The following is an interview between a student and myself for a college assignment of theirs where they had to question somebody working in the music industry. Hopefully you will enjoy learning a little bit more about me and perhaps give you a glimpse into what it's like starting out as an online teacher/musician.
1. What is your age, and family background in music?
"I am 30 years old. As far as I know, my father (Fred Potter) and brother (Gus Potter) are my only other musical family members. My 26-year-old brother was at some point the best pipe band side drummer in the North Island of New Zealand. While he no longer competes, he is still mindblowingly good. My father is an accomplished jazz pianist and has played all his life. What's interesting is that my father regularly encouraged us to take up multiple musical instruments throughout our childhood, but we outright refused! It wasn't until our teenage years that both my brother and I (independently) turned to music".
2. Do you have any formal qualifications?
"Not at all. I didn't even finish my last year of high school. This was the year I began electric guitar. Coincidence? I did try my hand at university and completed half a history degree but abandoned it in order to practice full-time".
3. How did you get into the music industry? Specifically how did you start your YouTube career?
"Being self-taught, I turned to YouTube for my music tuition. I scoured the search results in hope of finding helpful videos which would point me in the right direction and teach me how to play correctly. What I got was hugely disappointing. All the videos were just endless talking... or the opposite: playing and showing off! There were no teachers on YouTube (or anywhere else online) who simply taught licks with TABs or explained techniques in as few words as necessary. When I eventually got around to making a YouTube channel, I remembered this absence of quality videos and decided to fill the niche myself.
I began making videos, trying to keep them as short as possible. Always providing a TAB. People really appreciated this format, and so it grew from there".
4. Please describe what it is that you do.
"I work online as a guitar teacher. My main platform is YouTube where I create lick lesson videos (+ onscreen TABs), technique tutorial videos, technical exercise videos, jam tracks, Q&A videos, and music of my own. I also sell my own ebook PDFs and lick bundle video packages through my website. Through my Facebook business I offer and conduct private tuition by correspondence with dozens of students around the world. When I have any free time left over I practice constantly and try to record my music (Instrumental progressive metal)."
5. What skills would you say are needed to perform your job, and how long was the process to obtain these skills?
"This is a huge question. I will just start listing what comes to mind if that's okay: Being able to use a DAW recording program to create, mix, and master music, video editing to create videos, photoshop skills to create diagrams and art for videos and products, web developing skills for editing/updating website(s), time management skills, anti-procrastination skills, knowing how to explain things concisely and clearly (especially to foreign students who may not be too confident with English), knowing how to market a completed product using the internet, lead guitar techniques, lead guitar maintenance, music theory, and so on. In terms of how long it took to obtain these skills, I'll say they varied. Video editing and photoshop can be learned to a satisfactory degree in not very long at all, whereas learning just ONE lead guitar technique, sweep picking for example, took me around 6 years (keep in mind I was self-taught. I have taught others in far less time than this). And learning how to record, mix, and master music is ongoing - I still continue to learn more about that every week".
6. Do you think it is possible for musicians to be greatly invested in the industry, and maintain a disposable income?
"From what I can tell, there are three possible outcomes:
- You never make a name for yourself and fail to make an adequate income
- You do somewhat well and are able to afford food and rent
- You get famous and make more money than you could ever need
Most will fall into the first category. Whether it's because they have a full-time job, or kids, or any other sort of time-hungry distraction. They may be amazing musicians! But time invested is crucial. If you have a full-time job or kids you are in trouble.
I personally fall into the second category, where I am doing well enough to afford food and rent but that's about it. You have to practice and work constantly and remain engaged with fans.
The third category is usually reserved for people who have commercial success because they make pop music and/or know people in high places. That or they know how to market themselves extremely well.
There doesn't seem to be a middleground between option 2 and 3, sadly".
7. How did you get into this job?
"It just gradually happened over the last 9 years of putting out content. Nice streamlined videos with no unnecessary chit-chat which get straight to the point and provide TABs. I started getting more viewers as time went on. The day I got my first paycheck from Google it really made me think: "Hmm, can I actually make a living doing this?"
8. What would you say are some of the best and worst moments in your career so far?
"Every time I finish a track for an album I'm working on I get a delicious bottle of whiskey or some other hard liquor. It's a real thrill to complete something like that. Especially after suffering through the recording and composition process for months! I hate recording. I get stressed and sleepless and miserable. But when a track is done. I am on top of the world! Other than that I'd say a high point was when I'd published my ebooks and people bought them and I felt that comforting feeling (like with the Google paycheck) that maybe I can make a living with music.
My darkest moment in my career was when I switched from "forearm rotation" picking to "side-to-side wrist" picking. Both are excellent ways to pick but I valued the virtues of the latter far more. It took me a whole year of relearning to nail the technique. Dark times full of helplessness and self-doubt".
9. How often does your job require you to interact with others, and what experiences have you had with these interactions?
"On a daily basis. On the whole they are overwhelmingly positive. It's so pleasing to hear how I've helped people. That's why I do what I do! I look forward to waking up and checking my comments and messages. My fans bring me happiness every day. And all I have to do is help them with their technique. A fair trade, I'd say".
10. Do you find passion in what you do?
"Most people don't believe me when I say this. But I don't enjoy guitar or making music. 99% of the time it's stress, hard work, and failure. Day after day after day.
But the sense of accomplishment and purpose it gives me is unlike anything else.
Believe me when I say I am passionate about what I do! I just don't enjoy it at the time".
11. Finally would you recommend this job to aspiring musicians, and why?
"They would be entering an already saturated market... however this is well known to musicians! But with enough drive and determination they can make some sort of living doing what I do.
Why would I recommend this job? For the reasons I do it. To help guitarists who aren't having luck with the other teachers and videos out there on the internet. And also to create passive income so I can sit around practicing and recording and making videos to help people. If I had a proper, traditional job I would not be able to do what I do".