Rick Beato Interview: YouTube Star Strikes a Major Chord
Image attributed to Rick Beato
Rick Beato is a YouTube personality, record producer, multi-instrumentalist and educator whose career in the music industry has spanned several decades. Based out of Black Dog Sound Studios in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, Beato has produced for and worked with such bands as Needtobreathe, Parmalee and Shinedown and has lectured on music at several universities.
Beato is now known for his YouTube channel, Everything Music, where his content focuses on music production, song analysis, ear training and interviews. He creates and and posts several videos a week. He has over three million subscribers for Everything Music.
"I’m a big believer in music programs in public schools. I have a new Gibson signature guitar, and all the proceeds from my part of it go to a charity called Save the Music that Gibson works with, donating money to public school music programs."
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Rick, let’s talk first about your dreams and aspirations as a child and why you became interested in pursuing a career in music.
Rick Beato: I grew up in a family where, on my mom’s side, two of her sisters were music teachers. Her brother was a bass player, and my grandfather was an amateur guitarist. My dad was a very avid music listener, especially jazz. He was a record collector. Even though he wasn’t a musician, he loved music. So in both sides of my family was a deep love of music, and I started taking lessons on the cello when I was in third grade and ended up playing all the way through high school. I switched to the bass, and then I picked up guitar. The bass was in sixth grade, and then I went to the guitar the summer of eighth grade. Then I just kept going.
I got my undergrad degree in classical bass, got my master’s in jazz guitar. Music has just always been part of my family. I’m from a big family of seven. My younger brother and I both play the guitar. So I’ve never thought of doing anything else.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Well, with seven, you certainly have a band (laughs).
Rick Beato: Exactly right.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You grew up in Fairport, New York?
Rick Beato: Yep. It’s a suburb of Rochester.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Were there any great musicians in that area?
Rick Beato: Yeah. Chuck Mangione’s from Rochester. Drummer Steve Gadd is from there. There are a lot of great musicians from Rochester, some not well known but just incredible players in the update New York area. The Eastman School of Music is there. So the town I grew up in, Fairport, is where a lot of Eastman faculty members and kids lived. We had a really robust music program with 11 fulltime music faculty for the town I lived in, which was amazing. Everybody had private lessons, and it was very highly valued and still is.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Were you a session musician?
Rick Beato: I played on many sessions as a producer, but I never really played as a session player other than people would ask me to play on their records occasionally. But I was a session player in that, as a producer, I played on pretty much every record I ever did. So I guess I was a session player.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did your son, Dylan, have anything to do with you starting a YouTube channel?
Rick Beato: Well, I put up a video on my Facebook page of my son. He’s got what seems like perfect pitch, and it became a viral video. I mean, I didn’t have many people that followed me, only my family on Facebook, but it ended up getting over 20 million views. It got written about by a bunch of online press outlets. That was about six months before I started my channel.
When I started my YouTube channel, I had about 40 subscribers or so, mainly family members, because that’s when I used to post videos of my kids like everybody did early on in YouTube. But I started in the summer of 2016, so it was kind of related to my son. I had a few videos of my son on my channel when I first started, but I haven’t had him on my channel in years.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: For those who have not seen your YouTube channel, give me some examples of the topics that are discussed.
Rick Beato: A lot of my earlier videos were based on teaching music, music theory, improvisation, ear training. I would do film score breakdowns of film cues. I would do jazz guitar videos, things like that. In 2018, I started a series called “What Makes a Song Great,” which were essentially breakdowns of multitracks of famous songs in all different genres of music. Then I would do music critiques, and I have interviews on my channel. It’s really all encompassing in all different genres, all types of players. I’ve done over a thousand episodes in six years.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It’s very well done.
Rick Beato: Thank you.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you ever talk politics or discuss topics not related to music?
Rick Beato: No. I don’t do anything but music on my channel.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Most YouTubers have pesky trolls. Is that a problem for you?
Rick Beato: Not really. I have very little things like that. When people disagree with me, it’s because I haven’t chosen their favorite band in one of my Top 20 lists or something like that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Some of your videos get hundreds of thousands views.
Rick Beato: Yeah. I must pick the right topics, I guess, to talk about (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is there a secret formula to being a successful YouTuber?
Rick Beato: I just talk about things I’m interested in, and it seems like a lot of people are interested in the same things I am.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You seem to have a good time, and it’s obvious you love what you’re doing. So I believe that resonates with the viewers, and it just might be one part of your success, the other being excellent content, of course. Are your kids into music like their dad?
Rick Beato: Yeah. One of my daughters plays violin, and one plays the guitar. Dylan plays the oboe. So all three of my kids play music. I try to work on it as much as I can with them, try to sit down with them at night and work on stuff. It’s really fun for me to do that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: One of your passions is arts education?
Rick Beato: Yes. I’m a big believer in music programs in public schools. I have a new Gibson signature guitar, and all the proceeds from my part of it go to a charity called Save the Music that Gibson works with, donating money to public school music programs. I’m a huge believer in those programs since I had such a great public music education.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Who’s your favorite guitarist of all time?
Rick Beato: It’s always changing, I’d say, depending on who I’m listening to at the time. I love all the people I grew up listening to from Jimi Hendrix to Brian May to Jimmy Page to Peter Frampton. I’m a big Jeff Beck fan and Eddie Van Halen fan. I like Neal Schon from Journey. I have the jazz players that I love like Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Metheny. Joe Pass is a huge favorite of mine.
I love rock, jazz and blues guitar. I love country guitar and people like Tommy Emmanuel that have combined all the different things, kind of like a Chet Atkins thing, along with jazz, rock and blues. So there’s just so many guitar players that I’m a fan of like David Gilmour. I’d hate to boil it down to one person. I’m really influenced by a lot of different players.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You were having some problems last year with copyright issues. Is that still going on?
Rick Beato: Well, you know, the thing about any of these social media platforms is that certain artists don’t want their music played on certain platforms. The Eagles block just about everything. Bands like Guns N’ Roses block everything. Jimi Hendrix’s estate blocks things where you can’t use the music. You can’t use it for teaching purposes or commentary or anything. I guess you could, and you could fight for it. Bit it’s not worth doing.
It’s improved a lot over the last few years. I’ve made a lot of videos about people that block. There’s a difference between people who have content ID claims where they monetize the video and make the money from that, which I don’t have a problem with. But it’s the blocking where they do automatic takedowns when you make a video and spend 15 hours on it, then YouTube takes it down. You can fight them, but you fight them at the risk of having your channel taken down theoretically.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Our friend, bassist and session musician Leland Sklar, has made many videos on blocking issues.
Rick Beato: Oh, yeah. I know Lee very well. At the beginning of his channel, he had the takedowns, and he’d call me up. I’d say, “Lee, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a crap shoot with it. You don’t know really until you post the video.” He was like, “I played on those records!” He’d get so mad. Then he’d get on and post a video about it. I didn’t have any guidance for him, Melissa, on it because I’d say, “Lee, I don’t know until I post the video what is going to happen either.” I had a fair idea of the people that would do it.
But a lot of times, it’s a case by case thing. I’ll give you an example. There was a TikTok video with the song “Dreams,” Stevie Nicks stuff, off of Rumours. The guy in the video was drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice riding a skateboard. I had a video on “Go Your Own Way.” I had done a breakdown of the song, and it got taken down. Now, the difference between the two songs is that my song was written by Lindsey Buckingham, and the other one was written by Stevie Nicks. She has a different policy for social media and doesn’t care if her songs are used, and Lindsey did. The funny thing is my song got taken down a couple of years before. After her song got this huge resurgence, all of a sudden, my song got unblocked on YouYube (laughs). So I’m not sure if there was any relation to it, but I had to think that maybe it had something to do with it. So people are changing their minds on it, I would say.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Ann Wilson didn’t want her songs played at certain political rallies, so there’s another part to that.
Rick Beato: I understand. I don’t begrudge anyone for making decisions on how they want their music to be used. It’s just up to them. Some of the music like the James Taylor things that Lee was having taken down, James had no control over it. He had sold his catalogue apparently. I think this was what Lee had told me. My thing about it is that when using the music to make a video that introduces an old song typically to a younger audience, it just affects the people’s relevancy. When nobody’s talking about someone because their music’s not being used on social media platforms, eventually people forget about them. Nirvana has 25 million listeners on Spotify. Jimi Hendrix has seven million. Now, granted Jimi Hendrix hasn’t put out anything since 1970, but Queen has 40 million monthly followers. If your music isn’t out there, people forget about it.
People get inundated with so much new music all the time. If you look at Stranger Things, a Netflix show, it introduced people to Kate Bush, and her song had a massive comeback. A lot of the 80s songs are played on that show and Cobra Kai, which is another big Netflix show. My kids are familiar with all these 80s songs because they hear them on these TV shows that they watch.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Exactly. What do you think about Spotify?
Rick Beato: I use Spotify. I mean, I subscribe to Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music, and I’ll tell you why. I use all three because essentially me paying the 12 bucks, or whatever it is, for each one is about what I used to spend on albums in a year, if you think about how much albums cost. Let’s say you’re buying three albums a month. That’s about the cost of the three subscriptions. Even though that money gets divided amongst the people that have the most plays, it’s still a way for me to put money back into the musicians’ hands for using their music because it has value, and it’s important to me to pay for music.
I think it’s so easy to have streaming platforms where you just turn it on, and you take the music for granted that you can listen to anything. I think that, to some people, makes it have less perceived value because it’s so ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. So I think streaming is good, but these companies pay so poorly to the writers that it’s not really a profitable model, I don’t think, for the streaming companies.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You brought up music in the 1980s. Some songs during that time and in the 60s and 70s had problematic content that certainly would not have radio airplay these days.
Rick Beato: And there’s plenty of content now that wouldn’t have gotten airplay back then. So I think it works both ways. I did a couple of live shows recently, and I talked about the show Dark Shadows that was on when I was a kid from 1966 to 1971. For the people that were younger, they didn’t know about it. It was a horror soap opera that came on at 4:00 in the afternoon for a half hour and had all this really dark, esoteric, 20th century music. It was about vampires, werewolves and witches. It was a very weird show for that time period, but I didn’t think anything about it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Nor did I (laughs).
Rick Beato: Right? And it came on at 4:00 in the afternoon. But that particular show absolutely informed by taste in music because I got used to hearing this really dissonant 20th century music, and I liked the sound of it. It was scary and mysterious, and I think that’s why I was drawn to film scores and things like that later on. So I think it really expanded my ear.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’re correct in saying that there’s content now that wouldn’t have been playing on the radio years ago. But back then, we never thought about it just like we never thought it was weird to watch a horror soap opera on television.
Rick Beato: That’s right. I always wanted to make a video about the song “Operator” by Jim Croce, “Can you help me place this call?” What does that even mean? “See the number on the matchbook is old and faded.” What’s a matchbook? “You’ve been so much more than kind. You can keep the dime.” What does that even mean? (laughs) Then you have to say, “Well, there used to be these things called phone booths. It used to be a dime to make a phone call.” What? It’s such a great song, but the context of it now makes no sense.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Right, and we just start singing along.
Rick Beato: Right. I love it when you go back and listen to some of these 70s lyrics, the things that were talked about in lyrics back then. I think about Gordon Lightfoot songs like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Who would ever write a song like that nowadays? This eight-minute long song that’s a poem about a shipwreck becomes a huge hit. You couldn’t even imagine something like that being heard today.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s the future look like for YouTube, Rick?
Rick Beato: I think that there’s an emphasis, not just on YouTube, toward short-form content. Companies are really investing more in their short-form content, reels on Instagram, Shorts on YouTube, obviously TikTok. YouTube is now making it where you can monetize the Shorts, the things that would be the equivalent of TikTok. You make very little or no money on TikTok. You can’t monetize it. I think that’s a very smart thing for YouTube to do. It takes different kinds of content to have work when you make long-form videos like I do.
I have a pretty good Instagram following that I do things I call “Quick Lessons,” and I enjoy it. I do these 40-second guitar lessons, and it’s really fun. I think that’s the future of YouTube. I think short-form content is the future of all social media platforms. I mean, frankly, my wife and kids like YouTube Shorts, and they’re not on TikTok. I don’t know if they watch the long-form videos or some of those people may not even make long-form videos. So the future of that now is mastering short-form content. It’s interesting. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun. Challenges are fun.
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