Making your way in a digital world
In today’s world of constantly connected devices, where people spend large chunks of their lives with smartphones poised mere inches from their faces, it makes sense that the big stars of now aren’t found on TV. They are just as likely to be unearthed making short videos from the comfort of their bedroom. The era of the YouTube Musician is well and truly upon us.
Any sort of hobby you could think to undertake, you can guarantee there is an army of Vloggers who have made videos covering every tiny facet, every minute detail. Pretty much anything you want to know, someone has done it and quite literally made the video.
This is clearly great news. It’s a huge leg up to anyone who ever wanted to try something new, or get the inside scoop on a new product. Heck, we have our very own Tom Quayle making videos showing off new gear regularly.
For the videomakers themselves, it goes way beyond a hobby. It is now, quite literally, an entirely viable career choice, in the same way, being a doctor or a bricklayer is. With the right gear, personality and approach you too could be the next big thing. Here are a few tips if you’ve ever wondered how to become a YouTube musician.
1. The Big Idea
Before a single camera has been set up or chord has been strummed, you need to know what you’re trying to do. Simply saying “I want to make music” is all well and good, but the fact is there are millions upon millions of other people with the same idea.
To rise above the chaff you’re going to need an idea. It doesn’t have to be overly wacky, or obscure, or forced, but you do need to have an over-arching principle behind what you’re trying to show.
Keep it simple at the start. Are you aiming to simply show off different pieces of gear and what they can do? Or do you want to teach people how to play certain genres of songs or techniques? Are you committed to doing comedic covers of heavy metal classics. Whatever it is, keep that idea in your mind as something you can come back to during the fallow periods.
The good thing about being a watcher of YouTube is, as we said, the fact that everything you could ever want to know has probably been done. The bad thing about being a creator on YouTube is that everything people could ever want to watch has probably been done.
Don’t let this put you off though. You just need to be smart about it. Start researching people who make videos which are similar to what you have in mind. How often do they post? Are they active in the comments section? What’s their presenting style?
3. The Look
We’ll assume that musical ability isn’t in question here. What we won’t assume is that you know the basics of filming; be that framing a shot correctly, using additional lighting to lift the exposure etc. There are tonnes of things to consider but the good news is that it involves a good dose of creativity to create your films’ unique look.
Start by deciding on a location. At the beginning, it may pay to keep things simple and have a set location you use each time. Then you can work on it over time by including interesting things in the shot. There’s nothing wrong with visual gimmicks here – the pictures on your walls, the cat sat on your amp…
4. The Gear
In terms of technical gear, a good camera and good sound is an absolute must. At a pinch, you can use your smartphone but in the long run a dedicated video camera will give you control over many more aspects of filming. Personally, I use a Panasonic Lumix G80, which didn’t cost the earth but does offer 4K video, and a host of useful features like interchangeable lenses and video stabilisation.
Perhaps more importantly, good audio quality is essential. Like, make or break essential. Don’t rely on the tinny sound from your camera’s microphone. We’d highly recommend the Zoom H6 specifically for this task.
The H6 is an audio powerhouse, which features an integrated x/y microphone and, importantly, inputs for up to 4 XLR microphones. So you could, hypothetically, have amp cabinets and vocal microphones recorded at the same time. If that’s a bit steep, the Zoom H1 is a lower-cost alternative which will serve you well while you get up and running.
Speaking of microphones; if you plan on classic ‘vlogging’ – i.e. presenting a show – then you’ll need something decent to capture your voice. The Sontronics STC-20 or Neat Worker Bee Cardioid will work perfectly in this application. Both feature the all-important pop-shield too to capture those annoying plosives.
5. Get To It!
Once you’ve isolated the idea, obtained the gear and got the shot in mind, all that’s left to do is to start work.
- You’ll know from your research how often you want to post.
- Have a ‘content calendar’ of ideas for videos.
- You’ll have the shots set up, and the gear all tested and ready to use.
The only final advice we’d end with is to have fun! Enjoy it! Viewers can tell if someone is talking with genuine passion about something, and will forgive a world of minor technical errors if the video is warm, friendly and encourages them to engage. Now get to it!
If you’re looking recording and studio equipment then head to Dawsons Music online and fill yer boots!
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.