Rob Scallon is one of a new breed of musicians who are making a mighty wedge of
cash out of Youtube with по need to net on a smelly tourbus. Joel Mclver contacts him
for a chat about all things stringed.
ou will no doubt have read in this
and other magazines about the
death of the music industry.
Without going too far into the root
cause of its decline (or naming any
of the record company execs who
sat on their fat bonuses and did
nothing while the public figured out how to rip CDs), let's
just say that by 2000 or thereabouts, the old business
model of compact discs being sold for £18.99 at bricks-and-
mortar record shops was on its way out.
The process took about five years. Once consumers
were equipped with CD-burning software, a broadband
internet connection and (crucially) access to a host of
filesharing websites and programs, it was all over. The
winners: people who wanted free music. The losers:
record companies, a host of associated industries and -
most unjustly - the musicians who made the music in the
first place.
And yet there is hope for musicians, and ironically it's
the internet - the root cause of the problem in the first
place - which is offering that hope. Go to
com and search for Youtube. Pretty soon you'll come up
with a page titled 'What kind of content can I monetise?'
and there, friends, is your answer. While most of us
don't have the tunes that would attract sufficient views
to make us a fortune, or indeed the skills to create the
required accompanying videos, a small number of musos
do, and they're laughing all the way to their nearest
custom luthier.
Meet Rob Scallon, a Chicago-based chap with
phenomenal abilities on guitar, bass, banjo, and ukulele;
a catalogue of cool original and cover songs; an eye for a
witty video; and the perseverance to make those things
pay. “I have 260,000 subscribers," he tells
“To put
the business side of it into perspective, when I had 35,000
subscribers I was able to quit my job and go full-time, two
years ago. OK, I could only afford to eat ramen noodles at
that level: I could just about get by! But the last year has
been nuts: I'm gaining maybe 800 or 900 new subscribers
a day"
Yeah, right, I hear you cynical people say - and not
without reason. But Scallon isn't simply earning a couple
of quid on the side here. Although we're far too polite to
ask to see his latest bank statement, the guy is obviously
making rather a lot of money.
“People always assume that this is just a hobby," chuckles
Scallon. “They say, 'So you make Youtube videos?' and I'm
like, 'Yeah, I've been doing it for a while' and then they'll
say, 'Oh cool, so what do you do for a living?' My answer is
'That is what I do for a living!' There's a lot of people doing
this, and some of them are making millions of dollars.
I'm not making seven figures myself, but there's lots of
opportunities. When I started out, a lot of people were just
starting to establish themselves, and a lot of those people
were doing it for a living then - and now, some of these
people are incredibly successful entrepreneurs with huge
businesses based on online video."
So how does it work? Essentially Google, owners of
Youtube, pay uploaders of selected videos a certain amount
per view per film clip. We don't need to ask how much
this is: in the era of Spotify and other streaming services
that pay users a microscopic amount per stream, it won't
be much. But if you have hundreds of thousands of
subscribers to your videos, those pennies add up pretty fast.
In Scallon's case, this income means that he never has
to smell a roadie's socks. “I'll have a much more stable
income making Youtube videos than I would if I was going
out gigging," he explains. “I play live very rarely. All I ever
wanted was to make music and to make enough money for
a stable living, and I have those things now."
Watch a few of Scallon's videos and you'll see that he
uses an impressive number of instruments, in particular as
part of his 'Metal Songs Played On Non-Metal Instruments'
series. Check out his banjo version of Slayer's 'Raining
Blood', System Of A Down's 'Chop Suey!' on cello and
a ukulele-driven take on Cannibal Corpse's 'Frantic
Disembowelment'. “I have a lot of acoustic instruments,"
he tells us. “I have an endorsement with Kala ukuleles, so I
have three of those, one of which is a U-Bass."
“I got really into Primus in middle school," he says, asked
about bass. “Most of my influences are bass players. Les
Claypool and Victor Wooten moulded me more than any
guitar player. I do a lot of slap style on the guitar, which
comes from me trying to learn Primus bass parts and move
them over to the eight- and nine-string guitars. Me and a
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