gold Play Button Award is equivalent to a gold record in the recording industry. The plaque recognizes the accomplishment of one million subscribers to a YouTube channel. Twenty-five-year-old Casey Cooper, aka COOP3RDRUMM3R, is the first drummer on YouTube to have earned this prestigious honor.

“It’s crazy to me that this has happened,” Cooper says. “I’m never going to be the best drummer on the planet, but that’s not what my YouTube channel is about. It represents entertainment, education, and inspiration for people interested in drumming. This award inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing to help inspire others.”

Like many drummers, Cooper played in multiple high school bands, and at one point gigged with as many as five or six different groups at a time. Eventually he came up with the idea that a strong YouTube presence could possibly be the most effective way to jump-start his goal of being a professional drummer. In his senior year of high school, rather than asking his parents to pay for him to go to his prom or take the band trip to Disney World, he suggested they purchase recording gear for his videos.

After graduation, Cooper attended Georgia State University, where he studied music business, played in the marching band and the rock ensemble—and set up his video gear. “What I discovered quickly,” Cooper says, “is that, with visual media, it doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re super-boring to watch. I’m not saying that if you’re boring to watch you need to change the way you play. But if you want to gain exposure through visual media, you have to have a highly visual aspect to your playing. I play pop music that people recognize, and then put my own spin on it while staying true to the main drum parts. I pay close attention to what new songs are hot, and I quickly become the first to do a drum cover of it, which generates more hits.”

When he first launched his YouTube channel, Cooper was recording, editing, and posting a new video every day—this, while holding a job, attending classes, and playing in the marching band. “I didn’t sleep much,” the drummer says. “I stayed up until 3 a.m. answering questions, posting comments, and posting pictures on Instagram and other social media to get my name out there. I’ve released nearly a thousand videos on my channel in the past five years, mostly produced by me. I do get some assistance from my friend Zach Sturino, who helps when I want some moving-camera footage or more intricate camera work.

“I use GoPro cameras because they have an extremely wide angle and great video quality for the price,” Cooper continues. “I can capture the entire kit from two feet away with the GoPro wide angle. It’s important to capture the whole kit so the audience can see exactly what I’m playing and how I’m playing it. I also invested in a PreSonus interface and Logic recording software. I mix in Logic, then export WAV files to Final Cut Pro X for final A/V editing. Overall, it’s a very affordable system that produces a high-quality video. The idea is to be creative with the budget you have and make the most of what you’ve got until you can afford to upgrade. You can go back and look at my early videos and totally see the quality difference from where I started to where I am now. But it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here.”

Today Cooper is proud of the fact that he’s one of the few drummers who have managed to make YouTube drumming a full-time job. “My goal is not only to inspire people through the playing and entertainment,” he says, “but to show them that what I do is attainable for anyone. That’s why I keep my recording process simple, to emphasize the fact that your success is not based on how expensive your gear is, but on the love and passion you put into it with the talent that you have. I also make a point of always showing my face, because people relate to a smile, which equates to having fun.”

Cooper recalls receiving an email from one of his subscribers that he says changed his life and strengthened the idea in his mind that he was on the right path. A woman wrote to him about her daughter, who suffered from a physical condition that kept her in constant pain; she didn’t smile or really enjoy her life—except when she was on her iPad, watching Cooper’s YouTube videos. “If that was the only story that came out of all the work I put into this channel, that would be worth it to me,” Cooper says. “But in fact there are thousands of stories from people who watch my videos and have been inspired to get behind a drumkit and play for the fun of it. So many drummers on YouTube seem out of reach because they’re super-talented. I make it a point to keep my playing simple, encouraging, and easily reachable. Another reason I don’t do insane prog-metal tunes, for instance, is because that’s not who I am. I enjoy pop, rock, and alternative music, so that’s what I play.”

That’s not to say that the young YouTube sensation doesn’t have musical ambitions, though. “My next step is to create my own original music,” Cooper explains. “Once my new studio is fully functional, I’ll have the capability to produce high-quality recordings of my own music at home. The cool part of having a large audience will be reaping the rewards of owning my material. I won’t have to reimburse a record label or play 150 shows as part of a record contract. I’m a family guy, and I have a wife and baby now. I have everything I have ever imagined in my life. I’m very blessed and completely satisfied with my life. But at some point I’d like to be able to hang a gold record on the wall in my studio next to my Gold Play Button. I can’t wait for the day when my audience is playing drum covers to my original music. That would be totally awesome.”

Casey Cooper endorses Pearl drums, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads, 64 Audio in-ear monitors, and DrumLite and Drumtacs products.