Rob Chapman, or Chappers to many, is the founder of Chapman guitars and runs a very successful YouTube channel. He is also the Andertons demo guy and a seasoned musician. He took some time out from his very busy schedule recently to answer a few of our questions about YouTube and his experiences in the music business. This is part 1 of a 2 part interview, where Rob talks about YouTube and v-logging in general.
For anyone who might not know who you are, or haven’t followed you for very long, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I am Rob Chappers, Rob Chapman, The Monkey Lord or anything! I have many names. I ask myself this very same question almost every day, because I seem to do everything really.
I think that essentially I am a guitar player and very recently I am a singer, that early on in my life in the music industry I figured out that you need to have a finger in lots of pies, and I like pies, so it all worked out. To make a good living, you can never rely on playing enough live shows or have enough guitar students to make a good living from. So I literally went what is there in the industry that I like doing? And what is there in the industry? And I just decided to do everything; have a guitar company, have a music festival, have a record label and it’s just a monumental superhuman effort to keep it all running at the same time, but I’ve managed to get to the point where I’ve hired guys that I really trust to run most of my operations for me, so that I am able to sit back and play guitar, write songs and I guess be the presenter or the host or whatever.
I suppose most people view me as a YouTube personality, a guitar playing dude, I suppose that’s what I am. Slowly trying to take over the world, well I get 2500 new YouTube subscribers each month, so I guess I’m taking over the world by that many people a month.
What made you get into making videos and posting them online in the first place?
Well embarrassingly, I got this brand new PRS guitar, and I was completely in love with it and wanted to do a video to show it off. I was on MySpace, so I made a couple of videos on there, and they were really kind of “Hi I’m Rob Chapman, and this is a major scale.” And they are still there just now, you can still go and find them, and I remember getting two comments and thinking I’ve made it, I’ve got two comments really exciting.
I showed my family and I think someone just said there’s this new thing called YouTube, you should go check it out and see what you think. So I went to YouTube and I opened an account. I had no idea, no game plan at all, made a few videos and really enjoyed the human interaction of talking to people, and I think that’s what set me up for success really. A couple of videos down the line I realized there was a bigger picture, then I established a five-year plan, which I stringently stuck to.
Have you got a video that was your favorite one to film?
That’s a hard one, I mean I’ve done almost a thousand videos now. Ill tell you a video that I feel never got the views that it should have done, I always felt it should have got more views, and was really surprised when it didn’t, that’s the nature of YouTube. Sometimes I make a video and think that’s really not amazing, and probably wont do very well and it is just huge, some times I make a video that I think is really good and it doesn’t do anything at all.
So I made a video called Toy Attack and this is just a miniature version of Big Trouble in Little China with soft toys. I literally hand did all the movements of the soft toys, I made the backing track, I Kung Foo’d the hell out of all of these toys and I always thought that would get lots of views and it didn’t, I was gutted.
I think aside from that, thing is I love every video I make, if I had to pin point a video that I love, not only because it’s a great video, it was a turning point for me also it would be the PRS custom 24 dirty and clean tone videos, because my playing was great there, it was natural, it flowed and there was no editing there, and it got me a lot of attention and did great things for me in the PRS community.
Is there a stand out video for you, where you have said this is it?
Well I guess the obvious stand out video is Tiny Terror Metal, because the whole Tiny Terror thing was absolute fate. I was the first ever clinician for Orange, they literally said “Do you want to be a clinician?” and I was like what’s that? They said, “We don’t know we’ve never really had one”. They were just about to launch the Tiny Terror, and I was working with Eddie Kramer, and we worked out a way to make it sound absolutely massive through a 4×12. The Tiny Terror metal video that was big, it did a lot of views really, really quickly.
Do you have any advice for anyone that might be looking at getting into v-logging on YouTube?
The most important part thing to do is not treat YouTube like it’s this kind of fun throwaway thing, that doesn’t mean anything. Every video you make you have to imagine a thousand, million, billion, people are going to watch it, because the thing is they may well do, you never know. Like when I made tiny terror metal, I didn’t imagine that it would get the number of views that it has now, I just made it and thought that it was a really cool video. If you treat it like its television, so you give it an intro, a what’s coming up. A beginning, a middle, an end and outro credits. Make sure that you pa attention to the title of the video, because it’s a main key attribute. In fact the main attribute to get people to click on it is the image to the video itself. It goes title, image, description and lastly tags, which I hadn’t realised until recently.
What you call a video is really important, I mean if your in a band, and your band is called Black Mamba, and you make a video of your new guitar which is an Ibanez, or whatever, you wouldn’t call it “Ron from Black Mamba demos an Ibanez RG…” because no one is going to search for Ron, or Black Mamba, so your content is not directed at the people you want to view it. You would be better off calling it “Ibanez RG demo by Ron from Black Mamba”. That way you get the key words in, and that’s an important thing to take in. Lighting is fundamental. Never shoot a video in your bedroom, because it will look like a dude in his bedroom shooting videos. You want to have a very good lighting system, where you are lit perfectly, the lighting in front of you and not behind, unless you’ve got enough room to do three-point lighting.
Take is seriously and work out what kind of videos that you want to shoot, and if you aren’t sure what you wanna do then go and look at videos that other people have shot and have done well for them. If you’re a musician demo gear, teach lessons and blog about your lifestyle, because that what people want to see.
What equipment do you use to film your vlogs?
If I’m at home and I’m shooting my videos I use a Panasonic HD type cameras, I have two of them incase I want to do multi-angle type stuff, and actually the audio on these new camcorders is quite good, the compressors built into them aren’t so harsh, and it comes out sounding lifelike. The other thing I use, and im deadly serious is an iPhone 4s. I have filmed content on the 4s at the same time I am filming on my cameras, and when it comes down to the edit it isn’t obvious which is which, so an iPhone 4s is a great tool for any kid wanting to make videos.
Audio if I’m at home I just use an SM57, into a Presonus Firebox straight into Garage Band on the Mac. When it comes to mixing, I give it about 65 – 70% of the SM57 and blend it with the camera mic to give it a bit of room. I also mic up the cab with the microphone about half a foot to a foot back so its getting a little bit of the air in the room, rather than just the dry speaker, its an Eddie Kramer secret. If you’re a kid you can get an SM57 for about £60 or £70 and just bring it back about a foot or so away from the speaker, and you’ll get a bigger better sound for next to nothing.
Would you say that v-logging through YouTube is a possible career for anyone that might be looking into it?
Absolutely, I make a lot of money and it’s all from YouTube if you think about it. If it wasn’t for YouTube I wouldn’t have 50 thousand subscribers to market music product at. A very famous guy, who I cant remember his name, once said if you have a thousand hardcore fans that buy anything you make, so say you brought out an album a year you are then making £10 000 a year, you bring out a t-shirt for them all to buy and you make £7 off of each shirt, suddenly you’ve got a living, you’ve got your rent and your bills you know.
Now YouTube is a very easy way of building a demographic that you want to aim at so if you are a chef or a novelist then you attract those types of people. Then suddenly you have loads of people that advertisers want access too. A lot of my money comes from third party companies that go wow Rob Chappers has 50 thousand subscribers, they are all men it’s a massive sausage fest, and they are all guitar players. That’s basically the readership of Guitarist Magazine. So all of a sudden I’m rivaling all those massive companies, hence I get paid good retainers to keep me on from Andertons, to keep me on as the Andertons guy and do all the demonstration work and everything.
I mean you have to take it seriously, you have to make a video at least twice a week, you need to research your arse off and make sure the content you are making is great. You’ve got to love the camera, and talk to it like it’s an audience of a thousand people because it is really. It’s not a hard thing to grasp it just takes time. You have a lens that is going to take you to as many people as it can through YouTube.
You will need to learn to edit video really well. The best way to do that is watch loads of TV. You get a nice kebab and a coffee and you sit down with a piece of paper and pen watching all the programs that you like, and when ever they make a cut you make a note of it. How they did it if it was an immediate cut, or did they fade out. Did the visual continue but the audio didn’t. Did the audio continue but the visual form the next scene come over. Was it an I cut or a J cut. When you start too look at how people edit things it is an incredibly powerful tool.
YouTube itself, just from pure ad-sense pays me over £1500 a month. If one of my viewers clicks on an advert on my channel I get paid some money, and then because I’m doing quite well advertisers will barter to get an on a video of mine. So say I’ve got a really big video there will be a bidding war between advertisers to place an advert on my video, and they buy each other out and I will get a percentage of that buy out. Which all in works out at around £1500 a month increasing by about 1.5% each month, which is fantastic growth.
I know people who have 5 times my subscriber base who do nothing but YouTube for a living. Things that you will have to consider are who your market are and what they want, and make a TV channel basically. In fact if the BBC launch a show and 10 000 people see that then they deem it a fantastic success, YouTube is really contesting with television, because with an average video of mine, if it didn’t get 10 000 views id worry. So you have serious clout with YouTube, you know and it could work wonders.
Is there any key to your success through YouTube?
I like to think that it’s just my insane good looks and talent (laughs). Well I work really hard, an average day of me for the past three years has been; get out of bed at around 11, make a massive breakfast and I work till like 3 in the morning. What ill be doing is ill be sat creating, editing, marketing and uploading. I do that every single day. I get lots of emails and texts from companies with new products, asking me if I want to review them. I say yes it’ll cost you this much, and I never hear from them again. It’s just a daily pursuit of pushing the bounders of my small businesses forward, further and further all the time.
For me the success was tenacity, hard work, loving what I do and being obsessed with YouTube, and never forgetting that my audience wanted to see fun entertaining stuff, tuition and reviews. So that’s what I gave them.
Are you finding that you constantly have to adapt to changes in social media?
There have been loads of new platforms introduced, but if I’m honest they don’t make a great deal of difference. Maybe if I had focused all my life on MySpace then it would be different. I mean Google Circles came out, and I looked at it and thought do I think it will become something big, probably not. It doesn’t really matter, I mean on YouTube the content is multi-platform, so it can be copied and pasted anywhere else. YouTube is the big platform to be on, if you’re not on YouTube then you’re going to have a problem growing. Actually FaceBook is incredibly powerful as well, you can throw up polls and ask people what they want, and you’ll get an instant, honest feedback on things. For example I am launching a new guitar what color do you want it to be? That’s going to be a poll on my FaceBook any minute, and I will get an immediate response from about 10 000 people, businesses used to pay a lot of money for that kind of thing.
Right now YouTube and FaceBook are buying other companies, like Instagram, which is going to be a big one. Twitter is good but it’s very limiting, because they limit the number of words that you can say, and it’s way more a throw away culture. Although it’s a very powerful median, I think it’s very limiting in what it can do. I think YouTube and FaceBook are there to stay.